Volunteering in Zimbabwe – Unforgettable Memories from the Wildlife Orphanage

Posted by: Elie

My volunteer work at the African Wildlife Orphanage project was phenomenal, one of those life-altering experiences that you don’t know how to begin explaining to others. But here’s my attempt: I was picked up from the airport by the owners.

Coming from Finland, you can imagine the journey was long and exhausting, but I could not resist asking dozens of questions regarding my work, the animals, and volunteering in Zimbabwe in general.

Upon arriving, I was quickly given a tour of the immediate necessities (what food was available to me, where certain facilities were, the cabin I was living in, etc.)

A little on the place itself: the grounds are wonderful. I loved the greenery and general layout. I was happy to see that the cabins were not luxurious, but still comfortable (though the winter nights were extremely cold and the walls in my cabin didn’t even reach the roof, nor did the door really cover the gap cut out for it–all part of the experience, right?). There’s a pool if anyone wants to brave its temperature and an entertainment center where you can watch movies or play darts. Most people tended to hang out in our kitchen. There we would hangout and play games and whatever else. At night, however, a lot of time was spent in front of a bonfire, which makes for some of my better night memories

There are a few categories of duties you could be assigned to on any given day. Baby duties, however, are definitely the most strict. Baby animals have strict feeding schedules and specific instructions for preparing their food. You can never anticipate in advance what or how many babies you will have (though I assure you that you will enjoy so many different species at this wildlife orphanage). When I first arrived, we had an adorable bushbuck named Teak. By the time I had left, Teak was joined by a go-away-bird, a squirrel, and multiple bunnies. Sometimes these animals will actually need to spend the night with you in your cabin, which will have you feeding them throughout the night and ensuring they’re warm at hours as late/early as 3.00. These baby animals are adorable and so sweet to play with, but after a long day’s work, you really do appreciate your sleep : ) I can say easily that my favorite responsibility was taking care of the baby monkeys, Bandit and Terrence.

I also went twice on a safari in Matopos, a national park (once with a staff member and then once with an actual guide–the former is cool, the latter is life-changing.) I saw rhinos and cave paintings and had the chance to visit a village, where I met an 82-year-old chief that told me the tale of fighting a leopard that was eating his livestock (a story he told me while wearing that leopard’s skin some sixty years after the incident.) His stories were incredible and followed shortly by a dance performance by the children of the village. I could not write about this day with enough detail to do it justice, but believe me when I say it was one of the most memorable days of my life.