Is working with elephants in Africa somthing you have been dreaming about? This elephant project aims to increase knowledge and interaction between people and desert elephants in north-western Namibia, by providing infrastructure that allows humans and animals to use the same water points, thereby decreasing conflict. One week of this project will be spent building and one week monitoring the elephant herds in the area.
Desert elephants in Namibia
Your Role as a Volunteer
This elephant conservation project was launched in 2001 when an escalation in competition between subsistence farmers and elephants led to the Namibian government wanting to cull the number of herd to quiet the problems. From an ultimate low of 52 members the desert elephant numbers have grown to over 600 elephants. As a result of this expansion elephants are now venturing into territory that is mainly cattle, goats and sheep subsistence farmers. Because of this increased human use and elephant use, the water table has dropped leaving very little surface water available for consumption. Therefore, man-made water points have become a target for elephants in their quest to find water.
In this quest for water, elephants cause extensive damage to windmills, dams, reservoirs, hand pumps and wells. Secondary damage comes to the homesteads that are located close to those water points, and the livestock that are associated with those. However, with the escalation of tourism in the area, the protection of these animals has become more important along with their value.
This project works at building protective structures around water points, creating alternative water points, educating communities about elephant behaviour and promoting tourism in affected areas of Damaraland. Through these actions the project believes that they can alleviate the pressure on the herds in the area of north-west Namibia. With this promotion the project believes that they can create a long term existence in harmony between the human populations in this area and the desert-dwelling elephant.
During your time with us you do not need any prior special training or skills apart from a strong back and a willing mind. The project will teach you to do the following: – Camp craft including cooking over a fire, bush camp setup, safety and hygiene. – Approaching dangerous game on foot, observe animal behaviour, bush walking, navigation, map reading and GPS etc. – Compiling identification kits for elephant herds. – Traditional building skills.
This project offers volunteers a unique experience of being in the real African wilderness, sleeping under the stars, cooking over a fire and partaking in something truly unique. This project is not about providing work for volunteers to participate in; it is about having volunteers contribute towards a spearhead project in conservation. In most cases, it is up to you as a volunteer to make a success of your stay as the managers are just there to make sure your time in the bush is educational and safe.
Volunteers are expected to work as a team, living closely together, close to the ground and close to the animals.
The project is divided into two-week periods, the first week is called building week and the second for patrol week.
During the first week, you usually camp with a farmer for three nights to help build a wall around his water tank. This is done to protect the water tank from elephants that often destroy them in the search for water.
On the weekend you live in the “base camp”, which is the main camp in a beautiful and relaxed area along a river bed. Where you enjoy hanging out and can choose to sleep on a floor in the tree or in a tent.
During the second week you will go on patrol and then you go out to camp for three nights, sleeping under the stars or in a tent. During the days elephants that lives in the area are traced by car. When you find them you need to be quiet. These elegant animals are a dream to watch up close.
Two volunteers per day have kitchen responsibility and make breakfast, a simple lunch and dinner cooked over open fire.
The Projects Mission
The project is part of a long term initiative to find solutions in the ever growing problem of conflict between desert dwelling elephants and subsistence farmers, by facilitating peaceful cohabitation. The project does this through: – Research – Development – Education
How to book a trip?
You can book your trip with Volunteer Travels by calling us on (+46) 08-23 93 00 or by booking through our website www.volunteertravels.com by clicking on “Book a trip”. You can also email us on [email protected] When you have registered yourself we will send you an invoice with a registration fee of £200.00. The registration fee is later incorporated into the trip price and the amount is then deducted from your final invoice. When you have paid the registration fee you are formally registered. You will then receive preparatory information from us in good time to plan your trip.
Accommodation and Food
Main base camp is located approximately 4,5 hours north of Swakopmund, a town on the west coast of Namibia. Volunteers are only in base camp when undergoing orientation and over weekends after your week’s activity. The first week is spent constructing protective walls around water points. During this time a mobile camp will be set up near your building site. You will be accommodated in a two man tent, unless you choose to sleep under the stars. Washing facilities are limited; however a ‘bushman’ can be made available when the site is at a water dam. Toilets will be in the form of a long drop; however it will be enclosed and private.
Food at your mobile camp will be prepared on a rotational basis, cooked over an open fire. These meals are basic, but balanced with vegetarian options (Spaghetti Bolognese, Roast Chicken and Thai Curry). During the patrol week camp, the group will camp wherever possible. Bedrolls are provided and most people sleep outside, as putting up and taking down a tent every day is a lot of work. Toilets and showering facilities are not available during this week. Food is again cooked over a fire and on a rotational basis. Meals will be a bit more basic than during the construction week. In between the construction and patrol week, your group will return to base camp to spend a few days to relax and prepare for the next week. Laundry will also be done while back in Base Camp. Supply runs will be done while you are in camp, and volunteers will have the option of going along on these trips. While staff are resupplying, volunteers can spend their time at a small guest lodge in the town of Uis, where there is a pool, internet and restaurant food.
Days off will be given during the weekends in base camp where you can take a town trip to Uis or stay in camp and relax. It is advised that if you are planning to arrive earlier or stay later than your project dates that you spend more time in Swakopmund, rather than Windhoek as there is a lot more to do. Swakopmund is on the coast and offers, dolphin viewing, sand-boarding, quad-biking or horse riding through the dunes, kayaking and walks along the beach.
Namibia’s population is as varied as its landscape: colourful and rich in different languages and lifestyles. Namibia ranges from river landscapes of the Caprivi Strip through dry forests and savannahs to the deserts along the Atlantic. Africa’s largest national park, Etosha lies in Namibia whose constitution strives to use its natural resources to provide for its people.
Flights are not included in your tour price. If you are from Sweden, Volunteer Travels can send you a quote from an associated travel agency. However, we can provide you with some suggestions and options. You will need to fly to either Walvis Bay or Windhoek in Namibia. Walvis bay is the prefered arrival destination.
Please remember to book your ticket to arrive in good time on Sunday for your start first thing on Monday morning and your return the day after you get back to Swakopmund on the Friday afternoon. If you are flying out of Windhoek you will need to keep in mind that the shuttle leaves around 07:00am from Swakopmund and arrives in Windhoek around 12:00pm that same day.
It is the volunteers responsibility to acquire the right visa for the trip. Different visa rules may apply depending on your nationality. Visit the embassy web page of your destination to find out what the visa terms are between your country and that destination.
It is your responsibility to make sure that your insurance covers illness, injury and theft whilst you are volunteering. Your medical insurance needs to cover evacuation and repatriation in addition to general medical care. This can normally be purchased through a travel agency or is covered by your medical aid. Please do not assume that your medical aid covers travels out of the country and contact them about the details. On the other hand, liability insurance is included in the tour price. Liability insurance applies to instances when compensation for damages is demanded of you as a private person for unintentionally hurting someone or for unintentionally damaging someone else’s property.
Remember to get vaccinated with all the necessary inoculations before this project. Check with a vaccination centre or your doctor for which vaccinations you need. We recommend that you have a full protection against Hepatitis A and B, cholera, and polio. There is no malaria in the area that you are traveling too, however please check if you are traveling before or after your time at the project. Please be sure to also have your tetanus and rabies shot up to date as well. Further detailed information will be sent to you upon registration for the project.