Desert Elephant Conservation - Volunteer Reviews
Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering
“When you see the smiles of the farmers as you arrive, ready to build a wall to protect their water tanks, is the best rewarding feeling you can get. For me, it definitely was a personal challenge, from lacking camping skills, to an emotional sense where you know you are not in your comfort zone anymore. At the beginning I guess I felt vulnerable, but I´m also very strong. Like in everything you do, you watch, you learn, you practice and it becomes easy. All this shared with an amazing group of people from all over the world, an amazing staff and with the presence of these gentle giants, the elephants are magical creatures, very powerful and graceful at the same time.
I was a life changing experience and I feel extremely satisfied with myself. It really is something that I want to do every year.
What did you find most rewarding?
Knowing that the herd of elephants we tracked were safe and ok, and like I said above, experiencing the happiness of the farmers, looking at their smiles, because we where there to help them.
What did you find most challenging?
The work! I´ve never held a shovel before in my life, or mix cement with water and sand. But, I ended up loving it, it´s actually a great exercise and it can very therapeutic.
What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Just do it!
Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
It was actually one of the 1st volunteering websites that appeared on Google, and when I clicked I loved how easy and friendly its designed. And it´s also great to have a person, a specialist to help you with the process. I´m pretty far away, so that really made me feel safe.
Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes
Please let us know if you have any other comments
Thanks for doing this, you guys are the vehicle that gets us closer to amazing adventures, so really thank you.”
“This project is not for work shy people, the build week is hard graft in hot conditions but it is well worth it. The patrol week is a fantastic insight as to how elephants live, one day you won't see any, but the next it seems like they are tracking you. All in all this is a very enjoyable and worthwhile project to be on.
What did you find most rewarding?
On building week, to complete a wall and have the local farmers come and thank you.
What did you find most challenging?
Again build week, it was hard work and very hot.
What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Get fit before you go, be prepared not to wash for a week and don't expect any luxuries."
“I volunteered for 2 weeks in October 2016. I found the whole experience to be fantastic and can't thank them enough for making my time in Namibia both useful and rewarding. Chris and the team made us feel very welcome and safe throughout the whole two weeks, even when we had an elephant banging his trunk on the front of the pick-up during patrol week!
One of my most memorable experiences was during patrol week whilst sleeping under the stars and watching the space station flying overhead and seeing shooting stars. It was breathtaking. Our time out on build week was amazing and it was so rewarding after 4 days of hard work when the farmer came out and was genuinely grateful for all our hard work. This alone made the trip and hard work worthwhile. I would thoroughly recommend volunteering and wish them lots of luck in the future.”
"It was an amazing two weeks. My first close encounter with elephants was my first day at camp we had two bulls visit the camp and they came almost every day I felt very privileged to be in such close proximity to the elephants. First day on patrol couldn't sleep being raced with a culture of danger of wild animals. My second day I slept dead as after day of observing and finding, I had understanding of animal behaviour, my two weeks was a learning curve I learned so much. Even though it was very hot build week it was so pleasing to see elephants coming to dam for water I would do it again. In the National anthem we sing about the "contrasting beautiful Namibia".
We for sure have a beautiful country. Camp under the stars, landscape was breathaking. I picked up a few kilos from all the nice food we eat prepared by volunteers. Pity time was up, I was about to the crown the queen of game of monopoly. Truly once in a lifetime experience."
“I wholeheartedly recommend anyone to give volunteering with here a try.
I had two weeks in August 2016 and had an amazing experience with an awesome group of people and incredible guides. Whether you're working together to build a wall or a water tank or driving along a dried up river bed spotting elephants, it'll be an experience of a lifetime.
Our group was a real mixed bag of people from all around the world (the USA to Switzerland) and all ages (teens to 70s) but we all got on well, chipped in and had a fantastic two weeks. The scenery is breath-taking too. Unlike other volunteer experiences out there, I really felt like I was doing something worthwhile and contributing to the local community.
Plus, how often do you get to sleep in a tree house underneath the star-filled African night sky?!"
"I volunteered for two weeks in January and it stands out as one of the best experiences I have had in my travels to many different African countries. You can always be a tourist in a foreign country, but volunteering and giving back in some way to the community you live in for a short time is the type of experience that will stay with you for far longer. When else will you be sleeping in a platform in a tree at base camp and watch a herd of wild elephants walk by, just meters away from you? Volunteering gave me such personal satisfaction, to know that our efforts at building walls around farmers' water sources would go a long way towards protecting these very elephants from harm. The patrol week was especially unique. Can you imagine anything more special then driving into the desert, learning to track these wild animals, and finding them and getting to observe them in their natural habitat? This is not an experience you can have as a normal tourist. Being a part of the conservation effort to help these elephants retain their rightful home is a meaningful experience that I can only hope to repeat someday. You will not regret signing up for this!"
