Desert Elephant Conservation

Namibia

Join an award winning elephant conservation team to help protect and research the desert elephants. Construct walls to protect farmers’ water infrastructure and build drinking points for the elephants to help reduce the conflict within the local community. Camp out under the stars in the beautiful Namibian desert whilst immersing yourself in pioneering conservation work.

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Key Info

key info
  • Location: North West Namibia
  • Start dates: Throughout the year
  • Duration: 2 – 12 weeks
  • Age requirement: 18+
  • Availability: Spaces available from October
  • Cost: From £995 / €1195 / $1345 - see fees table below

Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

The project helps to reduce conflict between elephants and farmers by building protective structures around water sources and creating safe water drinking points for elephants. The team also researches the elephants’ movement and distribution, and compiles identikits on herds and individual elephants.

The volunteer role rotates weekly; the first role is based at a community building project and the second involves researching the elephant population out in the desert.

Community building

For building the walls and drinking points, tasks may include:

  • Digging foundations
  • Rock collection
  • Mixing cement
  • Building walls
  • Maintenance and repairs of previous projects

Research and tracking

The research project gives volunteers the opportunity to learn how to track elephants and assist the research staff in monitoring the movements of elephants in the region. Volunteers may be involved in:

  • Recording elephant movement patterns using GPS positions
  • Compiling and updating the herds identification notes
  • Documenting new births, deaths and other important events such as mating
  • Collecting elephant dung for DNA sampling
  • Noting any issues relating to the elephants health and well-being

Depending on the elephants’ location, a whole day may be spent driving to track the elephants or if they are close by, monitoring the elephants.

Working days and hours

When you arrive at the building site you will help to set up the camp where you will be based that week. Volunteers then work each day generally between 9am-12pm and 2pm-5pm, with a two hour lunch break in between.

During the elephant research and tracking week, after breakfast, the team follow and monitor the elephants, stopping for lunch before normally setting up a new camp location in the late afternoon.

Volunteers assist with making three meals each day over the camp fire.

Volunteers will rotate between the base, building site and elephant tracking camp site. Every two weeks volunteers will head back to Swakopmund on Friday.

Other volunteers

There are usually 3-8 volunteers, with a maximum of 14.

Start Dates

2017: 2 Oct, 16 Oct, 30 Oct, 13 Nov, 27 Nov

2018: 8 Jan, 22 Jan, 5 Feb, 19 Feb, 5 Mar, 19 Mar, 2 Apr, 16 Apr, 30 Apr, 14 May, 28 May, 11 Jun, 25 Jun, 9 Jul, 23 Jul, 6 Aug, 20 Aug, 3 Sep, 16 Sep, 1 Oct, 15 Oct, 29 Oct, 12 Nov, 26 Nov

Closure Dates

Closed from the 9th Dec 2017 to 7th Jan 2018 and from the 8th Dec 2018 to the 6th Jan 2019.

Volunteer reviews

Read about volunteer experiences and challenges in our Namibia Elephant Conservation reviews.

Why are volunteers needed?

Volunteers are part of the desert elephant conservation team who strive to create a positive relationship between the subsistence farmers and desert elephants in the harsh Namib Desert.

With the help and support of volunteers since 2003, the team has built over 170 protection walls and alternative drinking points for the elephants. Without the protection walls, the elephants could cause great damage to farmers’ water sources, leading them to be unable to grow crops and the community to become angry with the elephant population.

Without the funding and support from volunteers, the vital building work would not be possible. The local community often join in and help the team complete the daily tasks.

Volunteers support the research team to monitor the elephants and compile identification lists on each elephant.

"The project could not function without the volunteer teams. Our aim is to help people live peacefully with elephants and this means we can conserve this special, small population of desert elephants. The volunteers can see the difference their hard work and effort immediately makes, this is a practical, realistic project which solves a huge problem."Rachel, Manager

How is the project making a difference?

In this area of Namibia, the natural water table has fallen due to increased human use and droughts. Elephants are therefore increasingly relying on drinking from man-made water points, rather than springs and rivers, and often cause damage to farms when searching for water.

To help reduce conflict between the elephants and farmers, the desert elephant conservation project constructs large protection walls around the water points, which still allow elephants access to drink, but helps prevent them from causing extensive damage to windmills, dams, reservoirs, pipes hand-pumps and wells.

This is the only project that researches the elephant herds, therefore the data collected on the elephant tracking safaris is vital and is shared with the government to give accurate findings on the behaviour of the desert elephants in the area.

The project team runs educational sessions with the local community so that they can learn about elephant behaviour and live safely and in harmony with the elephants. The project team also promotes responsible tourism with the elephants in the region.

Where will I be living?

The project is located in the north-western region of the Namib Desert, traditionally knowns as Damaraland.

On the first night at the project and during desert weekends the team will stay at the base camp, which has long drop toilets, showers and a kitchen area.

During the building week and elephant tracking week you will live at a basic camp site in the desert with no shower facilities. At the building camp site there is a long drop toilet and during the elephant tracking week you will dig your own toilet. You will be sleeping on a mattress in an open area surrounded by vehicles and it’s an amazing experience to fall asleep in the desert under the stars.

Every two weeks the team return to the city of Swakopmund on Friday morning, before heading back out to the camp sites on Monday morning. Volunteers can use the free time to arrange trips to explore the sand dunes, relax at one of the many cafes or visit the seal colony.

There is no electricity at the camp sites but volunteers can charge their electronics and access the internet at weekends.

What's Included?

Before you go:

  • Carefully selected and vetted volunteer project
  • Support from our friendly and highly experienced Pod UK team
  • Single point of contact - Gemma is your dedicated placement manager
  • In-depth Volunteering Guide on your volunteering placement
  • Travel information - visa, health and safety advice
  • Access to specialist travel insurance at exclusive rates
  • Recommended travel agency for flights and tours
  • Access to special deals and resources
  • Fundraising guide and support
  • Financial protection for monies paid to Pod

On your placement:

  • Conservation volunteering placement
  • Transfers from Swakopmund city
  • Accommodation - open air camping
  • Food - all main meals when at project
  • Induction and training
  • Onsite support from local team
  • Support from Pod UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Incident Management and Emergency Response Plans

On your return:

  • Contact from your placement manager
  • Feedback scheme
  • Volunteering certificate (on request)
  • References (on request)
  • Member of the Pod community

Not included: Flights, travel insurance, visa (if required), accommodation and meals in Swakopmund, airport transfers. Budgeting guidance is provided in our Volunteering Guide which we will email you when you apply.

Pod Volunteer is run as a non-profit organisation. Fee levels are set to match costs and any surplus monies are distributed to the projects we work with via the Pod Charity.
Price table
2 weeks £995 GB Pounds
4 weeks £1725 GB Pounds
6 weeks £2295 GB Pounds
Extra fortnights £450 GB Pounds
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Fees in currencies other than GBP are indicative only and volunteers are invoiced in GBP. For current exchange rates please see www.xe.com

172

protection walls and elephant drinking points built by volunteers

"Pod is a no nonsense volunteer organisation looking to change lives"Cian

Gemma

Pod UK Specialist

Gemma has visited the project, apply and you'll hear from her soon!

We look forward to receiving your application! There is no commitment by applying and we will send more information.

Apply

VOLUNTEER REVIEWS

  • Namibia Elephant Conservation volunteer - Andrea

    "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!"

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Namibia Elephant Conservation volunteer - Jessica

    "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."

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Namibia Elephant Conservation volunteer - Stefie

    "It was a rewarding and life changing experience that I would recommend to anyone of any age. I miss sleeping under the stars."

    Read more volunteer reviews

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AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal