Affordable Volunteer Programs in Victoria Falls - $880 for 2 weeks

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About

Join IVHQ and volunteer abroad in Victoria Falls! Highly affordable programs are available for anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks. The program is based within a private game reserve in the province of Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe. Located on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls is a popular destination for travelers to Africa and offers the unique opportunity for IVHQ volunteers to join Wildlife Conservation efforts.Volunteers are accommodated in​ single rooms​,​ located within the conservation center where the program is based.

IVHQ Volunteer Program available in Victoria Falls:

  • Wildlife Conservation: Located within a private game reserve, playing home to the African 'Big 5' (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo), IVHQ volunteers in Victoria Falls have the opportunity to get involved in conservation management practices, all of which are vital for the successful operation of the game reserve and the ecosystems of surrounding areas.

Highlights

  • Programs available year-round, starting on the first and third Monday of each month
  • Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
  • Highly affordable program fees from $880 for 2 weeks
  • Community-driven projects focused on supporting local needs and delivering sustainable positive impacts
  • Superior support services both pre-departure and while volunteering
  • Free online volunteer training for all IVHQ volunteers
  • Between 5 and 15 volunteers start in Victoria Falls each month
  • Weekends are free to explore Victoria Falls with fellow volunteers - see one of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls in the world and explore the area via safari

Questions & Answers

Volunteers must be 18 years or older to participate on an IVHQ program alone. However, if they are volunteering as part of a group with adult minders, or with a parent, guardian or family member who is 18 years or over, they are eligible to participate. When a volunteer under the age of 18 applies to volunteer with IVHQ, it is important that the name of their minder is noted on their application,...

Reviews

99%
based on 28 reviews
  • Impact 8.9
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.2
  • Value 9.6
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 16 - 28 of 28
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Lance
10/10

Real Experiences at the Nakavango Conservation Programme

My six weeks in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe were nothing short of amazing. The first day I arrived at the Nakavango Private Game Reserve, I saw several African elephants trumpeting not far off the two-track road we were traversing. I saw plentiful amounts of giraffe, zebra, impala, kudu (an African antelope), warthogs, hippos, crocs, baboons, bugs, birds, lizards, you name it. I absolutely loved each and every sighting. To be cliché, as Taylor Swift would put it based on her latest music video, while volunteering at Nakavango I saw all of my “wildest dreams” come to life. I was also particularly lucky to see the black rhino while at Nakavango, a creature that played a significant role in my decision to go to Zimbabwe in the first place. This reserve is a special place; it is the home of 8 black rhino when there are less than 300 remaining in all of Zimbabwe (a country about the size of Texas). That speaks wonders about this reserve. While volunteering here, I was grateful for the chance to do things that help protect these prehistoric-looking creatures from the evils of poaching. While I could write stories for days about my encounters with the black rhinoceros at Nakavango, for this program review, I am going to share an experience I had with another beloved African animal that I will never forget. Long story short, this animal encounter got my heart racing even faster than when I went sky diving in Hawaii the month before traveling to Africa.

Each day on the reserve, we went out in the safari cruiser and do different tasks to help the ecosystem here thrive. We did a morning job from about 7am-12am and an afternoon job from about 4pm-7pm (taking refuge and relaxing during the heat of the day). One night, we were out particularly late on the reserve removing invasive plant species (it’s very tough work digging up massive Lantana roots, by the way) until dark had almost fully set in around 7:30. As we drove back to HQ in the dark, only the outline of the trees were visible in the sky that was still dimly lit from the last remnants of sunlight over the horizon.  I was in the back left seat of the 12-person cruiser and the girl in the front left passenger seat next to our guide—remember, cars in Zimbabwe are English-style with the driver on the right side of the vehicle—had a spotlight, shining the trees beside the road as we drove. We all liked these dark drives home; it was fun to try to spot eyes staring back at us from the depths of the forest while in the safety of the cruiser.

We were cruising along and she was shining the right side of the road. But I was looking to the left for anything in the bushes, when we passed a HUGE bull (male) elephant on our side only about 5 meters from the road! I was the only one who saw it because it was so dark, but regardless how dark it was there was no way I could miss the outline of an animal that large and that close. As we passed, he moved back and I could hear him stepping on twigs over the roar of the cruiser motor. I quickly yelled “Dean (our guide), elephant on the left!” He quickly replied, “Nice” before stopping the vehicle, putting it in reverse, and backing up towards it. At that point, I was already kind of on edge because I knew how close the big guy was to the road and I didn’t think Dean did. But he backed up anyways until we were about 15 meters ahead of where I saw him on the road. Dean then stopped, cut the engine, and shut the lights out so we could sit there in the dark and just listen to him.