"Volunteering was an absolute ball! You're thrown into a new environment with people who've never met but before long you're all (very grubby) best buds. There are so many highlights of my stint from sleeping under the stars, to seeing wild elephants for the first time, to that first shower after build week. You'd be missing out not taking this opportunity."
"As soon as we arrived to the base camp some elephant bulls turned up and we could watch them feeding on Acacia trees. Marvellous! It is because of them I made the journey. In addition my other expectation was fullfilled soon (to really support the peaceful coexistence between humans and elephants): One week we worked hard to build the wall around the borehole for the local farmers. Most of the material was just around the borehole, but we had to fetch rocks, and it is a sweaty and hard work to collect rocks for the wall. The concrete we mixed with sand from the riverbed, water from the borehole and cement made in Namibia. The second week was the reward: Looking for the desert elephants and lots of other fascinating animals like giraffes, oryx, kudus, steenboks, springboks, we even saw lion tracks and a black rhino with its calf, wow. The landscape of Damaraland is grand, remote and has a lot of variations, alone the different colours of the rocks and the sand is stunning. As I stayed for 4 weeks we could finish the wall we started in the second building week. Even some of the local farmers came to have a visit. Seeing parts of damaraland where you do not come as a tourist, getting to know the locals, coming close to elephants and other animals and additionally a chance to give something back by supporting the building and the monitoring of the elephants was an amazing experience I will never forget."
"Truly once in a lifetime experience! If you want to give back to conservation and do things you never would as a regular tourist then these are the people to book your experience with. The memories I take with me are of being privileged to be in such close proximity to the wild desert elephants in their natural habitat. Meeting such great people from different countries and our wonderful guides! Sleeping under the stars, cooking on an open fire, building vital walls, playing with the kids, laughing. Astonishing to see what a small group of 10 people could accomplish in such a small amount of time!"
"I enjoyed the quiet in the morning, drinking my cup of coffee. My two weeks without internet and news of the outside world were very refreshing. Driving around with the truck, looking for elephants was very exciting. At the beginning I saw only a few elephants but from time to time we saw large groups of elephants. It was the first time for me to be so close to an elephant which was just a few meters away from me and that was truly impressive. During my time I met a lot of great personalities. In the evenings we always played games and talked about the day. When I lay on my bed at the end of my day I could see millions of stars in the sky. My time at the project was the best experience of the year."
"In May of this year, I spent 4 weeks volunteering. This was my third time and it was again full of experiences and impressions. Although I am quite a bit older than most of the other volunteers, I enjoyed working with people from other parts of the world and different backgrounds on a very worthwhile project. Knowing that ones hard work and sweat is making a contribution to improve the co-habitation between the local population and the wild elephants is a truly life- enriching experience. Finding and observing these magnificent animals at close range and in their natural environment are unforgettable moments of awe and great joy. Namibia’s wide-open spaces, unique scenery and star-filled skies are more reasons to volunteer."
"I have volunteered twice, in January 2014 and 2015, if I wasn't saving for my wedding I would be going back again in 2016! Words can't describe the emotions I felt on each trip, it was such an incredible experience. 2 weeks developing a close bond with your fellow volunteers, learning new skills and working hard build week to be rewarded during patrol week. I miss sleeping under the stars, I miss waking up in the desert to the breath taking views, I miss the ele's! It was a rewarding and life changing experience that I would recommend to anyone of any age."
"Our 2 week stint was completely fantastic. The best to way to describe our experience was this, National Geographic meets Outward Bound! The combination of community water point support and then going on patrol was absolutely stunning. Being able to be physically active, help communities and at the same time live in wild the beauty that is Namibia was transformative for us. Namibia is a rare gem and to be able to live on the land for 2 weeks was a distinct privilege. As well, we got to meet some great volunteers, made new friends, ate great food and felt completely comfortable with the excellent staff. And of course we got to experience very close encounters with real ambassadors of the Namibian wilderness, the Desert Elephant. One can never tire of witnessing these marvellous creatures. Thank you for a stellar time and thank you elephants for being you."
