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The Great Projects

Desert Elephant Conservation

Search for and see the desert elephants on this elephant conservation volunteer program in the beautiful Namibian Desert.

About the Project

This award-winning project exists with the sole purpose of protecting the Namibian population of desert elephants and ensuring safety and security for the communities who live alongside these herds.

Namibia's desert-dwelling elephants are facing serious threats, both nationally and internationally. They are one of only two populations of elephants in Africa living in a desert environment and threats to their livelihood include human – elephant conflict, mainly as a result of decreasing elephant living space due to the large numbers of humans and livestock settling in their formerly vast range-areas.

Although desert elephants used to roam throughout most of western Namibia, their numbers were reduced to fewer than 300 by the early 1990s due to rampant poaching. Since then, protected under new Namibian law and merging conservation organizations, they have expanded their range from the north as far south as the Erongo Region, as well as east onto commercial farmland. Many of the Damara and Herero people who moved into the arid homelands of northwest Namibia are not familiar with desert elephants, and so often do not know how to react to them.

Volunteers on this project join the staff in the vast, beautiful Namibian Wilderness and help with elephant conservation activities including tracking and monitoring, constructing walls to protect valuable water sources, as well as taking part in the education of locals as to the value of elephant conservation.

Prior to Arrival

The easiest way to travel is by air, to either Windhoek International airport (must be by 12 noon) or Johannesburg airport, and then take a short flight from either to Walvis Bay airport arriving the day before the project start date where you will spend the night. You will be met at the airport and taken to Amanpuri in Swakopmund for the night and this transfer cost will depend on which airport you choose to fly into (N$480 from Windhoek, N$200 from Walvis Bay).

There is no visa required to enter Namibia for periods up to 90 days for most Nationalities. Please check with your Namibian Embassy if unsure. For periods longer than 90 days, all visitors will need a visa, regardless of nationality. This needs to be obtained prior to departure from your nearest Namibian embassy.

Suitable for


Typical day

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
At 11am you will be picked up from your accommodation Swakopmund and transferred to the base camp (4-hour drive). In the evening, there is a full safety briefing and explanation of the project to be undertaken.

Day 2-5 - Construction Tasks:
Early in the morning on the second day you will pack and leave for the build-site (1-hour drive). Upon arrival you will set up camp for the week and engage in the various construction activities during this week. These include the building of protection walls around water sources and alternative water-points for the desert elephants and the area’s newly-released black rhinos. Understandably, this week is fairly exerting and involves hard work, but the aim is for volunteers to work together as a team. This week is very satisfying and groups tend to bond and adapt to bush life very quickly, taking turns to cook over the fire and deliver the first cup of coffee to everyone in bed.

Day 6 - Return to Base Camp:
On Saturday morning, you will return to base camp and enjoy the rest of the weekend at your leisure. The area around camp is beautiful and wonderful to explore.

Day 7 - Trip to the Local Town:
Today you can join staff on a trip to the local town of Uis, where there is a supermarket, a lodge with internet, a pool and a restaurant. In the evening, there is a briefing specific to the upcoming week’s elephant conservation patrol work.

Day 8 - 11 - Elephant Conservation Patrol:
This week is spent tracking the resident herds of desert elephants in the area, to record movement patterns and information such as new births, deaths and mating. The elephant's movements are recorded through their GPS positions which are then plotted onto online maps on a collective database. This information shows which farms the desert elephants tend to visit to drink, and therefore where the project needs to build protection walls. The data collected by this project on elephant numbers is incredibly important as it is the only organization providing the government with accurate figures on the behaviour of the desert elephants in the area.

On each patrol there is a different aim, and the 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 to start compiling identification files of ‘new’ herds of elephants in the northern reaches of the area, as these elephants are causing a lot of damage to farms. On each patrol you will also spend a lot of time speaking to farmers and communities and chance will be given to the group to interact with local people. On Patrol, you can expect to see other wildlife besides elephants, such as the critically endangered black rhino (which are rare but there is a small population in the area), springbok, oryx, kudu, giraffe, zebra!

