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Volunteering with Desert Elephants

from US $1080 (PP Sharing)

Volunteer with elephants in the Namibian desert to help conserve the endangered desert species and cooperate with local educational projects

EHRA's wildlife volunteer program is structured in 2-week rotations, but you can repeat for a maximum of 12 weeks (discounted rate). A volunteer group has a maximum of 14 people, of all ages and from all walks of life who join the program and come to Namibia to experience life in the African bush! Minimum age is 17 years old and there is no maximum age limit.

This project is real spearhead conservation work. It is not about cuddling baby animals, or being an observer of conservation from the comfort of a game drive vehicle. You need to have an open mind, a willing heart and be prepared to put in work for something bigger than yourself. This is about true adventure with likeminded people that care. This is about teamwork and tolerance. We live close together, close to the ground, and close to the animals. Your project managers are there to make your time in the bush educational and safe, but it is up to you to make a success of the expedition. We ensure that you have the means to be comfortable and well fed, and will teach you how to be that! You need to have an average degree of fitness, as lot of the work is manual, and we could spend a lot of time in high temperatures on foot. A bit of training beforehand would make your time more comfortable. But don’t worry, anyone is capable, and we would be there for you every step of the way. The volunteer groups are always a mix of ages and everyone works together as a team doing as much as they are able You need to be able to speak and understand English. 

Projects run continuously throughout the whole year (with the exception of four weeks over December and January) departing every two weeks, so you can slot in when it suits you. Please refer to our departure dates. Your payment covers all your food, transportation and accommodation during the project (not including weekend in Swakopmund). Your funds also contribute towards the project cost such as building materials, fuel, vehicle cost and administrative costs such as staff salaries.

 

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.

Completed volunteer project around community waterpoint Namibia

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. 

Completed Protection Wall

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.

Desert elephants 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. 

Volunteers tracking elephants in Namibia

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.

Elephant Education Programme

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”.

PEACE Seminar in Action

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.

Community members on PEACE Project tracking elephants, Namibia

 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.


Elephant training for local people

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.


  1. Programme

    Week One - Building Week

    Volunteers washing up at camp in Namibia

    On Tuesday morning the group travels to the local Namibian farm or homestead where you will spend building week, building a protection wall around the water sources or building alternative water points for the elephants. Volunteer teams live in mobile base camps in the vicinity of the homesteads and elephants.  Tents are provided this week and soon you will make the camp home!  All cooking is done over the fire and you work in pairs taking turns to be on kitchen duty, which includes providing the first cup of coffee to everyone in bed, to breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We have great recipes and we can also cater for vegetarians.

    Volunteers at work on build project Namibia

    You rise early to beat the Namibian heat and then stop around 12 to travel back to camp for a traditional African siesta and lunch.  In the afternoons you start work after 2:30 pm and work for a couple of hours, before the time comes to head back to camp in time for the obligatory sundowner. Evenings are spent talking and relaxing around the camp fire, listening to the sounds of Africa. 

    Wildlife Volunteers with completed projected in Namibia

    Building walls is sweaty, hard work but each volunteer does what he or she is capable of doing, and you work as a team to complete the project.  

    Base Camp

    Saturday morning you pack up the camp and travel back to the EHRA Base Camp for a much deserved shower and relaxation.  

    Treehouse at Base Camp

    Volunteers relaxing at base camp in Namiba

    The next two days are yours to explore, read, take a swim in the elephant drinking dam and RELAX!

    Volunteers in the elephant dam Namibia

    Volunteers in desert camp namibia

     

    Week 2 - Elephant Patrol

    Volunteers with elephants on tracking patrol Namibia

    On Monday morning volunteer teams pack the Land Cruisers and leave on elephant patrol. This is an amazing week where you join the EHRA trackers on a (mostly) vehicle-based patrol traveling through the area to track the local herds of desert elephants.  This week is your reward for all the hard work on building week. Meet the elephants here 

    The aim of this week is to track the elephants, record data on births, deaths and new elephants, GPS their positions and take ID shots and notes about each and every elephant.  In 2014 we are also starting a genetics project to ascertain which bulls are the main breeding animals.  This involves collecting elephant dung, which is something all volunteers will help do! 

