Vicky Baxter volunteered with us in February on Imire Safari Ranch in our Hands On Elephant & Black Rhino Sanctuary in Zimbabwe. Vicky lives and works in London and was given the opportunity to go on a 7 week sabbatical. She took this opportunity and shares with us what she experienced in Zimbabwe. My real passion has always been for animals and wildlife, so I knew that I wanted to use my time off to “give something back” and experience something completely different to my life in London. I first visited Africa in 2009 when I was on an overland truck heading through Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. On this trip I trekked for mountain Gorillas, which, to that date, was one of the most special moments of my life and where my love for Africa was born. So I knew this was the continent I would return to. Although I loved being on an overland truck, I wanted to spend time on this trip at one place really learning about the local way of life and communities. A friend had volunteered using African Impact so I searched the site for the right trip for me. I knew I wanted to work hands on with the animals, but was also interested in the community work as I find the children so beautiful and endearing. And then I found Imire, a place that turned out to be as special as I had imagined. Friends and family thought I was crazy to visit Zimbabwe, but I am so glad I didn’t listen to their concerns and I found the people of Zim to be gentle and kind, and it to be one of the prettiest places in Africa. The best thing about Imire is how totally involved you are in the daily life of the conservancy, rather than just watching from a truck. You become part of the Travers family and get to experience first-hand the daily challenges and highlights of running a farm and game park in Zimbabwe. I learnt about so much of the heart-ache faced by the local farming community and have nothing but admiration that the Travers family remain passionate about a cause they feel so strongly about. The work they are doing with the Black Rhino, as well as all the other animals, is inspirational. This project could not be further away from some of the more commercial projects you see out there and that is its charm, you are there to work alongside and assist in the work they are doing to protect the future generations of Black Rhino in Africa. There are too many amazing moments to list them all! But the three things that stand out for me are: 1/ Seeing the rhino’s roaming - safe and protected. 2/ Working so closely with the elephants. At Imire you get up close and personal to the ele’s, mainly the fully grown adult male Makavusi. My favourite mornings were those spent training him to touch his left tusk, jumping on board to walk with him and his family as he grazed for his breakfast followed by a mid-morn swim on his back to cool off. An unforgettable experience I will never forget, and now the most special moment of my life! 3/ Spending time at the local school. Whether it be planting veggie’s with the older children and learning about their cultures and aspirations (one young boy wanted to be an ambassador, so they set their sights high!) or teaching the smaller children how to say “hello my name is … and I am 5 years old”. My best achievement was managing to round up some animals on horseback on my own. As a keen rider I wanted to go somewhere where I could ride in the bush, but here we were able to put this for good use and go out to round up sick animals, who had tick fever, so they could be treated. Unfortunately not all animals survived, but I know that some of those I managed to find hiding in the bushes will still be there grazing because we managed to get them treated in time. Would I go back? Absolutely, tomorrow if I could. If you would like to volunteer with us at Imire Safari Ranch after having read about Vicky's experience, take a look at our website, call us at 0027 (0)87 751 3977 or email Kirsty, our destination manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.