As part of the IVHQ Video Tour, I spent 6 days visiting the Victoria Falls volunteer program, based within a private game reserve. There were private rooms for everyone, and communal spaces to hang out, eat, along with a kitchen. The highlight of the accommodation was the pool though. I’m not a huge fan of swimming usually, but after spending a day in temperatures around 38 degrees celsius, it was very refreshing. Beyond the pool in the backyard was an electric fence that overlooked the rest of the reserve. It was truly incredible to look over and see zebras, impalas, or waterbucks grazing merely 30 yards away.
We went on game drives too (driving around and collecting data on the animals we saw for research purposes), which allowed us to see even more beautiful animals – warthogs, baboons, giraffes, elephants, and rhinos (including two adorable babies). The reserve is home to many other beautiful and interesting creatures (lions, leopards, etc), which have been seen by those who had the opportunity to spend longer periods of time there than I.
The majority of the work the volunteers did was manual labour – fixing up the reserve to keep it in great condition for the animals. This involved disguising manmade structures with branches, clearing the roads for the vehicles to be able to drive through unobstructed, wrapping trees with fencing to protect them from elephants, etc. The days were hot and challenging to work in, but the atmosphere with animals all around and the knowledge that the volunteers were making a better environment was worth it.
Volunteers also visited a local school to play with the children there, and work with them on colouring projects, and reading. The class took place outside, in a huge sandy yard, underneath a beautiful tree. What a gorgeous learning environment. The kids were so enthusiastic to see all the volunteers – all eager for a chance to pose for a photo (which may start with 1 person and end with 15), be picked up and spun around, or to show off their drawings.
When not working, time was spent relaxing around the pool, going into town to the bar ‘Shoestrings’ – a place popular with travelers and locals alike, and indulging in the plentiful variety of activities available in Victoria Falls. I joined the volunteers on a helicopter tour over Victoria falls (a remarkably breathtaking sight), and zip-lining through the canopy of the forest amongst baboons.
It was a really great time I had there, I’m sure I’ll remember those stars at night, the animals living carefree in a natural environment, and those children’s smiling faces for quite some time.