    Elephant bulls playing in water Namibia

    EHRA believes effective conservation management is only possible through knowing each elephant personally, through its physical features and its personality traits, as well as having accurate and up-to-date information on numbers and movements. This is particularly important when 'problem' elephants are declared.  The information gathered on patrol is entered onto our online database which maps each herd's movements using Google Earth.  From this we can ascertain which farms and homesteads elephants regularly visit and therefore may require protection walls. The database also holds all ID photos of the elephants.

     

    Volunteer camp during elephant patrol week

    Volunteers sleeping wild Namibia

    During patrol you sleep at a new place every evening, depending on where the day's tracking has taken you.  You sleep under the stars, and for many volunteers, this is one of the most magical experiences of the project, and indeed, of their gap year or career break!

     Volunteers on elephant tracking patrol Namibia

    It is unlikely that you will see many other humans during the week, your company being the areas wildlife! 

    Two Agamas at Base Camp

    Above: Two Agamas at Base Camp

    Aside from elephants, you can expect to see giraffe, oryx, ostrich, kudu, zebra, springbok and if you are very lucky, black rhinos, or even leopards or lions, as well as hundreds of different birds.

    Black Rhino in Namibian desert

    On Thursday afternoon after spending 4 days and 3 nights out, you travel back to Base Camp to spend what could be your last night in the desert if you are only with EHRA for 2 weeks. 

    Friday morning you say your goodbyes and climb in the Land Cruiser for the journey back to Swakopmund.  Friday nights are always a fun night out where we all eat together in one of the local restaurants.

    Dunes in Swakopmund

    Swakopmund

    Swakopmund is a great little town, safe, by the sea, surrounded by sand dunes and with lots of activities to keep you entertained, from skydiving, kayaking, dolphin watching and sand boarding to name a few. There are lots of cafes, interesting shops, restaurants, a few bars and even a cinema! For anyone traveling onwards through Namibia we can also help you to plan your trip and recommend the best agents, car hire, places to stay and see.

    If you would like to get in touch with a past volunteer to hear first hand about their experience, please do let us know. 

Included
  • Accommodation and meals as described in Itinerary
Excluded
  • International Flights
  • Visas
  • Insurance
  • Transport to EHRA Camp
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    Single Supplement: 

    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. 

  3. Important Information

    Insurance:

    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.

  4. Preparing your Experience

    Equipment:

    We supply all equipment needed whilst on site, and will forward you a detailed personal equipment list upon booking your expedition.

    Climate:

    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 desert 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.

    Map of Damaraland Namibia

    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.

     

  5. 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:

    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. 

    Foreign Exchange: 

    Bureau de Change are available at Windhoek or in Swakopmund. ATMs are widely available at commerces, petrol stations and even in the smaller towns. 

Select Currency:
Accommodation Options

    There are no extra accommodation options for this Experience. Please contact us for accommodation options before and after your trip

Optional Activities
  1. Extra 2 weeks Volunteering

    Volunteers are welcome to stay from 2 weeks to 12 weeks. Additional costs are reduced on a sliding scale every two weeks.

Select Currency:
Departure Dates Status Price (PP Sharing) Excluding Flights Single Supplement Child Notes  
08/01/2018 - 19/01/2018
Almost full
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
22/01/2018 - 02/02/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
05/02/2018 - 16/02/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
19/02/2018 - 02/03/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
05/03/2018 - 16/03/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
19/03/2018 - 30/03/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
02/04/2018 - 13/04/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
16/04/2018 - 27/04/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
30/04/2018 - 11/05/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
14/05/2018 - 25/05/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
28/05/2018 - 08/06/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
11/06/2018 - 22/06/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
25/06/2018 - 06/07/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
09/07/2018 - 20/07/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
23/07/2018 - 03/08/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
06/08/2018 - 17/08/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
20/08/2018 - 31/08/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
03/09/2018 - 14/09/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
17/09/2018 - 29/09/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
01/10/2018 - 12/10/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
15/10/2018 - 26/10/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
29/10/2018 - 09/11/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
12/11/2018 - 23/11/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
26/11/2018 - 07/12/2018
$1268
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
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