Volunteering

Turgwe Hippo Trust welcomes volunteers to Hippo Haven.

We are a very hands-on non-profit set-up and the animals that we care for here are all living natural lives in the wild, not in captivity.

As a volunteer, you will assist us with the day to day work involved in monitoring 4 groups of hippos that live below us in the Turgwe River in Zimbabwe’s wild Lowveld.

You will be a part of our lives among the baboons, vervet monkeys and other animals, and if you’re lucky will get to see animals such as elephants, impala, kudu, warthogs, to name but a few that roam freely around our home.

This is a very personal volunteering experience, with a maximum of two volunteers at any one time, giving you a real chance to breath in what Africa and life in the wild is really all about.

Here’s what some of our volunteers have said about their time with us at Hippo Haven:

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Thank you for trusting me with your animals and your home, it was an honour and absolute pleasure taking care of them and your home. The lessons learned when visiting here are still many, I look forward to the next time. Thank you for all that you do for the animals for your patch of bush and for the people that support your work. With much love from Miri.
 
 
 
 
 

Mirinda Thorpe Australia ex volunteer, now dear friend, ‘bush-house-sitter’ and Hippo Haven Assistant of note – November to December 2017

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I bought your book A HIPPO LOVE STORY mid September 2016 as I was leaving Joburg and Africa. I was thrilled when I contacted you and you said I could come to visit and have so thourougly enjoyed my time with you and Jean-Roger, the hippos and all the other wild animals. It is humbling to see what you have done so determinedly over all these years. Highlights: being the first volunteer to see baby Richard/Laura hippo such a cutie. Bumping into a bush pig on the way back to the cottage! Sitting watching films at night with the two of you – sometimes with a Squiggle mongoose on my lap J The flocks of birds, the herd of 40-50 elephants in the dry riverbed, being able to paint the hippos standing near them on land. Thank you for an insight into bush life, the wild life here, snare patrols and the hippos.
 

Philippa Drayton New Zealand – August 2017
 

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Winning the stay here at Hippo Haven convinced me that I am truly a lucky person.  You two opened your home and hearts to me  and I am truly grateful.  Meeting all the animals but especially the hippos and hearing all the fascinating stories was beyond my wildest dreams.  Thank you for this life affirming experience.
 
 
 
 

Sherry Reisch USA – July 2017
 

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My second visit here and just as wonderful as the first time. Karen and Jean are now great friends as well as brilliant guides and they make you feel so at home.  I will miss you, but I will be back soon ! Johanna

It’s been a privilidge to visit your hippos and all the other animals.  Big hugs Lars
 
 
 
 

Johanna Holm & Lars Berglund Sweden – July 2017
 

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Our first time to Africa and certainly a huge eye opener for us. Thank you for all that you do for the animals and the land. Oephebia Animal healer

It was like being home for me. From start to leaving it just felt so comfortable and alive. Margo
 
 
 
 
 

Oephebia Laidi & Margo Moncur UK & France – June 2017
 

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Thank you Karen and Jean for creating and maintaining this gateway to a wildlife paradise. Not only the wonder of the daily close up visits to the happy and contented hippo families but enabling us to share the landscape, birdlife and all the other animals. You deal with many daily difficulties with determination, humour, and warmth towards your visitors with the overall love for all the animals. I have had a marvelous and life enhancing week, thank you.
 
 
 
 

Derek Kilgariff UK – June 2017
 

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The miracle of life and respect for it all in this most beautiful oasis of healing and love.
I will never forget all the sights, sounds and smells of this amazing place, and that somewhere in this universe a profound message has been sent and received.
Thank you for it all, loving you both so much and until the next time here, China or Vietnam Bear hugs and blessings. Jill.
 
 
It really has been the most incredible, heart stopping few days. The experiences we have had being here will stay with us for a lifetime J Thank you for all your time and knowledge. I love it here being with the animals and the both of you I really hope to visit again, this place will forever be in my heart. Wendy
 
 

Jill Robinson & Wendy Leadbeater CHINA ANIMALS ASIA – October 2016

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What a whirlwind of a visit we have had. Highlights include painted wild dogs, numerous enchanting elephant encounters, Wiley the crocodile, Squiggle the slender mongoose and of course the majestic hippos that we have been able to get so close to.  We will never forget their flicking ears, awesome gapes and guttural bellows.  What a fantastic experience! Connie and co
 
 
 
 

The Birches Ed, Connie,Steph And Pete UK – September 2016

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I said I would be back and this time there were even more animals due I know to all your hard work feeding the hippos and other animals through this terrible drought.  We saw painted wild dogs and had 10 puppies playing just behind the car.  I think we have seen elephants nearly every day! We even saw lions very briefly and I will be back.  Keep up your hard but great work.  Thank you my dear friend.
 
 
 
 

Suzie Marsh UK – September 2016

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Being here has given me much needed inspiration and will recharge and refresh me Christian.  You two are incrediably inspirational, hilarious and wonderful.  I will never forget this experience and will continue to rave about it to family and friends. Courtney.
 
