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Desert Elephant Family Volunteering Project

Damaraland, Namibia
from £850 (10 days)

Ref: AV112

Following the success of previous family volunteering projects we are delighted to announce the dates for a family volunteering project again in 2016 as part of the ongoing Desert Elephant work.  This child-friendly project is sure to attract many families where project work at a local school will be tailored to suit the whole family and families will take it in turns to be on "kitchen duty" cooking over the fire for fellow volunteering families.  This will be followed by a day to relax and explore the area suirrounding the base camp and briefings on the aims of the patrols - both on foot and in safari vehicles - that will occupy the second half of the volunteer placement. Sleeping under the stars will be a huge highlight of this exciting part of the project!

Who can join: Families - children must be 8 or over
Accommodation: Camping
Transfer time: approx 4 hours
Pick up Point: Swakopmund
Meals: Included as detailed
Volunteer numbers: approx 15 volunteers

Duration & Fees

10 days£850

Cost per child

10 days£940

Cost per adult

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Start Dates

2021 Start Date:

5 - 14 April
9 -18 July
26 July - 4 August


£180 deposit at time of booking – balance payment of project fee due 12 weeks before departure

What's Included

  • 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

One of the reasons behind this project is to try to promote elephants in a positive light.  Over the past 12 years work has been done to try to encourage the local community and pupils at the school that elephants are a benefit as they do bring development through the renovation work being done.  Pupils are encouraged to learn how to behave when elephants are close by and older pupils are trained as elephant mentors to keep the younger pupils safe if elephants are in close proximity.  The focus is on the community and to create situations where people are happy and have the knowledge of how to live safely with the elephants and it is hoped that such ventures will prevent problems in the future. The village and school are unique in terms of how closely they have to live with elephants and thanks to the parent desert elephant projects there has been a big shift in attitudes in recent years towards the elephants.  The school is an integral part of the anti-conflict work and all the children that attend and board at the school are living on farms where the elephants are roaming.  This new generation need to grow up with the skills and knowledge to live with the elephants, something that due to poaching in lacking for their parents. 

Why not take the opportunity for a short tour of the beautiful country of Namibia before joining the project?  Please ask Amanzi Travel for suggestions.  The Etosha and Swakopmund 4 Day Adventure is just one option.

Day 1 
Transfer to the camp (around 4 hours) on the banks of the Ugab River, a short walk from the primary school where the group will be working for the next few days.  Arrival at the camp will be around 4.00 pm giving time to unpack and settle in.  There will be a group briefing in the evening about the week ahead and health and safety issues out in the bush.

Day 2 
Start of the building project.  The volunteers will arrive at the school early in the morning in time to take part in the morning's assembly and meet the teachers and the pupils.  Project work will commence after assembly and tasks will include repainting the dormitories or classrooms.  There will be a long lunch break during the heat of the day back at camp and work will start again around 2.00 pm until 4.30 pm.  There will also be the chance to take part in lessons and interact with the pupils after school hours with sports and crafts.

Throughout the week there will be a chance to meet local people and to really understand how Namibians live, what they eat, how they build their houses and what their daily life entails. 

Every day a family will be on kitchen duty together which will involve waking up first to make the morning coffee, tea and breakfast, the sandwiches for lunch and the big dinner in the evening.  Each evening a big healthy meal will be prepared over the fire, ranging from roast chickens, spaghetti bolognese, lamp tagine and thai curry to name a few.  Vegetarians can be catered for also.

Day 3 
Continue with school project.

Day 4 
To-day is the last day of the school project and everyone will then head back to base camp to relax - with a job having been well done!

Day 5 
To-day will be a day to relax and explore the area surrounding the base camp.  In the afternoon there will be an opportunity for those interested to do a nature walk with Hendrick Munembome, the head tracker and community liaison manager.  Hendrick will also tell the group about different survival skills and point out edible plants from the desert.  To-day's challenge will be to make a chocolate cake - to be cooked on the fire!

In the evening Hendrick will give a group briefing on patrols - covering the aim of the next few days in terms of the elephants the group will track and specific information on safety whilst in close proximity to elephants.  Each patrol will have a different aim and at present the current focus is two-fold:  one is to have a presence in the area where elephants are under threat and check that all the herds are together and without injuries; and the second aim is to start compiling identification files of "new" herds of elephants in the northern part of the area, as these elephants are causing a lot of damage to the farms there.  On each patrol time will be spent talking to the farmers and local communities and there will be time to interact with the local people.

Day 6 Patrol 
This morning the patrol vehicles will be packed up and the group will head out early on patrol.  During patrol week everyone will sleep under the stars, without a tent, which is a truly amazing experience!

Day 7 
On each patrol day there will be an element of walking so that the children do not get bored being in vehicles for the whole day.  If the chance occurs to head down into the wetland areas of the river system, there may even be a fishing competition.  Hendrick will explain how he tracks the elephants and the whole group will have the chance to put their tracking skills to the test.  For any 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.

Day 8 
Continue Patrol.

Day 9 
To-day is sadly the last patrol day.  However, throughout the week everyone can expect to see other wildlife apart from the elephant, such as the rare black rhino of which there is a small population in this area which are often spotted, springbok, oryx, kudo, giraffe and zebra.  Around lunch time the group will head back to the base camp for a fabulous shower in the rocks and a last night around the fire and  a sleep in the tree house!

