Desert Elephant Family Volunteering in Namibia
Volunteer with your family in supporting the conservation of the Namibian desert elephant and other local educational projects.
Group SizeMin 4 / Max 14
The itinerary is a little different from our normal volunteer project to make it more child friendly and included more activities on the patrol week, keeping the children in mind. The building project will be based at our partner school, A.Gariseb Primary in Anixab village and the project work will be tailored to suit the whole family. EHRA’s ethos of ‘community’ remains, with families taking it in turn to be on ‘kitchen duty’ cooking over the fire for other members of the group.
The project will be led by Hendrick Munembome, EHRA’s head tracker and community liaisons manager. Hendrick has been with EHRA for the last 7 years, is also a registered tour guide and has all his first aid qualifications. Hendrick has many fascinating stories to tell about his life, is a brilliant communicator and elephant expert.
About Elephant - Humans Relations Aid (EHRA): Helping to Solve Elephant Conservation Challenges
EHRA's Elephant Conservation Volunteer Project has been in operation for the last 12 years, and during this time, hundreds of volunteers have committed to volunteer in Africa, making a huge difference to the conservation of the desert-dwelling elephants and to the quality of life for thousands of Namibians.
The volunteer conservation project is the pinnacle of the organisation's existence, as volunteers provide the manpower and funding for the conflict prevention programme. All types of people from all over the world volunteer for EHRA in Namibia, Africa, and the groups, which range in size from 7 up to 14 participants, are always a mix of ages.
Namibia is a beautiful part of Africa, and within it, Damaraland is probably one of the most stunning areas of the world. Its desert-dwelling elephants are among the most special elephants you will ever see. This project gives us the opportunity to expose dedicated volunteer enthusiasts to its field work which offers each one a unique chance to make a personal difference and a real contribution to conservation and biosphere development in Namibia.
This is about real-life; conservation work in a harsh desert environment where small bands of secretive, desert-adapted elephants roam vast wilderness areas; where subsistence farmers who eke out an existence in the desert need all the help they can get to co-exist with the elephants who share their precious water resources.
We hope you will join us in the desert, the place where your mind has to expand to fill the space!
PEACE (People and Elephants Amicably Co-Existing)
You will be give the opportunity to donate to this project when you pay for your Experience.
PEACE Project leaders Hendrick Munembome and Dr. Betsy Fox demonstrate elephant teeth structure to Otjimbojo Conservancy members attending a seminar near their homes in the Ugab River.
The PEACE (People and Elephants Amicably Co-Existing) Project, a community-based education program for the people of the southern Kunene and northern Erongo Regions, focuses on people living in the communal areas along both banks of the Ugab River (the southern boundary of the Kunene Region in Northwest Namibia) and extending north to the Palmwag and Hobatere Concession Areas where many of the desert-dwelling elephants also live.
It is state-owned land primarily used by farmers for subsistence livestock farming, where conflicts between people and their elephant neighbors happen frequently. Many are due to misunderstanding and lack of information about the true nature of elephants. Many local people are unfamiliar with elephant behavior, resulting in a high level of fear and dislike of elephants which then resulting in pressure on the Namibian Government to remove, cull or otherwise “get rid of” the elephants. Some people resort to shooting and wounding them out of frustration and anger when they damage a water source or homestead garden or injure livestock or break fences.
Very few people receive any benefits from this major tourist attraction living among them. Often, the only way people benefit from the elephants is through trophy hunting or hunting those declared as “problem animals”.
Attentive members from !Khoro !Goreb and Audi Conservancies listen as PEACE Project leader Hendrick Munembome describes the many functions of an elephant’s trunk.
EHRA’s PEACE Project seeks to change that. Many people in the area have asked for information about elephants and how to live with them, as well as for information about the environment and ecology. This project aims to address these requests with a combination of educational programs, public and schools talks and a brochure for resident adults and students, tourists and the general public. Besides seminars for community residents, field time observing elephants is part of the program.
Excited staff of the Damara Living Museum and Aba-Huab Conservancy members join PEACE Project leader Dr. Betsy Fox after the field trip where they watched a herd of peaceful elephants in the Aba-Huab River. The vehicle and driver for the trip were provided by the Twyfelfontein Country Lodge.
