EHRA aims to conserve the desert elephants of Namibia, through practical and realistic anti-conflict solutions.
How the EHRA Volunteer Project Works
EHRA's wildlife volunteer program is structured in 2-week rotations, but you can repeat for a maximum of 12 weeks. 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.
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 the transfer to Amanpuri Travelers Lodge, the guest house we use in Swakopmund. On Sunday evening there is a short briefing for all volunteers at Amanpuri, which is important because you get 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.
Week One - Building Week
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 by EHRA this week and soon you will make the camp your 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 and preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have great recipes and we can also cater for vegetarians.
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 it is time to head back to camp for the obligatory sundowner. Evenings are spent talking and relaxing around the camp fire, listening to the sounds of Africa.
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.
Saturday morning you pack up the camp and travel back to the EHRA Base Camp for a much deserved shower and relaxation. The next two days are yours to explore, read, take a swim in the elephant drinking dam and RELAX!
Week Two - Elephant Patrol
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.
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 started a genetics project to ascertain which bulls are the main breeding animals. This involves collecting elephant dung, which is something all volunteers will help with!
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 visit regularly and therefore may require protection walls. The database also holds all ID photos of the elephants.
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!
It is unlikely that you will see many other humans during the week, your company being the areas wildlife!
Aside from elephants, you can expect to see giraffes, oryx, ostriches, kudus, zebras, springboks and if you are very lucky black rhinos or even leopards or lions, as well as hundreds of different birds.
On Thursday afternoon after spending 4 days and 3 nights out, you travel back to Base Camp to spend your last night in the desert if you are with EHRA for only 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.
Swakopmund is a great little town, safe, by the sea, surrounded by sand dunes and with lots of activities to keep you entertained, such as skydiving, kayaking, dolphin watching and sand boarding to name only 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 hires, places to stay and to 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.
Volunteers meet in the Skeleton Coast town of Swakopmund where there are many different activities including kayaking, surfing, quad biking, dolphin tours, fishing, desert tours and sand boarding on the famous dunes to name a few! During the project there is a day off in a small local town where there is a restaurant with a swimming pool and wifi. The area around our base camp is beautiful and great for short hikes.
At base camp we sleep on a big wooden platform in a tree. On build week we make a mobile camp, with long drop toilets but no showers. We sleep under a tarpaulin or you can choose a tent. On patrol we sleep wild and everyone sleeps on bedrolls under the stars.
Typical breakfast is tea, coffee, porridge, cereals. Lunch is sandwiches and fruit. Evening meals are anything from Spaghetti Bolognese, Thai Curry, Roast Chickens, even apple crumble! All is cooked over the fire.