Day 12 - Final Day:
This is your final day. You will be transferred back to Swakopmund to commence your independent travel plans or spend a final night. If you have booked for longer than 11 nights, you will also be taken back to Swakopmund for 3 nights, then transfer back to the project site the following Monday.

Details on Arrival

Start Dates

2017 - April 17th, May 1st, May 15th, June 12th, June 26th, July 10th, July 24th. August 7th, August 21st, September 4th, September 18th, October 2nd, October 16th, October 30th, November 13th, November 27th, 

2018 - January 8th, January 22nd, February 8th, February 19th, March 5th, April 2nd, April 30th, May 14th, May 28th, June 11th, July 23rd, August 6th, August 20th, September 3rd, September 17th, October 15th, October 29th, November 12th, November 26th

All start dates are subject to availability. Please contact us to check whether your preferred start date is still available!

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s).
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
The construction work undertaken on this project involves long hours of physical labour, often in high temperatures, and so requires a moderately high level of fitness. In terms of skills, no specific skills or experience are required, just commitment to the project and its aims. You must be prepared to work alongside other members of the team, often for long hours in the hot, Namibian sun.
Time Commitment
Regular working hours are hardly predicable. It mainly depends on the work force. Get in touch with The Great Projects straight ahead to get more infos about current to dos and objectives.

Any questions? Just ask. We at The Great Projects are happy to help you.

Free-time activities

You will have free time to explore the surrounding area, and take a trip into town where there is a lodge with wifi, pool, supermarkets and a restaurant.


Included Services

What's included?

A monetary contribution to the project itself - Full orientation and support from the project managers - Accommodation - Three meals a day

Airport Pickup at Rooikop

You will be met at the Walvis Bay airport and taken to Amanpuri in Swakopmund for the night and this transfer cost will depend on which airport you choose to fly into (N$480 from Windhoek, N$200 from Walvis Bay). You will then be met at 11am on the start date of your project and transferred to the project site. If you are staying at other accommodation in Swakopmund then simply inform us of where you are staying and the facilitator will pick you up from there. If you arrive early and stay in the dedicated dormitory room at the Project it will cost N$200 or there are single and double rooms available for N$450 and N$700 respectively.


Volunteers are each provided with a bed-roll, including a mattress, but you will need to bring your own sleeping bags and pillows. During the rainy and colder season we provide two-man tents on build week. Otherwise you will sleep outside under a tarpaulin. At base camp you will be accommodated up a tree, on a large platform. There are two elephant drinking dams in this campsite and the elephants often wander past.

During build week there is a long-drop toilet provided. There are no washing facilities this week, so you are advised to bring wet wipes. At base camp there are toilets and showers which have hot water. During patrol, camps are very basic and depend on the location of the elephants being tracked.

Food & Beverages

All meals and beverages are included, often cooked out in the open at the campsites. Clean drinking water is provided as well, just bring a refillable bottle!

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.
Costs (Prices in USD)
2 weeks (min. stay)
3 weeks
4 weeks
5 weeks
6 weeks
7 weeks
12 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees

You can volunteer at the project site in Swakopmund/Namibia between 2 weeks and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. The Great Projects will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with The Great Projects during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Get ready to volunteer in Namibia

Check out first

Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for Namibia. Please check the visa regulations for Namibia.
Travel Seasons
Find out the best time to volunteer in Namibia and receive information on weather and climatic conditions.
Living Costs
Living costs vary with each destination. We give an overview of what you should plan as an estimated budget to volunteer in Namibia.
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Namibia.

What's next?

The nearest airport is Rooikop (WVB) in Walvis Bay. We assist you to find cheap flights to Namibia.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Namibia provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccine Checker
If you are intending to volunteer in Namibia you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Namibia.
What can you do in leisure-time in Namibia while you are not working at your volunteer opportunity?
Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Namibia

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