Project Description

Volunteering for Namibia’s Desert Elephants

  • Volunteering in Namibia: Damaraland, Brandberg, desert-adapted elephants of the Ugab
  • Volunteering for Namibia’s desert-adapted elephants
  • Unique adventure in in Namibia’s scenic north-west
  • Stay in tents or under the stars
  • 13 days/ 12 nights (you can repeat the 2 weeks for a maximum of up to 12 weeks)

“Tired, hot, surrounded by flies, dirty as never before, but we couldn’t be happier!”

Have you always wanted to be a ranger, to exchange the monotony of daily life against the vastness of the bush for a while?

You want to do something, you want to look behind the scenes. Working for this volunteering programme you help to ensure that wild elephants and people live next to each other peacefully. You will see the difference your efforts make for the conservation of Namibia’s famous desert-adapted elephants.

  • Experiences

    This volunteering programme is not a package holiday, it is real conservation. You will learn to be one with nature, do hard satisfying work, and walk away with a longing to be back under the desert stars. This is about true adventure and teamwork with like-minded people.

    First Week – “Building Week”

    You and your team might build a wall around a water tank to protect it from thirsty elephants. Or, you’ll help the local people to set up a small tourist camp to generate some income, or you’ll help to renovate a small village school.

    Second Week – On Patrol

    This is an amazing week where you join the trackers on a (mostly) vehicle-based patrol! You’ll travel through the amazing landscapes of Damaraland to track desert-adapted elephants.

    You’ll be out there for hours under the scorching sun. It’s an authentic experience of Namibia. When you find the elephants you will observe them from a safe spot. You will hear their trumpeting, the rumbling of their stomachs, their chewing. Maybe they have calves. And maybe one of the huge bulls will stand on his hind legs to reach the delicious pods high up on the tree. Only few have the privilege to experience this. And you will be one of them!

    Everything happens outside. You sleep in a tent or under the stars. On this trip, you are expected to help with everything. You will complete forms for scientific research, you will help in the kitchen (cook, do the dishes, etc) and will help to set up camp and to keep it neat. You will help to pack the vehicle and will share the sweat and experiences with your team.

  • Get to know desert-adapted elephants, rural Namibia and yourself a bit better

    This adventure trip is for you if being close to nature as more important for you than the comforts of civilisation and if you want to help to protect the last wild animals and their habitat.

  • What you learn

    • Camp craft including cooking over a fire, bush camp setup, safety and hygiene
    • Bush craft, such as approaching dangerous animals on foot, animal behavior, bush walking, navigation, map reading, GPS etc.
    • Compiling identification kits on elephants
    • Traditional building skills
  • for old and young, if fit
  • special departures for families
  • can be extended
  • Tour language is English

Departures

subject to availability

Due to Covid-19 there will sadly be no departures until further notice

Award-winning volunteering!

This project received the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2012

"I had the time of my life. I really enjoyed my time with no cell phones and internet, sleeping outside, meeting new people, making new friends, learning about Namibia, seeing and learning about the elephants and being left with the feeling that I did something good for the wildlife."

Volunteering for elephants in Namibia - map
On volunteer patrol for Namibia's desert adapted elelephants
Mobile camp on desert elephant patrol

Itinerary - Volunteering for Namibia’s desert-adapted elephants

Day 1  Sunday: Arrival and Briefing

The meeting point is Swakopmund and we will give you help and advice on getting here.  Our partner will organise your travel from the airport to Swakopmund.  On Sunday evening there is a short briefing for all volunteers for you to meet the staff and learn what will happen the following day when the program begins.

Traveling distance depends on the starting point, accommodation according to own preference, no services included

Day 2 - 6 Monday to Friday: Building Week

We will leave Swakopmund on Monday at 12:00 noon.  We then drive to the 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.

On Tuesday morning the group travels from Swakopmund 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.

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.

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.

Camping-style breakfast, lunch and dinner included, overnight in mobile camps

Day 7 and 8 Saturday and Sunday: Week-End

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! There is no programme.

