Live in a traditional Swahili village where your participation as a volunteer will directly support community-based conservation initiatives and local economic development. Learn diverse survey techniques and contribute to vital research that will be used to increase environmental awareness and provide conservation management.
Our Colobus monkey volunteer project brings you to Kenya’s remote and beautiful Shimoni peninsula on the Indian Ocean. This area is home to globally important coastal forests and incredible wildlife.
There will assist us with our work on one of Kenya's most critical populations of Angolan black and white Colobus monkeys and help conduct biodiversity surveys in the forest on the rare Zanj elephant shrew, birds and butterflies.
We are always looking for enthusiastic and dedicated people to join our team. This program offers qualifying and high-performing volunteers the chance to stay on the program for a longer duration on a GVI Scholarship free of charge and as part of the staff team in the field. If you would like to work towards a field career and make the very most of your time abroad, you might want to work towards a place on a GVI Scholarship. Successful scholars may find themselves offered full time employment with GVI, and many of our current staff have come through this route. Contact us for more information!
Please note, the awarding of scholarships is at the sole discretion of GVI and may be offered immediately after the completion of your program or at a later date.
GVI is real volunteering
Our projects are constantly evolving according to the needs on the ground at any given time. All the information displayed here will give you an overall feel for the project, but you should be prepared for any changes in the field when you travel. An evolving project means that we can constantly meet the needs and requirements of our partners, who dictate the work that we do. The way it should be.
You will start your days before sunrise in the forest, conducting dawn bird surveys in which you are likely to see trumpeter hornbills, the endangered spotted ground thrush or even fish eagles. During the day you will carry out a variety of other research work on butterflies, elephant shrews and of course primates. You may also conduct forest night walks where you might see bushbabies, suni antelopes and other nocturnal species.
You will stay in shared dormitories in a local style house in Shimoni Village and share responsibility for the domestic duties around the house. Shimoni is the gateway to Kenya's finest coral reefs and most important dolphin populations. It is also near to the stunning white beaches of Diani, so you will have plenty to explore in your free time.
In Shimoni, GVI is supporting a community-led conservation program and conducting the following research:
- Dawn bird surveys
- Primate transect surveys (Angolan black and white Colobus monkeys, Sykes monkeys)
- Colobus monkey behavioral research
- Butterfly trapping and sweep netting
- Habitat surveys (surveying fruiting and flowering plants to assess food availability)
- Small mammal surveys
Collecting data on biodiversity and species populations is the first essential step in raising local and global awareness of the pressures that threaten sensitive animal populations and their habitat. Our work provides local communities and other stakeholders with the information they need to balance conservation efforts and human resource needs responsibly.
How this project makes a difference:
The East African coastal forest eco-region, home to the Shimoni Colobus monkey, spotted ground thrush, Zanj elephant shrew and other vulnerable species, is facing high rates of extinction due to habitat loss. For local communities the forest is a vital natural resource and has huge cultural significance, but it lacks any form of protection. Supporting community initiatives offers the best hope of realising conservation goals.
I spent a total of four weeks volunteering on two separate projects in Kenya; two weeks in Shimoni doing wildlife surveys followed by two weeks teaching primary school in Mombasa. It was a truly memorable experience, allowing me to see a totally different world while at the same time providing me with the opportunity to make a small but valuable contribution.
Working daily in the Shimoni forest for two weeks was incredible; a must for lovers of nature and the great outdoors. I can say without a doubt that the work GVI is doing in Shimoni - in partnership with the local organisations - is truly important for the preservation of the forests unique biodiversity. The residents of Shimoni are also unfailingly kind and friendly, making for a great place to spend a couple of weeks.
Teaching at Olive's and Precious in Mombasa offered similarly unique and enjoyable experiences. Managing a huge class (45!) of 12 year-olds was certainly a challenge - even for two teachers - but the students were genuinely interested in learning and lots of fun. Again, the contribution being made by GVI to both the facilities and the curriculum at these schools cannot be overstated.
All-in-all it was an awesome experience; and I can't wait to do it all again!
I found GVI through The Africa Guide website after filtering through many options and I'm supremely glad I did. GVI was an experience like no other. It gave me the opportunity to experience a wonderful little village as only a local would and take part in volunteer work with a legitimate and extremely important long term goal. Our interactions with the locals were so educational and inspiring and getting that chance to work out in the elements spotting wildlife and completing forest surveys was challenging and completely wonderful. If you're the kind of person that can weather trivial things like cold showers, long walks and a bit of dirt in order to have an authentic African experience then this is perfect. I'm already looking into the next trip. 10/10; Absolutely the best time!
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate on programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program.
Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our Shimoni field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Kenya!
Included Side Trips
During project you will embark on the fascinating community-based eco-tourism Slave Cave Tour in Shimoni village, exploring the natural caves that are currently home to bat colonies but over the years have served as a refuge for local people during tribal clashes, a slave holding pen on the way to markets in Zanzibar and more recently a kaya shrine.
Optional Side Trips
Please note these additional side trips are not included in the program but can be easily organised on the ground after arrival.
Closer to base, you can support various eco-tourism initiatives in the surrounding communities, such as traditional fishing trips with the Mkwiro fishermen in their dug-out canoes, Swahili cooking classes or trips through large underground limestone caves at Tswaka.
An amazing day trip is to Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, a community reserve in the hills near Shimba where game drives will bring you close to herds of protected African elephants. You can also see how the community turn elephant dung into recycled paper products for sale to tourists as an income generating scheme.
For something longer than a day, you should consider an overnight trip to Shimba Hills National Reserve, home to African elephants, buffalo, giraffe, warthog and Kenya’s only breeding population of sable antelope. The south coast of Kenya is dotted with several stunning white sand beaches where some of the more popular beach towns offer ocean sports such as kite-surfing, kayaking and diving. Tiwi Beach offers a more relaxed experience with very few tourists present.
Mombasa can also be visited over a weekend, a city that combines the historic old town and traditional Swahili culture with modern city life, restaurants, bars and clubs. As well as its beautiful beaches, the nearby Haller Park is an ecological restoration project that offers opportunities to get close to giraffe, hippopotamus, buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile and the giant Aldabra tortoise.
Further Travel Opportunities
Kenya is a large and extremely diverse country in terms of both culture and nature. Over three to four days you can undertake a safari that takes in the vast Tsavo East and West National Parks, or the famous Amboseli or Maasai Mara National Parks, all home to incredible wildlife viewing opportunities. You can journey further up Kenya’s coastline to visit Watamu and Malindi home to the Gedi Ruins and Arabuko Sokoke Forest National Park. Or for something less active, try Lamu Island, a tranquil getaway, steeped in Swahili history, tradition and culture.
Even further afield in Kenya including Lakes Naivasha and Victoria and national parks such as Nakuru, Hell’s Gate and Samburu. Our operations lie close to the Tanzanian border and onward travel here offers some of Africa’s most famous names; the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Mt Kilimanjaro and the Zanzibar Islands.
Build Your Program
- Pre-departure support and discounted services
- 24-hour emergency phone
- Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
- Arrival orientation
- Long term experienced staff
- Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
- All meals (unless otherwise stated in field manuals)
- Welcome meeting
- Location orientation
- All necessary project training by experienced staff
- All necessary project equipment and materials
- 24-hour in-country support
- Tour of Shimoni's historical sites including the slave cave community project
- Forest training with time in the field to practice skills
- Swahili lessons
What's Not Included
- Medical and travel insurance
- Visa costs
- Personal kit
- Additional drinks and gratuities
- Extra local excursions
- International and domestic airport taxes