East Africa

Animal Conservation

Applications Closed

Applications Closed!

East Africa

Animal Conservation

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  • Work alongside the Jane Goodall Institute and community leaders working in animal and environmental conservation around Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
  • Swim in the warm waters of the Kikuletwa hot springs while engaging with ecotourism and social enterprise in Moshi, Tanzania.
  • Hike Mt. Bisoke – a freestanding extinct volcano with a crater lake at its summit – for the chance to see mountain gorillas in Musanze, Rwanda.
  • Camp under the stars in Rwanda’s famous Akagera National Park where you’ll watch extraordinary wildlife and engage with local communities in their efforts to build a more sustainable form of tourism.
  • Hang out with local fisherman and kayak around the sandy shores of beautiful Lake Kivu at sunset in Gisenyi, Rwanda.


40-DAY ↑

Fees + Community Contribution  

$2,860 USD + $615 USD
$3,135 CAD + $750 CAD

Program Dates


May 22 – June 30

Applications Closed!

July 10 – August 18

Applications Closed!

Sample Itinerary

Orientation in Arusha
We’ll begin our journey in front of Kilimanjaro Airport before taking orientation to the bustling city of Arusha. There, we’ll get to know one another and prepare ourselves for the month ahead!  We’ll kick-start our conversation in a city often used as a trailhead for safaris in Northern Tanzania and learn the 101 of animal conservation. We’ll eat chapati, take some Swahili classes, explore the markets, and wander around this energetic and ever-growing city! We will also meet with the Jane Goodall Institute to continue talking about culture and ecology while spending time with Tanzanian volunteers and young leaders in the conservation movement.

The Big & Small of Conservation
We’ll then hop, skip, and jump next door to Moshi, a small but vibrant city that sits in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Moshi has become a hub of social innovation and is home to many new and established NGOs focused on environmental and animal conservation. We’ll camp out under the stars and continue our partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute while drinking some of Tanzania’s best coffee.

During our time in Moshi, we’ll also have the opportunity to connect with Raue Cultural Tourism to look at both big box and community-based conservation initiatives. Our team will then put theory to practice by planting trees, saving seeds, and helping to construct water catchment systems.

Community-Centred Conservation
Now it’s time to visit the real frontlines of conservation! We’ll travel to the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro and visit a rural Chaga or Maasai village where we’ll stay with local families, eat homemade mandazi, share stories, and play games. During the day, we’ll learn by doing. We’ll collaborate with local stakeholders on small-scale projects that reflect grassroots approaches to conservation like stove-building, agroforestry, and sustainable farming. Working directly with these initiatives will allow us to dig even deeper into the difference between small community-centred solutions and large-scale conservation programs. Oh, and we’ll definitely take some time to cool off in some stunning hot springs!

Land of a Thousand Hills
After a day and a half of some down and dirty travel, we head on over to Kigali! Straddling several ridges with green hillsides, flowering trees, winding boulevards and bustling streets, Rwanda’s capital is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in the region. Upon our arrival, we’re going to team up with Go Kigali to explore this incredible city on the backs of boda bodas, taking time to acquaint ourselves with Kigali’s colourful markets, fresh produce, creative art scene, and lush hills. We’ll visit the genocide museum and memorial to contextualize our experience and pay our respects, eat some delicious brochettes, and begin to see Rwanda’s unique take on conservation. We’ll also meet with RECOR to help connect the dots. This grassroots organization was started by university students in Rwanda and now promotes a cool community-focused approach to conservation all across the country.

Gorillas in the Mist

Just a couple hours away from Kigali, Musanze is probably best known as a staging ground for gorilla trackers. But there’s so much more to this area than meets the eye. We’ll kick things off with a meeting with the Diane Fossey Foundation to talk about gorilla conservation – from its progress in protecting these majestic animals to the pitfalls of ape tourism and the vital role it plays in Rwanda.

With new insights in hand, we’ll hit the trail and stretch our legs with a challenging hike to Mt. Bisoke’s beautiful crater lake. If we’re super lucky, we may even get a glimpse of one of the local gorilla packs – but there are no guarantees. Finally, it’s off to the twin lakes and a community-run island where birds will play our soundtrack for a couple of days of sustainable living. Get ready to get back to the basics as we camp in the foothills of volcanos and fall asleep to the easy breezy movements of the lakeshore!

Putting the Community in Eco-Tourism
Before everyone separates for ITT, we will all head to the Eastern Province and Akagera National Park. We will begin our time here outside of the fences of the park, partnering with community-based tourism projects that directly benefit local communities. We’ll spend our days engaging in water collection activities, tree planting, and possibly bee keeping, while also learning about what successful and community-oriented animal conservation actually looks like in practice.

Then, we safari! We’ll head into the park to seek out some beautiful scenery and big game animals, camp under the stars, and meet with officials from the park to discuss conservation initiatives, community involvement, and the challenges facing the movement before parting ways!

Independent Travel Time
A staple of all Operation Groundswell programs is Independent Travel Time (ITT). You can travel independently if you desire but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interest — volunteering, traveling, or even just relaxing! Are you itching to go rafting on the White Nile in nearby Uganda or head back to Tanzania to climb iconic Mt. Kilimanjaro? Or maybe you’re ready to get back to nature in one of region’s famous national parks. Or are you hoping to revisit your homestays or do a volunteer placement? Now that you’re a true backpacktivist, ITT is the time to stretch your legs and do you!

**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.

Disorientation Along Lake Kivu
We will finish our Animal Conservation journey on the shores of Lake Kivu to regroup and share what we’ve seen, thought, and felt. This is a time to both relax and reflect, while taking in some of the sights and sounds of Rwanda’s biggest lake. We can kayak alongside local fisherman setting out for sunset fishing trips, laze on isolated beaches, eat grilled lake fish, and soak in our last few days together. We’ll also revisit our conversation around animal conservation, discuss what we’ve learned, and talk about how to apply it to life at home. Then, we’ll return to Kigali for some hug-filled farewells and our outgoing flights!

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What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


Independent Travel Time is your opportunity to go out there and explore on your own terms!

  • Climb the epic peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro.
  • Learn about the realities of genocide in the misty hills of Rwanda.
  • Visit Zanzibar Island’s Stone Town and relax on the beaches of the Indian Ocean.
  • See lions, elephants, rhinos, and other big game animals at one of East Africa’s many national parks.


With OG, you live like the locals.
Traveling as much as we do on this East Africa program, there will be a number of different styles of accommodation. We will be sleeping and eating as a team in locally run hostels, family homestays, and community guesthouses that reflect a backpacker’s ethos. Grassroots travel and homestays will allow us to immerse in the local culture but life on the trail means living without some of the comforts to which we’re accustomed. Creepy crawlies are common while comfy beds can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! Be ready to share the wonderful simplicity of life in East Africa!

Meet Our Regional Director

Samira has always been interested in learning about, and from, different cultures and life experiences. Her inquisitive nature continued to evolve as she grew older so when she learned about sociocultural anthropology, everything changed. She considers herself an anthropologist, and has conducted research in Germany, Madagascar, and Tanzania. She thoroughly believes in immersive and educational travel, and is beyond excited to be working with OG in a region that is near and dear to her heart. She is eager to help bring backpacktivists to this wonderful region!

If Not Now, Then When?