Duration & Fees
Please note: The currency conversion is an estimate based on today's exchange rates and is to be used as a guide only. All payments to Amanzi Travel have to be made in Pounds Sterling (GBP)
2017 Start Dates:
2 Oct - 13 Oct | 16 Oct - 27 Oct | 30 Oct - 10 Nov | 13 Nov - 24 Nov | 27 Nov - 8 Dec
2018 Start Dates:
8 Jan - 19 Jan | 22 Jan - 2 Feb | 5 Feb - 16 Feb | 19 Feb - 2 Mar | 5 Mar - 16 Mar | 19 Mar - 30 Mar | 2 Apr - 13 Apr | 16 Apr - 27 Apr | 30 Apr - 11 May | 14 May - 25 May | 28 May - 8 Jun | 11 Jun - 22 Jun | 25 Jun - 6 Jul | 9 Jul - 20 Jul | 23 Jul - 3 Aug | 6 Aug - 17 Aug | 20 Aug - 31 Aug | 3 Sep - 14 Sep | 17 Sep - 29 Sep | 1 Oct - 12 Oct | 15 Oct - 26 Oct | 29 Oct - 9 Nov | 12 Nov - 23 Nov | 26 Nov - 7 Dec
£180 deposit at time of booking – balance payment of project fee due 12 weeks before departure
- Transport from Swakopmund onwards or Airport transfer from Walvis Bay
- Orientation and introduction to the project. "On-the-job" educational activities and 24 hour support from volunteer coordinator and local staff
- Food and accommodation during the project
- A contribution to the project itself including: building materials, fuel, vehicle costs etc
What's not included
- Travel Insurance (to include cover for repatriation)
- Personal items eg clothes, travel goods
- Return flights to nearest International Airport
- Transfer from Windhoek to Swakopmund if needed. Weekend accommodation in Swakopmund if needed. Soft drinks and alcohol.
- Visas and any trips/activities undertaken other than in the planned expedition
Damaraland, the north-western region of the Namib Desert, is a harsh wilderness area. It is sparsely populated communal trust land not suitable for commercial farming. Farming activity is therefore limited to subsistence tribal farmers resulting in a large, unfenced refuge for a variety of wildlife of which the desert elephant is only one example. Other indigenous animals include lion, leopard, and cheetah, a variety of hyena, black backed jackal, black rhino, oryx, giraffe, springbuck, kudu, steenbok and baboon. This area is regarded as one of the last true wildernesses on earth.
The Desert Elephants
Namibia’s desert-dwelling elephants are one of only two such populations in Africa (the other being in Mali) and are of high conservation priority both nationally and internationally. Although not a separate species from other savannah African elephants, Namibia’s desert elephants are special. They have adapted to their dry environment by having a smaller body mass with longer legs and seemingly longer feet than other elephants, allowing them to cross miles of sand dune to reach water (they can survive for several days without it). They eat the vegetation of the short lived riverbeds and live in smaller family groups to decrease pressure on food and water resources.
Although elephants used to roam throughout most of western Namibia by the early 1990’s their numbers had depleted to less than 300 due to rampant poaching and hunting. The population of desert-adapted elephants in the Southern Kunene Region of Damaraland was totally annihilated. For years elephants were absent from the area. This was until 1998 when an intrepid bull Voortrekker meaning ‘first walker’, lead Mama Africa's herd back to the Ugab River. Since then, protected by Namibian law and conservation organisations, other herds have followed and the population of desert dwelling elephants in the region has grown in the Ugab and Huab River vicinities to over 600 elephants. Moreover elephants have expanded their range to the south and east into territories they have not occupied for many years.
While most people agree that the return of the elephants is good and that they are potentially valuable for attracting tourism, which has escalated in the region in recent years, their presence has caused conflict with humans for scarce food, water and space resources. Many of the Damara and Herero who more recently moved into the arid northwest homelands are unfamiliar with and fearful of elephants. Man-made water points are an increasing elephant attraction due to depletion of the natural water table by increased human consumption. Cases of elephants damaging vital water installations and homesteads, foraging in families food gardens, breaking fences scattering livestock and even on occasion killing a person had intensified the human-elephant conflict to the point where local people were demanding that the elephants be shot or removed from the area.
The Desert Elephant Volunteers Project started in 2001 in an effort to assist the Namibian government and other non-profit organisations in finding sustainable solutions to the problem and to enable the peaceful coexistence of these magnificent, secretive animals with local rural communities. The long term welfare of the elephants is addressed through safeguarding farmers water supplies, building new water points for the elephants, educating the local community on the value of these animals and on valuable elephant herd research.
