Experience the majesty of elephant herds within the rolling expanses of the Namibian Desert.
This award-winning family volunteering project is now available to enjoy as a family; a unique adventure in the beautiful Namib Desert. The 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 face threats including human – elephant conflict and 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 over-hunting. Since then, protected under new Namibian law and merging conservation organizations, they have expanded their range, often coming into contact with the Damara and Herero people who moved into the arid homelands of northwest Namibia. They are not familiar with desert elephants and often do not know how to react to them.
Families volunteering on this project will join the staff in the vast Namibian Wilderness and help with elephant conservation activities including tracking and monitoring, constructing walls to protect valuable water sources, and will also take 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). 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.
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.
Day 1 - Transfer to Base Camp:
Transfer to our camp(+ 4 hours) 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 2-4 - School Project:
At the first day, you will head out to the school to take part in the assembly and meet the teachers and pupils. You'll be helping out by painting the classrooms or the dormitories before joining the lessons and becoming a teacher to the students! You'll have a long lunch break at the hottest part of the day back at camp, and begin work again at 2pm up until around 4.30 before heading back to camp and preparing for dinner. The second day is also spend on the school project site helping out with building and teaching activities! On your last day, you will have a small celebration and then head back to base camp to relax after a job well done!
The project has assisted the school in renovations over the last seven years and we are very proud to have been able to help. The school has over 280 children from the local area, all farms affected by the presence of elephants, and around 80% of these children board at the school. It is a colourful and happy place and the group will definitely enjoy the visit. If you want to bring educational items to donate to the school that would be much appreciated! Things like footballs are also always a favourite!
Day 5 - Time to Relax:
Today the group have a day to relax and explore the area surrounding base-camp. Hendrick will take those who are interested in a nature walk and will also tell the group about different survival skills and edible plants from the desert. In the evening, Hendrick the facilitator will give you a briefing on patrolling.
Day 6-9 - Elephant Patrol Days & Star-Gazing:
You will pack up the patrol vehicles and head out early on patrol. During patrol, you will sleep under the stars without a tent listening to the incredible sounds of the desert - an amazing experience for all! Keep your ears peeled for the elephants as well as a whole host of other wildlife species. During the second patrol day you will be back out searching for the Elephants! Elements of walking are included to ensure the younger members of the family are entertained, and after getting educated about the local wildlife by the guide, you may get to walk down to the local river and have a fishing competition! The third day is also spend on patrol, seeing Elephants in the Ugab wetlands, tracking on foot through the desert and taking a trip on the game drive trucks! On the last day of patrol around lunch time the group will head back to the base camp for yet another fabulous shower in the rocks, a final night around the fire and sleep in the tree house!
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 black rhino (which are rare but there is a small population in the area) springbok, oryx, kudu, giraffe, zebra!
This involves tracking the various resident herds of 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 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 elephants in the area.
Day 10 -Transfer back to Swakopmund:
After a leisurely breakfast you will pack up and head back to the coast town on Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast where you will commence your onward travel plans.
On day 5 the group have a day to relax and explore the area surrounding base-camp. Hendrick will take those who are interested in a nature walk and will also tell the group about different survival skills and edible plants from the desert. In the evening, Hendrick the facilitator will give you a briefing on patrolling. You may take your day off to relax and take in the wildlife, go for a walk, or even play football at the project site. The choice is yours!
All meals and beverages are included, often cooked out in the open at the campsites.
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 the group prepares a big healthy meal over the fire, ranging from roast chicken, spaghetti bolognese, lamb tagine, thai curry to name a few! We can cater for vegetarians as well.