With this project, EHRA seeks to help people live with their elephant neighbors and to decrease conflict through education, raising awareness, and promoting ventures to enhance their livelihoods. It features two-day seminars for all residents, including students, lodge employees, chiefs, headmen, conservancy members, officers and game guards. The first day is filled with factual information about elephants and tips to stay safe if elephants are around, including a slide show if possible; the second day takes participants to the field to bring them face-to-face with elephants to experience the true nature of these giants which share their homeland.
Since the beginning of the project in 2009, project leaders Hendrick Munembome and Dr. Betsy Fox have driven to communities to conduct these seminars. Many people are surprised about the facts of elephant society and behavior, and particularly to learn they can safely come close to elephant herds and large bull elephants and watch them quietly without disturbing them or provoking a charge. Most come away with totally different perceptions and attitudes towards elephants, and especially with reduced fear. Such changes in people’s ideas and beliefs are the driving force behind the creation of the PEACE Project, and the reason we plan to continue.
Community residents from Otjimbojo Conservancy safely observe Mama Africa’s herd resting near the Ugab River during the field trip following their PEACE education seminar.
The PEACE Project receives no funding from either the government or EHRA’s operations budget; it depends solely on donations, grants and other funding sources to print educational materials for seminar participants, including a certificate of attendance; a brochure for self-drive tourists outlining information about the region and its people as well as important safety tips to follow if they encounter elephants while touring in elephant habitats; and the fuel needed to get to the communities to conduct the seminars.
The entire program aims to produce more informed and safe residents and tourists who then can appreciate elephants as a major asset in their lives.This hopefully will lead to more relaxed, less aggressive elephants as well.
Check out this short documentary about EHRA, the challenges facing elephant conservation and the PEACE Project, including interviews with the EHRA project leaders.
Arrival in Swakopmund by Sunday at the latest, ready for the briefing at 6.30pm (venue TBC). Families should arrive a day before in Swakopmund, so you have time to acclimatise and explore this friendly and safe seaside town. EHRA will help you organise airport transfers and accommodation bookings. Most families have chosen to go on a self drive tour around Namibia whilst they are here and we can also help you to make these arrangements. Namibia is a beautiful, safe and friendly country which is easy to navigate and well worth exploring.
Day 1: Monday 1st August
Transfer to our camp( -4 hours) on the on the banks of the Ugab River, a short walk away from A.Gariseb Primary School, where the group will be working for the next few days. We will arrive in camp around 4pm, unpack and get settled in. In the evening Hendrick will give the group a briefing about the week ahead and health and safety issues out in the bush.
Day 2: Tuesday 2nd August
Start of build project. Early in the morning we will get to school to participate in the morning’s assembly and meet the teachers and pupils of A.Gariseb School. The group will be assisting the school by repainting dormitory or classrooms. Throughout the time at the school there will be a chance to participate in lessons and interact with the pupils after school hours with sports and crafts.
The main reason for EHRA to be involved in the school is to try and promote the elephants in a positive light. Over the past 12 years EHRA has tried to encourage the community and pupils that elephants are a benefit as they do bring development to the school through the renovation work we are doing there.
EHRA has an educational project, The PEACE Project, which Hendrick leads and also focuses on schools to make sure the pupils understand how to behave when elephants are close by. EHRA plans ‘Elephant Safety Weeks’ where older pupils are trained as elephant mentors to keep the younger pupils safe if elephants are in close proximity.
EHRA focuses on the communities, to try and create situations where people are happy or at least equipped with the knowledge on how to live safely with the elephants, that they feel protected and understand the elephants so that they are accepting of living with elephants. This then helps to prevent 'problem animal' declarations.
The village and school is unique in terms of how closely they have to live with elephants and thanks to the projects at the school and the surrounding farms there is a big shift in attitudes towards the elephants.
The school is as integral a part of our anti conflict work. All the children that attend and board at the school are living on farms where elephants are roaming. This new generation need to grow up empowered with the skills and knowledge to live with elephants, something that due to poaching is lacking for their parents.