"Volunteering was the best thing I've ever done. My first trip was in October 2012. The six weeks were a life changing experience, hard but amazing in the same time. As soon as I got home I started planning my return and in December 2014 I finally went back. There are so many good times, building retaining walls for the farmers water pumps, connecting with local people, making new friends from all over the world. Sleeping in a tree looking up at the sky filled with millions of stars without any light pollution is breathtaking, Watching the sun rise and set over the desert is beautiful and the best of it all, the amazing desert the project is working so hard to protect. To be given the opportunity to follow the herds, learn about each animal from the fantastic guides, watch and study them for hours at end is truly the best."
"I have volunteered twice. Both experiences have poured life into me I never knew existed. I have returned home after both visits with a burning desire to educate people on my experiences along with returning. The sense of achievement I get from build week knowing that I have directly contributed to the prevention of Elephant-Human conflicts whilst helping local farmers is immeasurable. Patrol week is the icing to a substantial cake. Now although this week takes on a much slower rhythm the rewards are just as great, if not greater. Being allowed to become so close to wild desert elephants along with many other wild animals is a privilege not paid for but earned. From the knowledgeable and personable staff to the majestic wilds of Namibia, these are just too many reasons for why I will continue to return."
"I spent 4 weeks, a really wonderful 4 weeks. I had, for a time wanted to travel to Africa and see elephants in the wild, but not just to see but to be a part of elephant conservation. The project offered me these opportunities. First arriving in Swakopmund, I met my fellow volunteers. They all were great people; you connect with them very quickly. The trip from Swakop to Uis and on to base camp is a long drive on rough dusty roads. One the drive we saw Springbok and Ostrich. Base camp is great, and looks even greater after a build week! Build week was hard, hot, dirty work, sand runs, rock runs, and cement mixing. Everyone worked well together and made hard work a lot easier. You feel real good about yourself and the team after completing the wall. Patrol weeks were really amazing! We saw all three Ugab herds. We saw some great bulls: Voortrekker, Cheeky (my favorite), Kambonde, and some others I did not learn names. We saw the matriarch, Mama Africa and Bellatrix. I did not identify Betty but I am thinking she was there. The youngest calf, Joy, was doing well. She was being well cared for by mother (Mathilda) and herd. We experienced two fantastic parades of elephants, one in the Ugab oasis area at, what I think was called the 2nd spring. We also watched several of the elephants play for a long time in the spring. The other parade was on an early morning at our bush camp on the Uis river. Our bush camps consisted of a tarp laid out between the two land cruisers. This is done to protect us while sleeping from elephant that may pass by. Well, the morning of the parade, it was clear the camp is a good design. On patrol week we also collected elephant poo from the young for DNA analysis to verify lineage. Collecting poo was not as bad as my first thoughts."
"Volunteering team in Namibia was one of the best experiences I have had! There was so much fun and laughter and you meet so many amazing people. As for the Namibian desert and the elephants, they are the most beautiful things you can experience! Thank you for the opportunity and I do plan to come back some time in the future!"
"I spent two of the most incredible weeks in May of 2014. I am an advocate for wildlife in the USA, volunteer with the animal control center in NYC, and consider myself an adventurer with several adventure vacations under my belt; hence volunteering was a "good fit" as a vacation destination. What I didn't realize was how much my visit to Namibia, would broaden my view of the world we live in. First of all, the program is organized to maximize your experience as volunteer. Our group of six became acquainted and bonded, along with our two guides, in a week of manual labor, camping in the bush, and cooking over an open fire. It was challenging, arduous and at times puzzling that I would have chosen to venture on such an escapade. But wait. After a weekend of rest and relaxation at Base camp - hiking, swimming (and showering!) - we set off on elephant patrol week. And this, my dear readers, is when "the love you get is greater than the love you give". We tracked elephants throughout a visually stimulating landscape. On a couple of occasions we found ourselves in the midst of a herd of elephants. Observing these majestic and intelligent animals was humbling. I lost concept of time, two hours seemed five minutes. I'll never forget my first sighting of a real, live elephant, gentle and gracious Oscar. Just as amazing, was seeing my joy and awe reflected in the eyes and smiles my companion volunteers. Then there were Mountain Zebras, Giraffes, Orixes, Baboons, Steenboks, Ostriches, a Unicorn (well, someone in our group saw him) and on our last day, but certainly not least, three rhinoceros. My heart ached as I watching these fragile animals - once considered the "devils" of the jungle - trot away from our harmless vehicle. The team helped me crystallized the perilous edge that all the creatures of this earth including humans are in."