Desert Elephant Project Initiatives
The Desert Elephant Project is part of a long-term initiative to facilitate peaceful co-habitation between the farmers and the desert elephants of the Damaraland through research, education and development. The work volunteers may participate in includes:
- Maintaining elephant movement tracking and ID database
Data is used to keep accurate information on movement and numbers, to ascertain which farms require most protection and to facilitate research on elephant habits and personalities, a key aspect of conservation.
- Water Point Protection Programme
In their search for water, elephants can cause extensive damage to valuable water sources, often rendering communities in Namibia without water for what can be years. Volunteer teams works directly with local communities to build walls to protect vulnerable structures, which allow the elephants to drink but prevent access to the windmills, water storage tanks or pumps. While doing this, volunteer groups can expect to see some of the most stunning areas Namibia has to offer.
Focus is on empowering community members (including school learners) with knowledge on elephant behaviour so they can live without fear of the desert elephants through a combination of educational programmes, public talks and brochures for resident adults and students, tourists and the general public. Seminars for community residents and field time observing elephants are also part of the programme.
Volunteer teams can also be involved in educational support efforts ranging from a project rebuilding classrooms, dormitories or toilets and showers to building a computer network from donated computers and installing a library.
No special training is required before arrival. People of all ages and from all walks of life participate in this programme. The most important quality volunteers need is a desire to make a difference. There is a strong philosophy of teamwork and tolerance, where participants live close to each other, the animals and the earth, Volunteers will need a reasonable level of fitness as the work is often heavy in the hot African sun. Group size is maximum of 14 volunteers. Project managers are present to ensure an educational experience with due regard to the safety and comfort of participants.
The project welcomes volunteers for blocks of 2 weeks - any period from 2 weeks to 3 months. The following outlines the two-week programme, which runs on a rotational basis for participants spending more than two weeks at the project.
Arrival and Week 1 (Building Week) Itinerary
The meeting point is Swakopmund (advice will be given on how to get here from the airport in Namibia’s capital Windhoek). The first night is spent in a villa in Swakopmund and here volunteers will meet and receive a short briefing from the project staff. The next morning volunteers will be taken on a 3-hour drive north to the project base camp on the Ugab River, where a full briefing takes place and the second night is spent.
The next day teams travel to a local Namibian farm or homestead and the remainder of the first week is spent working alongside the local farmers, most likely building protective walls around the water points and teaching them the skills needed to manage the conflict with the resident elephant population. New water points may also be created. Sometimes, although less frequently the building work extends to helping the local community construct a tourist camp or fix a local school. This week will be spent working close to the mobile base camp near the Ugab River at the foot of the Brandberg.
A typical weekday would entail rising early to beat the daytime heat and after campfire coffee and breakfast, begin building until approximately midday, then return to camp for a midday siesta and traditional African lunch. Afternoon building work recommences for most volunteers at approximately 2.30 pm, although some may remain at the camp updating paperwork or performing kitchen or camp duties. All meet back at camp that evening in time for the obligatory sundowner. Evenings are spent relaxing and talking around the campfire, surrounded by the sounds of Africa.
Building walls is sweaty work but volunteers have the support of working in close teams and everyone does what they are capable of.
On Saturday morning volunteers pack up from the mobile camp and return to base camp for a much deserved shower and relaxation. That weekend is free to enjoy, explore, swim in the elephants’ drinking dam and relax.
Week 2 (Elephant Patrol) Itinerary
The second week will be spent out on Elephant Patrol. This is an awe-inspiring opportunity to meet and track the elephants with the local Project trackers. The 4x4 vehicles are loaded with basic camping gear and the group sets off in search of the majestic desert elephants - and a chance to get closer to nature in these stunning surroundings than ever before. Areas of the desert wilderness will be explored that it is just not possible to see, even on the most adventurous of overland tours. Tracking is both by vehicle and by foot. Once the elephants are found their movements will be monitored and data invaluable to conservation efforts is collected. A vast array of other wildlife can be encountered, including black rhino, giraffe, oryx, spingbok, kudu, and zebra. Volunteers will learn the following skills:
- Camp craft - including cooking over an open fire, setting up a bush camp, safety and hygiene
- Bush craft – includes tracking skills, how to approach dangerous animals on foot, animal behavior, navigation, GPS, map reading and much more
- Compiling identification kits on elephants.
- Traditional building skills.
Evenings are spent around the camp fire enjoying the evening meal and discussing the events of the day. Accommodation is either under canvas or the stars. Each night is spent at a different location depending on where the tracking has led. Most volunteers consider this to be the most magical experience of the project.