We will get organised and start the project work after assembly, then take a long lunch break during the heat of the day back at our camp. We will start work around 2pm and work until 4.30pm.
Throughout the week there will be a chance to meet local people and to really understand how Namibian’s live, from what they eat, to how they make their houses and what their daily life entails.
Every day a family will be on kitchen duty together which involves waking up first to make the morning coffee, tea and breakfast, to the sandwiches for lunch and the big dinner in the evening. Each evening we prepare a big healthy meal over the fire, ranging from roast chickens, spaghetti bolognese, lamb tagine, thai curry to name a few! We can cater for vegetarians as well.
Everyone gets to do washing up!
Day 3: Wednesday 3rd August
Continue with school project.
Day 4: Thursday 4th August
Today is the last day of the school project. We will then head back to base camp to relax – a job well done!
Day 5: Friday 5th August
Today the group have a day to relax and explore the area surrounding base camp. In the afternoon Hendrick will take those who are interested on a nature walk ( - 3kms) and will also tell the group about different survival skills and edible plants from the desert. Today’s challenge is to make a chocolate cake – cooked on the fire!
In the evening Hendrick will give the group a briefing on patrol, covering what the aim of the next few days is in terms of the elephants we need to track and specific information on safety whilst in close proximity to elephants.
On each patrol we have a different aim, at the time of writing our current focus is two fold, one is to have a presence in the area where elephants are under threat and check that all herds are together and without injuries, and secondly we need to start compiling identification files of ‘new’ herds of elephants in the northern reaches of our area, as these elephants are causing a lot of damage to farms. On each patrol we also spend a lot of time speaking to farmers and communities and chance will be given to the group to interact with local people.
Day 6: Patrol – Saturday 6th August
We pack the patrol vehicles and head out early on patrol. During patrol week we sleep under the stars, with out a tent which is an amazing experience for all!
Day 7: Sunday 7th August
On each day of patrol we will include an element of walking so that children don’t get bored on the cars for the whole day! If we head down into the wetland areas of the river system we may even have a fishing competition! Hendrick will explain how he tracks the elephants and the group will have the chance to put their tracking skills to the test. For those who are keen bird enthusiasts, the wetlands, river system and desert are home to some beautiful birds including Hornbills, Love Birds, Egyptian Geese, Rollers, various fabulous Eagles and other birds of prey and some stunning owls such as the Pearl Spotted Owl.
Day 8: Monday 8th August
Day 9: Tuesday 9th August
Today is the last day of patrol! Throughout the week you can expect to see other wildlife, asides elephant, such as black rhino which is rare but there is a small population in our area which are often spotted, springbok, oryx, kudu, giraffe, zebra! Around lunch time the group will head back to EHRA base camp, for yet another fabulous shower in the rocks and last night around the fire and sleep in the tree house!
Day 10: Wednesday 10th August
After a leisurely breakfast we will pack up the Toyota Quantum and head back to the coast town on Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast. We will aim to be back around lunch time and we can help make bookings for various activities which are fun for everyone including sandboarding, quad biking, desert tours, dolphin cruises and kayaking to name a few!
- Meals and accommodation as described in Itinerary
- International flight
Joining your Experience
The meeting point is Swakopmund and we will give you help and advice on getting here. We organise your travel arrangements from the airport in Namibia's capital Windhoek, and transfer through to Amanpuri Travellers Lodge, the guest house we use in Swakopmund. On Sunday evening there is a short briefing for all volunteers at Amanpuri, which is important, as for you to meet our staff and learn what will happen the following day when the program begins. We leave Swakopmund on Monday at 12:00 noon. We then drive to EHRA's Base Camp on the Ugab River, where you will spend the night and listen to a full briefing about the volunteer program for the following week.
You may book an extra night at Chameleon's Lodge/Backpackers in Windhoek before and/or after your Experience, so that you can join the transfer to Swakopmund the next day, unless you flight does land before 11 AM.
There are flight to Walwis bay from Johannesburg. You may enquire on our flight tab.