We all heard him making a ruckus behind us—breaking branches, grunting, stomping around—and I assumed he was about 20 yards off the road. I couldn’t see him but that made sense because I think he retreated into the forest a ways after we passed him. We all sat quietly in awe, listening to the incredible grunts he was making with his mouth and waiting for him to settle down/go back to feeding. He did settle down slightly, and started working his way through the woods, parallel to the road in our direction. He soon closed the gap and was only about 5 yards behind our car, but he was still out a ways to our left. We could hear he was close.

To me, it was clear that he knew we were still around and was coming closer on purpose. Remember, I was in the back left corner, the closest seat to the elephant with the best view from the elevated back row. It was very dark though and I still couldn’t see him, but I searched diligently nonetheless. There was a 2-meter-tall bush in front of me that I had to look around, but I finally saw his white ivory horn come into my view in the starlight. My heart was racing. I was so excited to see him and could now see the outline of his massive body again. I assumed he was just grazing and would continue along, although he was still making rather loud vocalizations, which was unusual. Soon though, it became apparent this was not his usual stroll through the forest to eat.

Quickly, he turned his tusks right at me and the truck, and started stomping towards us with a perfect line aiming at me in the back row. His grunting became louder and it was clear his temper was starting to flare again. He got close, uncomfortably close. Only three meters from me! We were still separated by the about 2-meter-tall bush on the ground, but he stood well above that exposing his large head to my view, with both of his big ears flapping wildly and both of his tusks above the bush that now looked small. His size alone was enough to make a 23-year-old man shake in his shoes. Then, he did something I never thought I’d see an animal do.

In one motion, he violently ripped a large branch off the tree next to him and threw it on the ground as he quickly lunged in and out of the bush between us before standing his ground. I couldn’t believe my eyes! He flinched at us in an attempt to scare us away, similar to what a bully would do to the small kid on the playground. And oh did it work. This was not your average, chubby neighborhood bully. This this was a 6-ton bull elephant with ivory tusks thicker than my arms and a trunk that could knock me unconscious with one flick. Unlucky for me as the closest one to him, it was like I had drawn the short straw and was the main target of this bully’s abuse!

After he flinched at us, my heart was beating faster than I can remember it beating in years. My friend Owen from Maine, who was in the middle seat of the back row next to me, grabbed my hip unconsciously and pulled me back towards the middle of the vehicle. Everyone was moving back in their seats. The scene was unbelievable! My mind was scattered, full of excitement and fear as he continued to make a lot of noise, break branches, and flinch at us to intimidate us. I imagined that this guy could flip our truck with one quick swipe of his tusks if he wanted to. Finally, Dean (a well known guide in Victoria Falls who has been at it for 25 years and really knows his stuff about elephant behavior and everything about this environment better than the back of his hand) decided to call it quits and started up the car to drive off. This startled the elephant; he grunted before scurrying off as if to say “That’s right.” We drove off unharmed, but not without a skipped heartbeat here and there.

As intimidating as this display was, I loved every second. We all did. Of course it helps that no one got hurt, but we all were beyond amazed by such a unique encounter. We talked about it the rest of the night. Dean thinks that the elephant was in musth, a mating time where their hormone levels (like testosterone in humans) are raised and they are more aggressive. He obviously didn’t like when we backed up close to him, stopped there, and stood our ground. It didn’t help that it was at night in the dark forest, a place he felt should be his at that time. For this, I don’t blame him one bit. He was a wild creature that deserved having space away from humans when it is night time and time for him to eat or mate in peace. All in all, it was incredible experience, one that I am glad happened without a doubt. We had seen elephants roaming gracefully many times, but it takes an experience like this to gain a true appreciation and respect for the massive, wild, unique creature that he was.

There was an operation on the edge of the reserve there called ‘The Elephant Experience’ that allows tourists to come in and ride elephants. There are many ethical arguments about such operations, including how the elephants got there, how they are treated, and how they cope psychologically with being held captive. In addition, the captive elephants (that are allowed to roam the reserve under supervision) have destroyed the native ecosystem in the area they are limited to, which has stressed the rest of the reserve—which is only 30 square kilometers—as a result. It is us volunteers and the staff at the reserve that are left to clean up the mess that these contained elephants cause. That is why it is so important for volunteers to visit the reserve and do things like plant native trees, remove invasive trees, protect trees from elephants (which I learned are programmed to be sometimes volatile), work to combat soil erosion, and do several other things on the reserve to try to boost the ecology of that ecosystem to be in the best balance it can.

