Turgwe Hippo Trust welcomes you to Hippo Haven.
We are a very hands-on not for profit and the animals that we care for here are all living natural lives in the wild, not in captivity.
You can assist us with the day to day work but this is a very personal experience for a maximum of 4 people at any one time, giving you a real chance to breath in what Africa and life in the wild is really all about.
“Waking to the calm sounds of the Turgwe River, the chorus of morning birdsong and the chaotic calls of Baboons is a great way to start the day at the Turgwe Hippo Trust in the south east Lowveld of Zimbabwe.
Observing the plethora of wildlife in their natural habitat and knowing that they are safe from poaching, hunting and land clearing due to the work of Karen, Jean-Roger and the anti-poaching staff offers hope for the future of wildlife in the area.
Witnessing the relationship and trust between Karen, the Hippos and other wildlife is remarkable. The calm and inquisitive response of the Hippos and other wildlife to Karen’s presence provides insight into how we can have respectful interactions and relationships even with the most fearful or “aggressive” animals if we demonstrate ongoing respect and patience.
Meeting Karen and Jean-Roger Paolillo for the first time as a visiting volunteer in 2010 led to the unexpected opportunity to assist them by house sitting multiple times and managing the Turgwe Hippo Trust in their absence. While Karen presented to the Royal Geographical Society in London and they both took a well-earned break, I was offered the challenge and honor of caring for their home, animals and working with the Trust staff/game scouts.
To Karen and Jean-Roger: Thank you for the many lessons in the bush, wildlife encounters, friendship, and faith. It is truly an honor to stay at Hippo Haven and be trusted with the responsibility of caring for your animals, home and the Turgwe Hippo Trust. Thank you for all you do for others and wildlife”
“So, my sixth visit here. I feel like I am coming home to a familiar setting, yet there is always something new, exciting and different. Got to meet the new groups of warthogs and bush pigs, and the pigeons in the new aviary. Have seen so many elephants in this past week we have completely lost count. Our stay at Gona re Zhou is amazing as always. The sad part is the chaos with the hippo families due to the murder of Tembia, so they have been hard to locate. On my last full day here, Karen takes me to once again look for Maxie and Relief, and Tacha and Fara. Just as we are preparing to leave, after Karen has called for them, we hear them and I get to see what a star Max is. I will be back again.”
” We have had a lovely and very special time staying with Karen and Jean in their beautiful home with their animals. Being so close to the Turgwe Hippos was a real treat not to mention all the other animals and wildlife we were able to see thanks to them. Thank you for a very special nine days which we will never forget! “
” I spent 9 magical days with Karen and Jean Roger. These 2 people have lived through horrendous situations over many years, read Karen’s first book published by Penguin, A HIPPO LOVE STORY, or better visit them. Their house is a marvelous place that they shared with us and where they provided food of tremendous quality, I didn’t believe given how far from “civilization”. Around their house are so many wonderful wild animals looked after by Karen and her husband. Every day during the holiday was a new adventure and we visited different areas and saw animals in their natural habitats. On several occasions I marveled at the sights we were shown and it’s also very humbling to watch Karen in action with the hippos, truly she speaks to them and they understand! I doubt I would ever have the trust in any other 2 people to take me close to potentially dangerous places and yet have total confidence they would keep me safe. I really cannot thank them both enough for this unique experience. I have for a short time almost lived as family and really doubt that an animal safari in a park with a large group could hold a candle to this experience. I may sound a bit biased but try it I’d totally recommend it! “
” There is something magical about this place. It has a way of speaking to your soul. The animals – baboons, warthogs, monkeys and of course, the hippos, all have a way of sneaking into your heart. We have loved filming here and cannot wait to see this place shine on TV. For the world to see how wonderful this place and both of you are. Thank you for making this such a fun film shoot! P/s can’t forget about Tuli the pigeon. He’s defiant and stubborn but you got to love him xxx Also can’t wait to meet Stevie when we come back. “
” We loved our time at the Trust. This is an amazing project that has survived a lot of challenges in Zimbabwe and has still come out the other end because of the pure love and commitment to conservation of these animals. This is a very unique experience that in all my travels in Africa have yet to find one quite like it! They offer lovey stays and a unique experience with the animals and walks down to the hippo pods as well as opportunities to volunteer! Karen and her husband Jean are wonderful hosts and you will feel right at home very quickly! We would highly recommend. We visited on our honeymoon which was most appropriate as it is beautiful. “
” We enjoyed our stay so very much and thank you for your hospitality and letting us be part of your big animal family. We enjoyed very much to experience the trustful relationship between human and animals. We wish you all the very best and protection, so you can enjoy the result of your hard work for many happy years! Lots of love M & M’s. “
We love you! xxx”
Thank you again. Looking forward to the next time”.
This is what Lise from Millbrook NY USA had to say:
“What a wonderful fun-filled adventure ! Awakening to baboon chatter. Nights filled with star- filled skies. Listening to Karen calm the hippos is a unique experience. Both of you have been wonderful hosts and taken expert care of us. We seem to have had extraordinary luck seeing a pangolin on our first night and then hearing young hyena right in front of us with Kim Wolhuter and Karen and the hyena calling the females for an unusually long winded time”.
Gill then adds:
“we had the adventure of a lifetime. A real bush experience which was quite magical”.
“ How magical to return after the year of Covid, lockdowns and personal tragedy.
I could feel my body and soul relaxing as we approached the Haven. Truly feel I am welcomed home as this is my fifth visit. Falling asleep to the sound of the rushing water of the Turgwe River in the new cottage built upon the river bank. Waking to only the calls of Nature and one exciting early morning to Kudu’s right outside the window of the gorgeous new cottage where I slept, and which was heavenly.
Steve hippo I am so glad to have met you young man, and stay safe always.
