Zebra, warthogs, giraffes plus a huge snake added to the trip of a lifetime for eight students from the University of Essex.

They raised more than £13,217 for the two-week trip to South Africa staged as part of a special collaboration between the university and Colchester Zoo.

During their stay, the students worked as volunteers in the 6,000-hectare private UmPhafa nature reserve run by Action For The Wild, the charity arm of Colchester Zoo.

Jan Spalek, short-term programmes manager of Essex Abroad, called the trip an excellent opportunity for them to learn the research and conservation work of the zoo.

Aby Spanton and Neil Bone, the project co-ordinators of UmPhafa, praised the students for acclimatising so well and said the visit boosted their confidence.

“A lot of people have preconceptions about South Africa, but to be able to show them this beautiful country, the wildlife and people is the best part of our job. We’re really looking forward to having students from Essex Abroad come out again.”