Regardless of these ethical and environmental issues, many people still partake in these rides, and many really love their experiences. I even met a tourist in town that claimed their elephant experience was life changing, and helped him appreciate the true size and beauty of African elephants. But is that the best way to really observe the complexity and awesomeness of an African elephant? Can that man’s staged “horseback-riding-like” experience on a tamed, African elephant even be compared in the same light as my wild elephant experience?

My answer is absolutely not. I would take my elephant experience over theirs 100 times out of 100. My glimpse at that elephant in its natural, free environment was more authentic than any elephant ride could ever be. Never again will I be that close to an animal so large, so territorial, so powerful, so in control, so beautiful. It was clear that he should have the right to stroll the dark forest at night as he pleases. We did nothing to intentionally disturb that creature, and Dean knew when to call it quits before the situation crossed the line. He waited just long enough for us all to have an experience that made us learn to admire that and respect these magnificent creatures for what they are.

As appealing as it sounds to go somewhere simply as a tourist and ride an elephant, I think more meaningful experiences are possible while volunteering in a program like IVHQ’s in Victoria Falls. More meaningful, real elephant experiences that take place under real circumstances in their real environment. Experiences like that are how the true personality of these amazing beasts can be understood. How their actions can make a lasting impact on someone. How one’s love for this symbolic African animal can take new meaning.

Trust me, I know.

How can this program be improved?
There could have been more food for volunteers with bigger appetites, but besides that it was as close to perfect as they get.
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Lance, Thanks for taking the time to share a few of your experiences while volunteering in Victoria Falls. It sounds like you has really memorable time. Thanks for being an IVHQer!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Aaron
10/10

LIFE-CHANGING NAKAVANGO

The time I spent at Nakavango has honestly changed my life. The other volunteers were fantastic and friendly, the chef whipped up some amazing vegetarian food and catered for all, saw some of the most beautiful animals in the world and I wouldn't change a minute of the time I spent there. Justine and Dean (and the rest of the team, obviously) made me feel right at home as soon as I arrived and clearly love what they do! I really couldn't thank them enough for everything that they done for me whilst I was out there! I would recommend this program to anyone who's even considering it in the slightest, it was honestly change your life for the better!

How can this program be improved?
I honestly couldn't think of anyway this programme could improve... Justine and Dean do an amazing job!
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Aaron,
Thank you for your amazing review and recommendation! We are so glad that you had a life-changing experience in Victoria Falls. Cheers for being an IVHQer - we hope to see you on another program in the future!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Paula
10/10

You won't regret choosing Nakavango!

This was really four of the best weeks in my life. I got to experience so much I've never experienced before, and it was amazing from the beginning to the end! I will remember every singel bit of my journey, like when we almost got chased by a rhino, or when we slept by the dam and heard the hippos fighting all night, or just seeing the smiles on the children when we played with them. Even the things that was "less fun", like trash Tuesday, or meatless Monday, will always be a good memory for me, haha. Even if it was hard sometimes, it was all worth it. And the staff made it great too, they welcome you with open arms and is always there when it gets tough. It was like we all became a big family, haha! I know that if you choose to be a volunteer at Nakavango, you won't regret it.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Jessica
10/10

August - Sep 2015; one of my favorite life experiences

I had an incredible time here, ate some of the most delicious food, met some of the most kind people, and created lifelong memories. Zimbabwe is a unique country with a vivid history and Nakivango was the perfect way to experience Zim for the first time. If you're considering this program, please move forward - you will be glad you did for the rest of your life.

How can this program be improved?
I can't think of anything
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Jessica, Thanks for the review and for the advice you have left for readers, we couldn't agree with you more :). It's great to hear you had such a memorable experience volunteering on our Victoria Falls program. Thanks for being an IVHQer and we hope to have you back on another IVHQ program again soon.

Yes, I recommend
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Danielle
10/10

Amazing experience - you won't regret going!

I volunteered for the first two weeks in June in Victoria Falls at the Nakavango Conservation Program ran by Justine and Dean. The experience was absolutely amazing. The staff are awesome and really make it that much better. Their humor, passion, and kindness are great. You'll help out a lot, learn a great deal about the reserve, and of course see tons of animals. I wish I had stayed a little longer, but I plan to go back. Zimbabwe will always have a special place in my heart.