After three nights in the desert, teams return to the base camp for a final night before been driven back to Swakopmund for a fun Friday night out at a local restaurant. (Volunteers participating in the project for longer than 2 weeks may choose to stay at base camp that weekend instead).
Volunteers often stay on in Swakopmund for a few night after the end of the programme, a safe, picturesque little seaside-town with lots of activities on offer including skydiving, kayaking, dolphin watching and sand boarding. There are also a variety of interesting shops, cafes, restaurants and bars.
Mobile base camps are set up at each project site, with every effort made to make these homey and as comfortable as possible. Accommodation will be in two man tents – or volunteers can choose to sleep just under the stars, surrounded by the sounds of the African bush.
Washing facilities are limited but a ‘bushman' shower will be available. Toilet facilities will be in the form of long drops (enclosed and private). Facilities are basic with only the minimum of equipment and supplies taken for the week.
Camp duties are shared and all cooking is done over an open fire. Meals are prepared by volunteers on a rotational basis and eaten around the campfire together. Three balanced meals a day are provided with adequate vegetarian options. However, anyone with specific dietary needs may need to take special food/vitamins with them to supplement their diet.
Whilst on patrol, volunteers camp wild, or sleep under the stars with bedrolls and mosquito nets. Out in this uninhabited wilderness, there are no showers or toilets, so be prepared to rough it! There is no electricity at the camp. Clothes can be washed by hand or on return to Swakopmund.
All transport is provided from the first day meeting point in Swakopmund until final day drop-off back at Swakopmund.
Namibia - Work At a Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary
Why visit Namibia?
Namibia is one of those dreamlike places that makes one question whether something so visually fabulous could actually exist. It is characterised by vast open spaces, with breathtaking scenery and great contrasts – ocean, dunes, mountains and deserts. A predominantly arid country, Namibia can be divided into four main regions. The Namib Desert and vast plains of the Skeleton Coast in the west; the eastward-sloping Central Plateau; the Kalahari desert along the borders with South Africa and Botswana; and the densely wooded bushveld of the Kavango and Caprivi regions – a magical undeveloped oasis of waterways and wildlife, providing abundant game and birdlife viewing opportunities. Despite its harsh climate, Namibia has some of the world’s grandest national parks, ranging from the wildlife-rich Etosha National Park, to the dune fields and desert plains of the Namib-Naukluft Park. The Namib-Naukluft Park is superb for hiking, with a number of spectacular trails. It is also home to the renowned dunes of Sossusvlei - said to be the highest in the world - and the fascinating Sesriem Canyon. Windhoek is the country’s geographical heart and commercial nerve centre, with an ethnic mix of people, while surfers, anglers and beach-lovers won’t want to miss Swakopmund, with its lively entertainment and sporting activities.
- Etosha National Park is one of Africa’s finest parks, both in size and diversity of wildlife.
- The Namib-Naukluft Park is the largest conservation area in Namibia and one of the largest in the world.
- Two spectacular deserts - the Kalahari and Namib - each with distinctive wildlife and scenery.
- The Namib, at 80 million years, is the world's oldest desert. Namib means “open space”.
- The Namib and Damaraland offer remarkably clear skies for astronomers and keen star gazers.
- Stunning Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon – it is 161km long, up to 27km wide and 550m deep.
- Sossusvlei are said to be the highest sand-dunes in the world.
- Superb birding and good fishing is available from the banks of the Kavango and Kunene Rivers on the northern border.
- Popular self-drive destination with excellent infrastructure.
- Largely malaria-free.
- More than 300 days of sunshine per year.
| Seasons ||Max ||Min
|Summer/wet (October - April)
|Winter/dry (May - September)
|Rainfall: October – December “little rains”, January to April more stormy period
The winter months (May - September) range from 25 to 30°C during the day but night temperatures may drop to below freezing. June to August is the dry season with very little rain. This can be a good time for game viewing as wildlife converge at the waterholes.
The summer months (October - April) can reach highs of over 40°C and nights in the 20°C range (in the arid central Namib Desert temperatures can fall to below freezing during the night). This is a summer rainfall area, but overcast and rainy days are few and far between. Welcome thundershowers may occur in the late afternoon, bringing relief to flora and fauna. In October and November, large herds of blue wildebeest, zebra, springbok and oryx migrate from the Namutoni area to Okaukuejo, where they remain until May.
Rainfall is heaviest in the northeast, which enjoys a sub-tropical climate, and reaches over 600mm annually along the Okavango River. The northern and interior regions experience ‘little rains’ between October and December, while the main stormy period occurs from January to April.
Population – 2.1 million
Capital - Windhoek
Currency - Namibian dollar
Language – official language English; most widely spoken is Afrikaans; half of all Namibians speak Oshiwambo as their first language. German is also widely spoken, plus some Portuguese.