Until next time …”
Our first volunteer at Turgwe Hippo Trust since the pandemic began. Louise flew all the way from California to come along for ten days in early June. Here is what she had to say:
“On our arrival it was like driving into Heaven a new earth as we entered Karen and Jean-Roger’s Hippo Haven. Troops of baboons, monkeys and warthogs all greeting us like happy children as if we had returned after being gone for a long time. Everything was special including Jean-Roger’s delicious cooking. It’s totally remarkable all that Karen and Jean have done over the years to make this such a really special place. As well as a hippo at the door which is so exciting”.
“Gosh, how to sum up the warm, loving hospitality, delicious food, shared knowledge on hippos and everything in the bush and finally the beautiful land and wildlife. I was so incredibly lucky to see Tacha’s new baby! An adorable baby hippo! And all the lovely hippos and so many elephants, and a leopard! A wonderful week thank you so much!”
“lovely to be back again after 4 years. As always incredible experiences which will be lifelong fond memories. Two nights at Gona’s was magical as were the ellies and wild dogs and the lion on the road at night back at Turgwe Hippo Trust. Thank you once again for welcoming me into your home and your life. I hope to come back xxx! “
“There is really no experience as good as being in the bush surrounded by fantastic animals! Whether you see them or not. Thank you Karen for being a wonderful guide and for your special love for all the hippos. Thank you to Jean-Roger for always being there when we need you. Thank you to Silas for making our stay especially comfortable! “
“Wow! Wow! wow!
Our first time here at Hippo Haven and it definitely won’t be our last. We have had the most amazing 10 day’s ever. From spending some unbelievable time with the hippos (what I came for) to bush walking.
To the baboons and warthogs and not forgetting Gona re Zhou this truly is a magical place. Karen and Jean-Roger we owe you a huge thank you for everything you have done for us in your home and HUGE back garden J and for sharing your love of the animals and the environment with us. We are friends for life.”
“My stay here has been the experience of a lifetime. The hippos of course, the baboons, the warthogs and especially the vervet monkeys I loved them all. The trip to Gona-re-Zhou will be burnt in my memory for ever. Love the animals and love the people!”
“So hard to put into words how magical my time with you has been. ‘Thank you’ with all my heart for the work you do here. I love those ‘floaty boaties’ more than anything and I’m so lucky to have seen them thanks to you. I will never forget you all.”
“It has been an amazing experience. I’m speechless and you are doing a wonderful job looking after the hippos. Will never forget this place, it will always be in my heart”
“Sitting on the banks of the Turgwe watching Kuchek or Tembia with their families; helping Karen as she embarks on yet another feeding program for the hippos and other animals; walking with Jean-Roger in the stunning bush and learning about trees; scratching hairy noses of warties and baboons, – always baboons! Unforgetable! Thank you ! Thank you! Xxx”
“Stuart and I stayed at Hippo Haven in 2012 and have always looked forward to coming back. We had a fabulous time then but the most wonderful thing that happened from that visit is that we have become great friends with Karen and Jean-Roger! Such a treat therefore to return to this wonderful place and see the amazing work that is done here. It is a home full of caring and love. Looking forward to being back again and again!. With much love”
“Karen & Jean-Roger thank you for our stay (we won the draw to come along to Hippo Haven in 2018) It is a beautiful place with incredible views from your terrace. We loved all the animals especially seeing painted wild dogs from 15meters away! After they killed a female impala. We loved the beautiful hippos especially my adopted hippo Kuchek. Thank you for this unforgettable stay.”
“My stay here fulfilled all my expectations of coming to a “real Africa” n ot by the Safari route. I came away with real respect for hippos and elephants after our encounters.</p>
<p>From the moment we entered this area to the time of our departure I have been totally enraptured by what is around you and how you are one with it all. Thank you Karen and Jean-Roger for an incredible experience.”
“My love of travel and hippos brings me here. A trip of new experiences stepping out of my own perception of how life happens day to day in my small comforting corner of this planet. I came with hopes of seeing and learning new ways to enjoy this long journey of life. All of my time here has been educational as well as fun, exciting and totally unforgettable. I’ve been inspired every day here. Your life journey of hard work and bravery and perserverence has made a dream come true for me. I loved sharing tea and coffee and silly stories as we cruised through 2 weeks of wild animals, loading thatch, catching poachers, and visiting the elephants at Karen’s favorite place in the wild. I hope to return for a Hippo Haven episode 2….. I can truthfully say, I’ve had a ‘ Bloody’ Good time !
“An amazing place full of character, hippos and possibilities. Provides a true look into bush life and wilderness of Africa. Thank you for sharing your home, love of animals, and true appreciation of the world. Hope to return again soon for many more adventures.
“Thank you for an amazing 10 days here. I’ve loved being out in the bush every day, seeing the hippos up so close on land and in water, the cute baby hippos and all the other animals of the bush. Trip to Gona-re-Zhou National Park with you was amazing with lions, eles galore and spectacular scenery, most of which I could see from my tent! Will miss the serenity of Hippo Haven and especially you and Jean-Roger, the cats, the baboons, genet, monkeys, warthogs, and bushpigs and the yummy food. Hope to return again soon.
“Our first few days back in Zimbabwe for a months holiday and a perfect place to wind down, enjoying in the bush and watching wildlife and catching up on news/stories – we will be back and please keep up your amazing work here in Zim.<br />Karen and Jean-Roger you ‘Rock’.”
“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.”
“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..”
“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”
“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.
“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.”
“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.<br />Thank you for it all, loving you both so much and until the next time here, China or Vietnam Bear hugs and blessings. Jill.</p>
<p>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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Words 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.”
“My 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.
They 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.”
“We (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.
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.”
“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.”
“If 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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”