Day 10 
After a leisurely breakfast the vehicle will be packed up and the group will head back to the coast town of Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast, arriving around lunch time.  There are lots of exciting activities available in Swakopmund and the tour leader will help anyone who wishes to make bookings.  These activities are great fun and include sandboarding, quad biking, desert tours, dolphin cruises and kayaking to name a few.

Please use this itineraray as a guide only

Extra Information

There are lots of adventure activities available in Swakopmund at an extra cost, including sandboarding, quad biking, desert tours, dolphin cruises and kayaking to name a few.  Tour leaders will be available to help with booking these activities.

There are several excellent short tours available from Swakopmund for anyone who would like to see more of Namibia after the volunteer placement.  Please speak to Amanzi Travel who will be able to offer advice about such tours.

Getting There

Volunteering families should arrive into Swakopmund and full details of recommended transport and arrival times and dates will be provided in your pre-departure pack.  Ideally families should arrive the day before their trip starts in order to give themselves time to acclimatise and enjoy this lovely seaside town.  Help can be offered with airport transfers and accommodation options. 

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence and can help with flight arrangements if required.  Please contact Amanzi Travel for further details.

A perfect way to explore more of Africa

Before heading straight back home, why not take an Overland Journey through Africa to explore more of the wonderful sights and experiences that this beautiful continent has to offer.  You can take a trip that starts and finishes in the same city (eg Windhoek to Windhoek) or you can use it as an opportunity to get your from one city to another (eg Cape Town to Nairobi).

“This has got to be the best way to see Africa in a short period of time ... brilliant. The guides were fantastic, the campsites great, and the food excellent. The overland trip was excellent - really well run”
Southern Sun 21 days, Cape Town to Victoria Falls - Jennie and Stuart, Sweden, aged 32 and 34.

“I didn’t know I could become such close friends with people in just a week. The trip attracts a great group of people who are so easy to get along with. My group ranged from 20 to 70 and we all sat down with a drink, played cards together and just gathered around the campfire.  It was an experience of a lifetime and I will definitely recommend this to my friends and family”
Tanzanian Game Parks and Zanzibar, 10 Days and Masai Mara Safari, 3 Days - Sara, Canada/Malaysia, aged 20.

 From 3 days to 56 days, take a look at the exciting Overland Trips here.

Support and Orientation

Support and advice is available from Amanzi Travel office staff and project/trip leaders. Upon booking, you will receive a comprehensive pre-departure pack that provides all the details you will need to prepare for your trip.  This document includes information on accommodation, staff, visas, optional activities, packing checklist and medical advice and if you have any questions that are not answered in the pack we are always on hand to help and advise. We will do all we can to ensure that you are well prepared and looking forward to your trip. You will also receive an in country orientation on arrival.

A 24 hours a day, 7 days a week emergency contact number is provided for everyone who travels with us.

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence (9401) and is able to arrange your flights on request giving you financial protection for your flight and trip costs. We also offer advice on personal travel insurance for your trip.

Damaraland, Namibia, Desert Elephant Family Volunteering ProjectDamaraland, Namibia, Desert Elephant Family Volunteering ProjectDamaraland, Namibia, Desert Elephant Family Volunteering ProjectMobile 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.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be available each day.  Families will take it in turns to be on kitchen duty when they will get up early to make coffee, tea and breakfast.  There will be sandwiches for lunch and a big dinner in the evening ranging from roast chicken, spaghetti bolognese, lamb tagine and thai curry.  Vegetarians can be catered for also.

Click here to view the full interactive mapNamibia 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.


Summer/wet (October - April) 40 °C 20 °C
Winter/dry (May - September) 25 °C 0 °C
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.

Key Facts

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

Desert Elephant Family Volunteering Project

Hard to believe that a little over a week ago, we were huddled up in our sleeping bags at the Desert Elphant base camp watching the incredible star show that is the Namibian sky during the night!

Enjoying this view while trying to digest the previous 9 days of our time spent building a "hopefully" Elephant proof garden fence, sharing work, meals and kitchen duties with new friends and families from far away homes, going on patrol in search of the desert elephants, hearing and seeing new sights and sounds along with the  lessons learned from our intrepid, soulful and knowledgable guide Hendrick was a bit "heady" to say the least!

Back at home now and gradually or not so gradually re entering our daily lives and routines, it all seems like a wonderful dream from which you hope never to wake in fear of forgetting it all.  Such are the thoughts and feelings that won't leave me alone.

As we move forward in the days and years ahead, I will hold on to the belief and hope that journeys of the type we shared with the Desert Elephant Project leave marks within and upon us as humans that are transformative in nature and which help us to better appreciate this planet we call home and for the people and creatures that have and will cross our path in our ongoing travels.  To have this experience with my family is a gift that I will hold dear for the remainder of my life.

You, Johannes, Hendrick, Mateus, Adolf and Darren along with the desert elephant, the children at the primary school and the rugged and awesome natural beauty of Namibia and its people along with your collective passion and commitment to maintain a sense of balance between it all..... is a part of us now, and we are infinitely richer in mind, body and spirit for it.

With gratitude, admiration and respect, thank you!

Bill, UK (Desert Elephant Family Volunteering Project)

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