Namib – means “open space”
Etosha – means “great white place”
Time difference – GMT +2 hours
Telephone – country code 264, international access code 00
Amanzi helped me plan a really great experience for my first time volunteering. The projects were rewarding as well as informative and has made me appreciate what life is like in Africa for both humans and animals. Gemma was on hand right up until I left for my trip, even during Christmas holidays, answering no end of questions I had. I felt comfortable going into the unknown with Amanzi behind me incase anything didn't go to plan. I would especially recommend Amanzi if its your first time as they have all the knowledge and experience to help you prepare for your big adventure. Thank you!
Mary, UK aged 44 (Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, Desert Elephant Volunteer)
“We’ve just finished 2 weeks in the bush. It’s difficult to capture in words the experience of landing in Namibia and starting the Desert Elephant Volunteer and build Project within 24 hours or so. All I can say is, it’s been one of the best and most satisfying experiences of my life. I live the Desert Elephant Project model: simple and strategic intention that is at once tangible and effective. Big ups to our leader Chris, who is a great blend of knowledge, authority and fun. Not an easy balance to strike with a bunch of vookie wall builders in this environment. The land is absolutely stunning as well as harsh, filled with beauty and just a little bit of danger. I felt completely safe under Chris’ guidance and leadership. I’m in for another two weeks and one am looking forward to it – we will finish our wall, and that will be a great feeling”
Rebecca USA (Desert Elephant Volunteer)
The fortnight I spent on the Desert Elephant Volunteer project was the highlight of the full two months I spent in Africa. I have always wanted to visit Namibia and love elephants so this trip was perfect!
Amanzi provided plenty of information on what the volunteering would entail, including visa requirements and a useful packing checklist. Gemma and the team stayed in close contact and were super helpful at answering all my queries. The pre-departure pack was spot on in terms of how much 'roughing it' would be involved and, as a result, I was well prepared for camping in the desert.
As for the volunteering itself, where to start.... Sleeping under a canopy of stars, driving through beautiful Damaraland, watching elephants splash round a watering hole, hiking up 'kopjes' to watch sunsets, hauling rocks and mixing cement under a hot sun, cool evenings huddled round the campfire eating great food and making new friends.... It was all fantastic! The build week was tough, but lots of fun and so rewarding. Seeing the wild desert elephants on the patrol week was just wonderful. It was humbling to be so close to such huge, intelligent animals.
The project is excellently run in Namibia and we were in safe hands for the two weeks. I learnt so much about the challenges of wildlife conservation as well as picking up useful bush skills. It was true bush living and I loved every minute of it!
Thank you Amanzi for helping to make it possible! I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Cat, aged 32, UK (Desert Elephant Volunteer)
When I first landed in Namibia in early 2012, I had a great sense of homecoming though it was the first time I'd been.... When I got to Namibia this time that sense of homecoming was even greater... Being here my heart and soul feel calm and at peace, full of passion and drive... Meeting, getting to know and settling in with a new group of volunteers has been like making an all new family, all so very different but all with a fierce love and devotion to a common cause that brings us together and binds us. And what better way to get to know people than to work together, to live togther, to push your limits, support and encourage eachother. Everyone did their best the first week, coped with extreme heat, the tough physical work... To see your hard work, sweat and sore muscles... come together to create something tangible, something solid, something helpful is so rewarding that you forget about almost everything else... And after all our hard work, a weekend of rest before the amazing chance to track the elephants through this beautiful land.
Courtney, Canada (Desert Elephant Volunteer)
It’s really hard to summarize the great 2 weeks I had with on the Desert Elephant Project. It was such an amazing, incredible and breathtaking experience! It was so far the best time I had, it’s a great project and absolutely useful. That was very important for me when I was looking for another volunteer project. This time exceeded definitely all my expectations! On the whole, 2 weeks are too short!Eating and cooking around the campfire, sleeping under the stars and watching them (I’ve never seen so many shooting stars before), having a great and funny time with super-duper people/new friends, building a huge wall and of course looking for the elephants and watching them for hours - every second will be kept in my mind for the rest of my life!Thanks to the wonderful group I had around me! We had a great time in the beautiful Damaraland and we saw the Cheetahs!
Caroline, aged 24 (Desert Elephant Volunteer)
We very much enjoyed the project and felt it was very worthwhile.
Christina, NZ (Desert Elephant Volunteer)
It was a very interesting experience. The work on the farm makes sense, because the project also involves the locals, they have work. I think therefore they get more respect to their nature and to the animals living there, because they benefit from the farm.
Cornelia, Germany, aged 52 (Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, Desert Elephant Volunteer)