IAPF: Volunteer Program or 'Safari break with a difference'

We don’t usually highlight volunteer opportunities that have a cost (or short term opportunities for that matter), but IAPF is a bit different, and it’s awesome, so we made an exception.
During our travels we come across many conservation projects and they all take different approaches towards the battle to conserve Africa’s unique, amazing and fragile wildlife. Some take the indirect route of education and awareness campaigns. IAPF however, takes a more direct approach, which is of little surprise when you consider its founders are ex-military. In their own words, IAPF “brings military solutions to the front-lines of conservation…. led by soldiers that think like conservationists and conservationists that fight like soldiers”. That may sound pretty hard-core, and volunteering with IAPF is certainly not for everyone, but for those ready to rough-it-in-the-wild, a stay with IAPF is a unique opportunity to gain insight into living and working in ‘The Bush’ and to learn about the challenges faced by those fighting poaching, an experience that cannot be gained from the relative comfort of a traditional “safari”.
In their Zimbabwe operation, IAPF focuses on the Green Army – their anti-poaching unit, supporting them with training, equipment and funding. They are located on the Stanely and Livingstone Private Game Reserve just outside of the town of Victoria Falls and at the heart of their conservation efforts is the group of rhinos that live within the reserve. Due to the extraordinarily high price that a kilo of Rhino horn will fetch on the Asian market, the Rhino population of Eastern and Southern Africa has been decimated to the point of near extinction in recent years. In fact, it is down to the effort of organisations like IAFP that the Rhino still exists in these parts of Africa. And, as IAPF point out, it is not only the rhino that suffers at the hands of poachers, as snares do not discriminate between which animals they trap. However, protecting the Rhino acts like an umbrella – if you can successfully keep poachers away from the most prized possession, all other animals will also be protected in the process. This approach, for IAPF, has meant that in the Stanely and Livingstone Game Reserve they have created a safe haven not only for its Rhino but also for its populations of wildebeest, buffalo, elephant, lion, hippo, giraffe and antelope.
The anti-poaching team live at the camp on the reserve and carry out daily patrols and snare-sweeps to guard the park and its animals and as a volunteer you will join the team

Current Volunteer Opportunities:
The volunteer program is quite structured with IAPF, with specific months set aside for accepting volunteers.
As a volunteer you will join the team and live in the park, helping with everything from morning patrols to fetching water from the river for cooking, to assisting with the building of a dam. A typical day will include a jog with the rangers at 7am followed by a perimeter patrol to check for signs of the park boundary being breached by poachers. The team generally has lunch and rests during the midday heat (a time when volunteers can have the opportunity to visit the office, which has electricity, internet and mobile phone signal) and in the afternoon tracks the Rhinos by foot to ensure each Rhino is seen (and therefore known to be safe and unharmed).

Requirements: While TEV generally does not highlight projects that do not require specific skills, IAPF is up-front and honest about their volunteer program – the program is in place to fund the anti-poaching unit. In return, volunteer get the opportunity to experience the bush in a way that no traditional safari or game drive would ever allow.
Having said that, IAPF would also love to receive volunteers that do have an appropriate skill to pass on to their team eg

  • Self defence
  • Fitness/PT
  • Building/carpentry
  • First Aid
  • Back ground in conservation
  • Knowledge of equipment eg GPS

From conversations with the rangers we also understand that they are very eager to have volunteers join the team as it boosts morale and gives encouragement that people from far-flung destinations are concerned about the efforts of team.

Fee: unlike other TEV projects, IAPF charges a fee to volunteer. The price is 550 usd per week, and this covers accommodation (a tent with a camp bed at the rangers’ camp), food and transport to/within the park. There is absolutely no opportunity to spend money in the reserve, so what you pay is what you will spend, no more, and all your money goes towards the operating expenses of the organisations work in Zimbabwe and South Africa. TEV members receive a 10% discount on this price.

Accommodation: Volunteers stay at the rangers’ camp, sleeping in tents with army beds and eating with the rangers. While there is no electricity at the camp, there is running water and a bathroom block.

Note: The IAPF volunteer program runs from Monday to Friday. While volunteers are welcome to stay at the camp throught the weekend, most visit the town of Victoria Falls, staying in the local backpackers and exploring the falls and the town.

Facilities:Basic living conditions in the Rangers’ Camp with access to electricity and internet at the IAPF office.

Getting Around: IAPF will collect volunteers from the town of Victoria Falls. The closest International Airport is across the border on the Zambian side at Livingstone. From the airport you can take a taxi for <15 usd to the border crossing and the crossing itself takes minutes. A member of IAPF will collect you from the border. Remember, the border closes at 6pm, so if you arrive late, stay overnight in Jolly Boys.

Activities: Staying at Stanely and Livingstone Game Reserve you have access to the town of Victoria Falls and the mighty falls themselves. With rafting, bungee jumping and boat trips just some of the activities on offer, you will have plenty to do with your time off.


Contact IAPF


Recommended Reading: Blog "The Problem of Poaching" by Andy Rogers

Local guide Mike speaks about poaching and his love of wildlife


Early Morning PT session with the rangers

Early Morning PT session with the Trackers


Early morning PT session with the Trackers

Combat training with the rangers


Sitting around the campfire in the evening after dinner

Sitting around the campfire in the evening after dinner


Filming by the lake in Stanely and Livingstone Game Reserve

Filming by the lake


Location of IAPF camp in the Stanely and Livingstone Game Reserve