Accommodation and Meals
Accommodation and Meals:
Your payment covers all your food, transportation and accommodation during the week days of the project. It does not include weekends, which will be spent in Swakopmund, at our partner Lodge Amanpuri or at an accommodation of your choice. Your funds also contribute towards the project cost such as building materials, fuel, vehicle cost and administrative costs such as staff salaries.
All of our group tours are planned and operated on a twin-share basis, meaning that the standard cost is based either on individual travellers sharing accommodation with another group member of the same sex, or people who book together sharing accommodation.
When a Single Supplement is available it is included in the Prices tab. Depending on the Experience chosen, all accommodations may not have the capacity to offer single accommodation.
The Single Room supplement also applies to the third person in a party of three that will be accommodated in a single room.
It is a condition of booking with Gaia Conscious Travel that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on travel, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit, which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for domestic travel.
Preparing your Experience
We supply all equipment needed whilst on site, and will forward you a detailed personal equipment list upon booking your expedition.
Partially covered by the Namib Desert, one of the world's driest deserts, Namibia's climate is generally very dry and pleasant – it's fine to visit all year round. Namibia only receives a fraction of the rain experienced by countries further east. Between aboutDecember to March some days will be humid and rain may follow, often in localised, afternoon thunderstorms. These are more common in the centre and east of the country, and more unusual in the desert.
Meet the Elephants:
EHRA's area of operation has expanded since we first established the elephant patrols 10 years ago, when we primarily worked in the Ugab River basin. Today the patrols extend north to the next river systems: the Huab and the Goantagab, as far north as the town of Khorixas and as far east as the town of Omajette. In this area there are 3 distinct family groups of elephants, plus individual bulls.
The Ugab River elephants are very well known to EHRA, and below you will find photos of every elephant in this area. They form 3 herds in total and together with the bulls, they currently number 32 resident elephants, this includes the younger elephants and calfs. Each year between September and December, three other bulls move into the area from the east.
EHRA's patrols concentrate on these herds, as conflict incidents can be high, and for 2014 we are collecting dung from each elephant for a genetics project. The aim of the project is to test the hypothesis that Voortrekker is the only bull breeding in the area. Any volunteers joining EHRA will assist with this task!
The Huab River elephants live in larger herds, possibly because of less stress with more available food and water. They also are much more habituated to humans, due to the daily game drives in the river from 5 local lodges. These elephants also live in three herds: two herds that are very calm and relaxed and a third group that is rarely seen but is very distinctive with its lack of tusks. With the few bulls in the area, they total 36 resident elephants (again including young elephants).
The Khorixas elephants moved into the area in 2010, we believe from the northern Kamanjab area. These herds have chosen an area with a high human population density, resulting in many conflict incidents and even loss of human lives. As a result the MET has declared several bull elephants as 'problem elephants', so they can be shot by a hunter, which provides some monetary compensation to the people adversely affected by the elephants' presence. EHRA has been concentrating our water point protection programme in this area to help decrease conflicts, and in 2014 we are conducting PEACE Project education seminars on a regular basis in communities to help people live with the elephants. These elephants are very difficult to observe and identify, as the terrain is often impenetrable, plus the elephants are very scared of vehicles. During full-moon night watches, we have been able to count three to four larger herds with ten or more elephants in each.
Budgeting your Experience
You may need some extra money to cover accommodation and optional activities in Swakopmund and Windhoek. You will most certainly need to budget for a few more days in this amazing region. If you need assistance with your car rental or your visit before or after the trail, please let us know. The red dunes of Sesriem and Etosha National Park are definite must while you are here.
Tipping is customary in Namibia. 10 to 15% is expected to be added to bills in restaurants. Tipping is a common token of appreciation for your guides and other staff members.
Bureau de Change are available at Windhoek or in Swakopmund. ATMs are widely available at commerces, petrol stations and even in the smaller towns.
There are no extra accommodation options for this Experience. Please contact us for accommodation options before and after your trip
There are no optional activities features for this Experience. Please contact us if you would like us to enquire further
|Departure Dates||Status||Price (PP Sharing) Excluding Flights||Single Supplement||Child||Notes|
30/07/2018 - 08/08/2018