Families Conserving Desert Elephants
This volunteer experience takes you to the northwestern regions of the Namib Desert, traditionally known as ‘Damaraland’.
EHRA has been welcoming family volunteers since 2013. Every year since we have had an amazing experience with different families, coming together to help the communities and elephants of Damaraland!
The itinerary is a little different from our normal volunteer project to make it more child friendly and include more activities on the patrol week, keeping the children in mind. The building project will be based at our partner school, Okongue Primary in Okongue village and the project work will be tailored to suit the whole family. EHRA’s etho’s of ‘community’ remains, with families taking it in turn to be on ‘kitchen duty’ cooking over the fire for other members of the group.
The project will be led by Hendrick Munembome, EHRA’s head tracker and community liaisons manager. Hendrick has been with EHRA for the last 9 years, is also a registered tour guide and has all his first aid qualifications. Hendrick has many fascinating stories to tell about his life, is a brilliant communicator and elephant expert.
This harsh tribal wilderness area, runs parallel to the skeleton coast national park, and is home to a small population of desert-adapted elephants.
The EHRA project was launched in December 2001 as a result of the escalation in competition for natural resources between the desert dwelling elephants and human inhabitants of the northern Erongo and Kunene regions.
EHRA believes that through assisting these communities by constructing protective structures around water points, educating community members about elephant behavior, creating alternative drinking points for the elephants and promoting tourism in the affected areas, we can assist in alleviating the current pressure facing communal farmers. Thereby helping to promote the future of the desert dwelling elephant in harmony with the continuous positive development of the conservancies and their ideals.
Damaraland is vast, scarcely populated communal trust land. As it is a transitional zone between the high rainfall area in the east, and the Skeleton coast in the west, it is regarded as un-farmable on a commercial basis. Therefore it has become a natural, unfenced refuge for desert adapted animals such as; black rhino, oryx, giraffe, springbuck, kudu, steenbok, baboon, lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, brown hyena, black backed jackal and more.
We set up our mobile base camp at each project site, which we try and make as comfortable as possible! You will be accommodated in two man tents or you can choose to sleep under the stars. Washing facilities are limited but a ‘bushman’ shower may be made available if there is a water dam at the site. Toilet facilities will be in the form of long drops (enclosed and private).
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 we prepare a big healthy meal over the fire, ranging from roast chickens, spaghetti Bolognese, lamb tagine, Thai curry to name a few! We can cater for vegetarians as well.
Transfers are not included but are organized for you by Worldwide Experience.
Cellphones are not permitted on the elephant patrol weeks. The reason for this is that some of the areas that we drive through are sensitive black rhino ranges and with the threat of poaching we have made a decision not to allow our trackers or other staff members use their cell phones during this week. This is really to protect EHRA’s good name should a poaching incident occur in an area we have recently driven through. In this light we therefore ask that all volunteers also leave their cell phones back at base camp during this week in the locked facilities. This will mean that you can not use the camera on your cell phone during this week so please make sure you have an alternative.
An average temperature during the day should peak around 31C/88F, with nights a dipping to a reasonable 17C/63F. We would advise that you bring a sleeping bag liner as well as your sleeping bag, in case the sleeping bag is too hot. You should also bring a waterproof jacket as it is likely to rain at this time of the year.
You will not have much leisure time during your placement but you can always take the opportunity to travel before or after your placement.
All fieldwork, lectures and community visits
Transfer to our camp(+-4 hours) on the 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.
Start of build project. Early in the morning we will get to school to participate in the morning’s assembly and meet the teachers and pupils of A.Gariseb School. The group will be assisting the school by repainting dormitory or classrooms. Throughout the time at the school there will be a chance to participate in lessons and interact with the pupils after school hours with sports and crafts.
Continue with school project.
Today is the last day of the school project. We will then head back to base camp to relax – a job well done!
Today the group have a day to relax and explore the area surrounding base camp. In the afternoon Hendrick will take those who are interested on a nature walk (+- 3kms) and will also tell the group about different survival skills and edible plants from the desert. Today’s challenge is to make a chocolate cake – cooked on the fire!
In the evening Hendrick will give the group a briefing on patrol, covering what the aim of the next few days is in terms of the elephants we need to track and specific information on safety whilst in close proximity to elephants.
On each patrol we have a different aim, at the time of writing our 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 we need to start compiling identification files of ‘new’ herds of elephants in the northern reaches of our area, as these elephants are causing a lot of damage to farms. On each patrol we also spend a lot of time speaking to farmers and communities and chance will be given to the group to interact with local people.
We pack the patrol vehicles and head out early on patrol. During patrol week we sleep under the stars, with out a tent which is an amazing experience for all!
On each day of patrol we will include an element of walking so that children don’t get bored on the cars for the whole day! If we head down into the wetland areas of the river system we may even have a fishing competition! Hendrick will explain how he tracks the elephants and the group will have the chance to put their tracking skills to the test. For those who are keen bird enthusiasts, the wetlands, river system and desert are home to some beautiful birds including Hornbills, Love Birds, Egyptian Geese, Rollers, various fabulous Eagles and other birds of prey and some stunning owls such as the Pearl Spotted Owl.
Today is the last day of patrol! Throughout the week you can expect to see other wildlife, asides elephant, such as black rhino which is rare but there is a small population in our area which are often spotted, springbok, Oryx, kudu, giraffe, zebra! Around lunch time the group will head back to EHRA base camp, for yet another fabulous shower in the rocks and last night around the fire and sleep in the tree house!
After a leisurely breakfast we will pack up the Toyota Quantum and head back to the coast town of Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast. We will aim to be back around lunch time and we can help make bookings for various activities which are fun for everyone including sandboarding, quad biking, desert tours, dolphin cruises and kayaking to name a few!
Comprehensive Information Pack
Country & Area : Damaraland, Namibia
Nearest Airport : Windhoek or Walvis Bay Airports
Transfer Time : 20 minutes from Walvis Bay or 4 hours from Windhoek
Duration : Set 9 night programme
Minimum Age : 7