 
 
 
 

Christian & Courtney Alexanderson USA – August 2016

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As my first time over seas this was incredible and absolutely unforgettable!  You are so inspirational and I can’t put into words how lucky I feel getting to be a part of your work.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Alysa Snell USA – August 2016

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Once in a lifetime is an understatement. This experience has changed my life! I will see you again, and remember: creepers do break! Garrett. I will never forget my time here. Truly an amazing experience, and I thank you for sharing your world with me, and for saving me from Brutus! Thanks for the laughs & cabbage fun. Rachel.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Garrett Friedrich & Rachel Allen USA – July 2016

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What a simply wonderful piece of paradise. A true wild life experience. As an Africa nut and an animal lover, the time here has been insanely good. The hippos are astounding as are all the other animals I was lucky enough to meet.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Maggie Knewstub Australia – June 2016

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Jacquie, Kerry and Claire NelWords are really not enough for such a magical place as this. The peace and tranquillity, broken only by the sounds of the monkeys and baboons shouting and scampering across the roof, is calming and restoring. Hearing the lion’s roar during the nights and the waking to the birds singing as they greet each morning is truly one of the best things in the world.
And just when you think it can’t get any better, you take a walk with Karen, through an animal made track down to the river, which, while it must be magnificent in full flood, is low enough to wade across to get to our goal……the hippos…….to stand just meters away from these amazing creatures is awe inspiring. You read that a hippo can weigh up to 3 tonne, and you think “yip, that’s pretty big” then you see one, not a fully grown 3tonne one, just a young male or female and you realise just how big they really are! Their heads lift as they hear you approach and to see them relax as Karen greets them by name and talks to them has to be seen to be believed. They are happily sunning themselves on a sand bank, enjoying their sleep, digesting their night’s feeding. If you’re lucky one might get to its feet and take a walk, or groom another and treat you to a wide mouthed gape, driving home again their size and strength.

Karen and Jean are amazing hosts, full of knowledge and information, Karen is passionate about all the animals, but especially the hippos and we never tire of hearing her stories and information. The excitement of collecting the trail cam cards and seeing what animals have been to visit the area, seeing, among others, predators including lion and leopard and hyena that have been close to the house but you have never heard them, would never even have known they were there, knowing that you are one with the bush, that the animals are secure enough to be around the humans is nothing short of breath-taking. To go on a game drive and see such a variety of buck, elephants, giraffe, warthogs, buffalo, birdlife and we were spoilt with Painted Wild Dog pupps makes it a trip never to be forgotten.

Jacquie, Kerry and Claire Nel of UK – July 2015

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teresa and the hipposMy latest (and third) visit to Hippo Haven was quite the adventure!

Having visited prior, and having read Karen’s book, it was no surprise to me that their life is far from paradise. There was trouble with poachers (as well as hunters) from the moment I arrived. So we were on high alert much of the time. But the animals make everything worth it and I had some truly amazing experiences.
Perhaps the best day for all of us was our trip to Gonarezhou National Park (Gonarezhou means “the place of elephants”). I had already been excited to have seen elephants on this visit, including the one day Jean-Roger and I went to get drinking water and one walked right across the road in front of the car, then stopped and turned at us; we thought it might charge but it just took a few paces, looked at us and walked off. And then Karen and I had an incredible encounter late one afternoon with what started off as 2 and wound up being 3 male elephants at a small water hole where we stood on the other side and marveled at their peaceful and awesome presence for quite some time.

Upon entering Gonarezhou we came across many elephants culminating with a herd of females and young that came very near to our car. Unprecedented to be that near to wild elephants and they did not show any aggression toward us. We had a picnic lunch by the breathtaking Chilocho sandstone cliffs. Karen and I walked out to the middle of the Runde riverbed (it is the dry season so the “river” was a trickle) and suddenly in the distance we see elephants one by one crossing toward the water. It was almost like a mirage. As we were leaving the picnic area an elephant was busy blocking the road so we exited another way which is when we ran into the aforementioned herd. And as we were exiting the park at dusk, we came across a group of lions sprawled out in the road. teresa-extraThey were not about to move for anyone so we sat and watched them for about 10 minutes, one lying right by the front wheel. We saw lots of other amazing animals as well (including grysbok, kudu, klipspringer, eland, duiker, nyala, impala, and of course a large hippo group).

Another day Karen and I came upon a herd of buffalo, at least 60, in a riverbed. And on my last day we sat by a wild dog den near sunset to witness the packs’ pups emerging.

These are all very unique experiences for any visitor to Africa and I treasure each and every one of them. It would not be possible were it not for Hippo Haven and the hospitality of Karen and Jean-Roger.