The accommodations:
Each person was given their own room and shared a bathroom with one other person typically of the same sex. Rooms and bathrooms were cleaned everyday which was very nice. The rooms each have a twin size bed, a desk with a folding chair, and a closet unit next to it with a couple of hangers and three shelves to place your belongings. We were also provided one towel and one blanket (in addition to the sheets on the bed). The sitting areas around the camp were nice. They were covered and offered a great view of the pool and reserve - very nice eating lunch and seeing giraffes and kudu walk into the 'backyard'. Lunch and Dinner were provided every weekday which was tasty; the chefs are very good. Basic breakfast is available all week which includes toast, cereal, and yogurt. On the weekends instead of lunch, the chefs will prepare a hot brunch and dinner is still prepared.

Weekly routine: -- This agrees to the program pamphlet --
Most days you will head out to start working about 7 or 8am until 11 or 12pm. This varies depending on the sunlight and the weather. If it gets too hot, they won't make you stay working out in the sun too long which is very considerate. Everyone will then head back to Nakavango for lunch and some downtime until about 3 or 4pm at which time you will head out again for a couple hours until about 6pm. Again, this also varies depending on the task, daylight, and temperature. The rest of the night consists of dinner and relaxing.
Mondays: typically game drives and tracking
Tuesdays: Mornings, picking up rubbish and taking it to the dump - this is your chance to go into town should you need to quickly pick anything up. In the evenings, typically worked around the Nakavango camp - composting, clearing and cleaning the grounds, various other projects
Wednesdays: Mornings, working at a local school with different projects (we helped construct sinks out of 'Shake Shake' bottles while I was there). In the evenings, typically we did a game drive.
Thursdays: Mornings on this day varies, the first week - myself and the other new arrivals were taken to Victoria Falls. The second week - we pulled out the lantana plant. Evenings, you'll leave a bit earlier because it is the camping night in which you camp out on the bush.
Fridays: Mornings, a few people will go out tracking for about 2 hours while the others stay at camp and help clean up. Evenings, the first week we pulled out the lantana and the second week we asked for the night free so those of us leaving that weekend could go on the boat cruise .

Free-time:
-During the week, many of us played cards, laid by the pool (the daring ones including myself actually swam in it - the water was quite cold!), watched movies, and/or napped.
-Weekends, this is your chance to go into town and do many of the great activities offered. We used a taxi - Sheppy - for getting around - this is the taxi service that Nakavango always uses. The white water rafting and bridge swing were awesome. Also, managed to do the Boma dinner in which we were able to try crocodile, warthog, buffalo, impala, etc. For nightlife, you'll go to Shoestrings, the local backpackers bar, and then likely head to Adventure Lodge's bar afterwards. Both a fun experience.

What you may want to know:
-Bring good gloves. I brought the kind used for gardening only paid $6 at Target (USA) and they worked very well. You'll use them for potentially digging in the dirt, picking up rocks, trash etc.
-Bring a book. I wish I had brought one to read in my downtime since there was more of it than I expected
-Bringing cards or any board games you don't want anymore may also be good for downtime
-Good hiking boots. I wore sneakers which were fine, but going tracking in certain areas were very sandy and had thorns and grass seeds that would stick to my sneakers and made even through the sneakers
-Bring extra clothing to trade - t-shirts, shorts, shoes, socks, hats etc. as you can trade these items at the Elephant Walk markets for various trinkets you may want. They also seemed to want hair ties (hair elastics) and water bottles.
-Depending when you go, it can get quite cold at night I wish I had brought an extra sweater or sweatpants

How can this program be improved?
While I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Nakavango, I wish we had done more. I felt there was a bit too much downtime; I would have liked to work a bit more. Also, I would have liked more variety of projects and/or more impacting projects to really help the community and reserve.
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hey Danielle, thanks for the great review! We are so happy that you had an amazing experience in Victoria Falls for the two weeks you were there. We hope that you join us again in the future on an IVHQ program :-)

Yes, I recommend
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Rebecca
10/10

Can't miss this experience

This program is very fulfilling but you also need to be prepared to put in some hard work to see results. Perfect for someone wanting to make a contribution to real conservation. You also have weekends to explore Victoria Falls and neighboring countries.

How can this program be improved?
I would want to do more, we have a lot of free time
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hello Rebecca, thanks for your feedback - glad to hear that you found the program fulfilling. Sounds like you had the hard working attitude to get the most from your time in Victoria Falls. We hope to have you join us on another Program in the future. Thanks for being an IVHQer!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Joe
10/10

Life Changing

You truly cannot get a feel for what it's like without going yourself. The nature, the food, the people and especially the staff. Justine and Dean run the show and add a hilarious and unique element to the trip that just cannot be understood from reading online. Stay a while! You do meaningful work, see amazing animals, learn an incredible amount and have plenty of time to enjoy the town and its endless attractions. Friends become family and it becomes your home. My biggest mistake was only staying two weeks!