Camping-style breakfast, lunch and dinner included, overnight at the base camp

Base camp - volunteering for desert elephants in Namibia

Day 9 - 12 Monday to Thursday: On 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
  • take ID shots and notes about each and every elephant.
  • collect elephant dung. Yes, right: the dung is for a paternity test.  The project runs a genetics project to ascertain which bulls are the main breeding animals

After 4 days and 3 nights out in the bush you return to the base camp on Thursday afternoon. This will be your last night in the desert, unless you have extended your stay.

Camping-style breakfast, lunch and dinner included

Day 13 Friday: Return to Swakopmund - End of Adventure

On Friday morning you say good-bye and the vehicle takes you back to Swakopmund. Maybe after the weeks in the bush, you'd like to go out. There are many good restaurants in Swakopmund and there even is a bit of night-life.

Distance travelled ca 280 km, camping-style breakfast included, no other services included

Volunteering for desert elephants - helping the community to live with the elephants
Volunteering for Namibias desert elephants: building week
Encounters with children while volunteering for Namibia's desert elephants
Volunteering makes you hungry - the buffet in camp
On desert elephant patrol in Namibia
4x4 on volunteer patrol in Damaraland Namibia
Volunteer building week - fixing a wind engine
Volunteers relaxing in camp, Namibia, Damaraland

Conclusion

This authentic volunteering programme is an adventure that is about the desert-adapted elephants of Namibia and their habitat. A special experience is the contact to the local people. Namibia’s conservation model is based on strategies aimed to achieve that humans and wild animals can peacefully live next to each other. You will vwork for this at the sharp end. During this volunteering programme you will make much more profound experience than on a normal tour. You will look behind the scenes.

Additional Information

Camp

Our partner sets up a mobile camp at each project site you work at. There will be an enclosed and private long drop toilet, tents for getting changed in, and then everyone normally sleeps under the stars under. Our partner provides ‘bed rolls’ which are foam mattresses which roll up. Washing
facilities are limited, however if there is a water dam at the farm we can set up a ‘bushman shower’.
Meals are prepared on a rotational basis, over the fire and eaten around the camp fire together. Our partners pride themselves on providing the most amazing camp meals with adequate vegetarian options. Examples of meals include Spaghetti Bolognese, Thai Curry and Roast Chicken! There is even an Apple Crumble cooked on the fire!
Whilst on patrol we sleep wild and under the stars. Toilets and showers are not available during this week.

What we need you to be

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.

Medical

Our partner's project managers are first aid qualified and have years of experience in dealing with medical issues in the field. Namibia has first world medical facilities and emergency response services.
Our partner carries a satellite phone and GPS with the volunteer teams at all times.
All volunteers must ensure that they have a good quality insurance policy which will cover emergency evacuation by air and road and repatriation.
You must ensure you are covered for volunteer work of a manual nature (not using power tools) and also for being in a safari / game drive style vehicle.
Our partner will ask that you complete our medical form.
Please note that the project area is considered to be malaria free, however you must consult with your physician and take their advice on this. If you are traveling after or before the project make sure the Dr. is aware of the other areas of Namibia that you will be visiting.
  • Included
    Not included
    • Accommodation as described above in or under the stars (partly there are no toilets or showers)
    • Meals as indicated (camping-style)
    • Transfers from Swakopmund to base camp and back to Swakopmund
    • Camping equipment (you have to bring your own sleeping bag, head torch, and other personal items, etc)
    • English speaking project manager
    • Flights & Visa
    • Travel insurance (mandatory!)
    • Optional activities
    • Permits
    • Accommodation in Swakopmund
    • Travel to Swakopmund
    • Additional meals
    • Drinks
    • Personal expenses
    • Tips
    Price

    850 GBP (Britsh Pounds) for 2 weeks as described (about 950 EUR depending on the exchange rate)

    If you'd like to extend contact us for a reduced price for the extension weeks.

     Maximum number of participants in one group: 14

    From 18 years (17 with written approval of the parents)

The tour operators for this volunteering programme is our partner for this volunteering project. This partner has experience in working with desert-adapted elephants and this volunteering programme since 2001.

Truly once in a lifetime experience! If you want to give back to conservation and do things you never would as a regular tourist then these are the people to book your experience with.

Simone Lagrave, Deutschland,
Contact us

Learn more

We've been living in Namibia for many years and give you independent advice. We are looking forward to planning your journey with you.

Contact us