Volunteers share their experiences of working with desert-adapted elephants in Namibia

Posted by WorkingAbroad Projects on Thursday, 20th February 2014

Thursday 23rd Jan 2014 – Steph Hart, from the UK

Desert elephants conservation volunteer smilingI was a bit scared at first travelling alone, but as soon as I landed, I knew I had nothing to worry about. Namibia is a stunning country. At the hostel we had a 6h30 meeting in the bar; Chris our guide is so incredibly passionate and knowledgeable. He has a lot to share if you want to learn. The other volunteers were incredibly friendly. The 6 of us went for pizza and beer to get to know each other before we left for base camp. Build week was hard work, but we still enjoyed ourselves and had a fun time whilst working, definitely listening to the advice regarding re-hydration sachets! I had one a day and didn’t suffer in the heat. Bring cards or a game for the lunch breaks as it’s a long time (2 hours) and often too hot to sleep. Patrol week too was indescribable. Seeing a fully grown 40 year old bull elephant walking up to the car takes your breath away!

Volunteers constructing walls in NamibiaWe were lucky enough to see elephants everyday when on patrol. Each time was a special moment watching them eat, drink and play as a family. It brought home why we had spent the previous week working so hard. To help those animals! The highlight was coming back to base camp after build week and finding not one, but two herds of elephants in the riverbed, who then walked by base camp as if to say “thank you”. Two weeks wasn’t enough, I’m not ready to go home! My advice to anyone thinking about volunteering is to listen to what the guides have to say. Pack light as you rarely change clothes during build week, baby wipes and a head torch are your best friends. Keep an open mind. Don’t be shy to do the hard work as the rewards are worth every cut, sweat, ache and pain. Thanks for an incredible experience and thanks Chris for teaching us about the star! Money doesn’t make you rich, experiences like this make you richer.
17th January 2014, Melanie, from Germany

Volunteers heading out for a desert elephant patrolAfter finishing our first build week a bit early on Friday morning (Chris might have thought it might take us more time to use all the 15 plus cement bags!) we re-entered base camp arund early afternoon. We were all a bit exhausted and a heavy rain storm caught us on our way back as well. But when Chris mentioned the fresh elephant footprints in camp, we all got our spirits back!. After hearing this news, we quickly unloaded the car, had an inspection of the footprints, and about 200 metres from the camp there were the elephants in the bush! We climbed the platform for a closer inspection when suddenly they started to move! Towards us! Chris made us walk into and climb onto the stone dome house/storeroom and wow! The whole Mama Africa herd and Ugab Small herd were passing very close by.

Desert elephants roaming free in NamibiaAlmost every elephant walked to the water pit to put their trunk into the pit, the little one even climbed the pit. Unfortunately it was empty, (the drought in Namibia is also effecting the camp) so they quickly went on walking away. Then, when just 2 little ones were running to the water pit, a loud thunder clap happened and the 2 babies hurried to get back to their mum. So cute! But then, we didn’t even recover from having all the elephants walking by so close when all the elephants came back and walked in the opposite direction along the riverbed. Wow. I didn’t know that elephants were afraid of thunder and lightning! So this was our incredible first contact with these amazing creatures and we should have many more delightful moments with them. But already this afternoon in base camp we have had a great experience. We couldn’t help but celebrate this with our first beer in a week!

Thanks to he project for having made this experience possible, and thanks especially to Chris & Matthias, our passionate and good humoured guides. Keep on doing it!

If you would like more information on volunteering on this project please click here

Author: WorkingAbroad Projects

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