Teresa D’Amico,  New York – July 2015

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the forsten family_2015We (a family of 4) spent a week with Karen and Jean-Roger at Hippo Haven and had the best time of our lives. It was magic. This remote haven was really one of a kind, with all the animals, such as funny baboons, cute vervet monkeys and majestic hippos around the corner. To give treats to the wild baboons every morning and to walk down to the river and watch the hippos was amazing.
During our stay we had the best of luck and got to see several painted wild dogs and their beautiful puppies coming up from their den. We sat silently watching the grownups, circulating around the car, for nearly two hours. Then suddenly they felt safe and called for the pups to come out. There were about 7 – 10 of them, absolutely adorable. The wild dogs were actually the no 1 on our wish list of animals to see, and we were thrilled to be there and experience their behavior and beauty.wilddog puppies

We got to see so many beautiful animals, such as a spotted hyena, elephants, giraffes, buffalos to name a few. But the hippos were the ones that made a great impression on us, since we went to see them almost every day, only a few meters away, on the sandbank. To see them gape, and also to hear their trombone-like sound was amazing. The little ones, George and Darrow, were so cute, and Kutchek was easy to recognize with his astonishing head and size – a true alfa male. They all seemed so at peace and calm, allowing us to be there watching them. Of course we had to adopt four of our favorites when we came back to Sweden.
But what also made this week so special was Karen and Jean, and their beautiful home. You rarely meet people like them in life. Their hospitality, sense of humour and dedication to their work with animals is outstanding. We learnt about the hard life in Africa, by listening to their incredible stories, but foremost, we saw the wonders, the every day beauty in this scenic place. It was truly sad to leave Hippo Haven. This was our first time in Africa, and Zimbabwe is definitely a country to return to. Thank you, Karen and Jean, for having us and making our stay unforgettable.

Johanna, Tony, Elvis and Viktoria Forstén, Sweden – July 2015

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sue_volunteer_2015
Had a wonderful 10 days with Karen and Jean Roger in June. What a lovely place they have. So enjoyed the baboons and monkeys each morning, whilst we had coffee overlooking the river. They are very funny and fascinating to watch. Walking in the late afternoon in the forest was thrilling. The colours from the setting sun made everything glow. You never quite knew what you would see around the next corner!.

We were fortunate to see a very tiny baby elephant with its family. Did see the family again early one morning, only the backsides, as they were walking away from us. No messing with that family with such a tiny baby there!

Karen and Jean Roger work hard to protect the hippos and other wildlife. We were made to feel very welcome and so enjoyed seeing this tiny part of Africa from a different vantage point.

Sue Hoare UK June 2015

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Silas with his new watch and TeresaIf you are someone who craves the experience of what it is like to actually live among wild animals in the bush, this is it. If you feel calm around the animals, they will fascinate and delight you no end. And if you are a dedicated advocate for animals as I am, this is direct action at its finest!

 

“Hippo Haven has a healing effect on both the body and the mind. I slept deeply the first night in my cabin overlooking the Turgwe River, awaking to absolute serenity. One wall is open to the elements, covered with mesh to keep out the animals, so you are basically living outdoors”.

 

Teresa D’Amico  New York, New York. USA – 2013

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Hazel

 

 

“I loved my time at Hippo Haven, and fell in love with the hippos and Zimbabwe. The experiences I had there have inspired me further and I am now sure that I want to spend my life doing something similar. Since I got back to the UK I have known that I will return to Zimbabwe, if only for the sound of hippos laughing in the night.”

 

Hazel Mitchison, volunteer, UK, August and September 2009

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jean_and_jenny“It has been the most amazing experience and so totally different to anything I have ever done before. Until now holidays have been either skiing in the Alps or sunbathing on a Greek island. At hippo haven we stayed in a delightful cottage, with no electricity, just one gas light and several candles. The bathroom has just 3 walls, so you can sit on the loo and look down into the valley, but there’s no one about so no worries about privacy, unless you don’t like monkeys or baboons watching you. You might be wondering if there were so many highs, what were the lows? Well there weren’t any. It was all such a huge contrast with our life here in England, we learnt so much, about animals – Karen is an amazing safari guide and can recognize all birds, which animals have been along paths and when.”

Jenny Cookson-Teal, hippo supporter U.K, August 2011

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kirsty“That afternoon we went on patrol with the game scouts. We spread out in a line to cover more ground, looking for snares. Walking through grass is quite different than at home. It is long and coarse and there are a lot of spiky plants and small bushes that cover you in scratches. By the time I got home you could play noughts and crosses on my leg. Again we didn’t find any snares, which was good. We saw kudu and waterbuck by the river. Everywhere there are lots of monkeys and baboons. Back by the hippos we watched them from above. Sometimes all you could see were their nostrils. We saw a crocodile trying to mate. When they do this they climb up on the other croc in the water. The female wasn’t interested so it was a very short moment! We passed the place where we had laid the sand bags that morning. The water had risen considerably after digging upstream.”

Kirsty Mitchison, hippo supporter/volunteer UK, August 2009

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jean_and_cary

 

“Visiting Karen and Jean at the Turgwe Hippo Trust is an unforgettable adventure. The location is just stunning; the proximity to the animals exhilarating. Equally the hardships that they are facing daily are for real”.

 

 

 

 

Cary Martin, hippo supporter UK, October 2007

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