How can this program be improved?
Recommend some warmer clothes for the winter months in Zimbabwe. It gets fresh!
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Joe - thanks for the great review! It's so amazing to hear that you enjoyed your two weeks in Victoria Falls! Thanks for being an IVHQer - we hope that you join us on another program soon :-)

Yes, I recommend
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Chris
10/10

The best chapter of a year long journey.

From skills and experience I brought forward some ideas for some projects in my time at the Nakavango conservation reserve. With the eagerness of the resident team and hard work of some volunteers an idea or two came to fruition. Having the opportunity to teach and learn from Zimbabwean locals will be unforgettable. The plastic bottle building projects were of great use to the school and hopefully new projects continue to thrive. Forever greatful for the experience I had, the things I taught and learnt and the people I met.

How can this program be improved?
I would have stayed for longer.
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Chris - thanks for sharing your thoughts on your Volunteer Experience in Victoria Falls! It's great to hear that your ideas and projects came to life while you were there. We hope to see you on another IVHQ program soon :-)

Yes, I recommend
Jingying
8/10

Take the leap!

was there for 3 weeks last September, loooved the daily game drives, food/accommodation was lovely, the entire staff simply amazing and helpful. Especially enjoyed our time playing with the school children and camping on Thursdays. Never a dull moment..glad to have learnt more about rhinos and conservation. I'll never forget everyone I crossed paths with..
Be prepared for some manual labour (lantana removal/tree protection), it may not seem like you're making a tangible difference but every little bit goes a long way!
Highly recommended - whitewater rafting, gorge swing. You'll have plenty of time during the weekend for fun stuff.. or just chill at the pool : )

Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi there Jingying - thanks for the review of your 3 weeks in Victoria Falls! Awesome to hear that you learnt more about the wildlife and their conservation. We hope that you can join us for another Volunteer Program sometime in the future!

Yes, I recommend
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Himaya
9/10

Amazing experience!

The two weeks I spent at Nakavango were great! The accommodation was clean and safe, the food was good and the volunteer activities were many and varied. The staff were brilliant and really made Nakavango feel like a home.

Having free weekends allowed other volunteers and myself to make the most of the various activities Victoria Falls has to offer and experience the area as a whole.

Through the program I've made amazing friends and memories, I thoroughly recommend this program to everyone!

Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Himaya, It sounds like you had a really rewarding volunteer travel experience on our Victoria Falls program. Thanks for the recommendation, we hope to welcome you back on another IVHQ program soon.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Robero
9/10

my experience in Nakavango

The staff in Nakavango is great and truly helpful. I had trouble in the airport and I was able to conact the staff directly. The accomodation is great, the rooms are clean and nice. The food is great too.

Yes, I recommend
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Stephy
10/10

A beautiful experience

Going into Nakavango Conservation Programme I had set realistic standards so as to not disappoint myself. Nakavango far exceeded all my expectations. Justine, Dean and their staff are amazing and incredibly lovely. The place is clean and safe. The food is delicious. The other volunteers fun and everyone is very social, always hanging out in the common areas. I loved camping out on Thursday nights. It was such a fun experience to share in as a group. I also really loved when we went animal tracking and did the late afternoon game drives. The weekends were free to go on adventures, and that we all most certainly did and had an amazing time. My two weeks spent at Nakavango were not long enough, but they are two weeks that are so special to me and I will keep all my memories close to my heart.

How can this program be improved?
My one suggestion as I left the program was they needed to offer a heartier breakfast, eggs or some sort of protein. This was a suggestion they reacted to very positively so the change may have already been made.
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Stephy, Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your experience volunteering on our Victoria Falls program. It definitely sounds like you made the most of your two weeks on the program and we are glad that it exceeded your expectations. Nakavango is a pretty special place. Great photos too. Thanks for volunteering with IVHQ!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Yolisa
10/10

3 Months I'll never forget

It was pretty awesome. I'd say my highlight was camping and bonding with the guides and other volunteers. The program is worth every penny. The program changed my life for the better career wise.

Honestly speaking there are no words to describe the magical time I had at Nakavango. The memorries and friends made from all walks of life will stay with me for a long time. I can not do justice to the experience. It is one of those things that you have to do to fully understand the magnitude of the situation.

I give the program 10/10

How can this program be improved?
The food was a little too oily at times and there wasn't much varity in the menu.
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Yolisa, we love hearing from our volunteers and we are so glad that your time on our Victoria Falls program was such a positive experience. Thanks for sharing a sunset squad shot as well :) We hope to have you back on another IVHQ program at some point in the future.

Yes, I recommend

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