Desert Elephant ConservationNamibia

Our award winning African conservation team work to help protect and research desert elephants in Namibia.

Volunteers build walls to protect farmers’ water points and construct drinking points for the elephants to reduce the conflict between people and elephants. The project team conducts vital research by tracking and recording data on the local elephant population. The aim is to develop a greater understanding of the elephant herds as well as creating a positive relationship between community and desert elephants, enabling them to live together in harmony.

Camp out under the stars and experience life in the beautiful Namibian desert. Relax by the pool or explore the popular coastal city of Swakopmund at weekends.

Help the Desert Elephant Conservation team protect these beautiful elephants’ futures.

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Key Info

key info
  • Location: North West Namibia
  • Start dates: Throughout the year
  • Duration: 2 – 12 weeks
  • Age requirement: 18+ (also family trip and groups)
  • Availability: Spaces available
  • Cost: From £1095 / €1205 / $1360 - see fees table below
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Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

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.

The volunteer role is based in the stunning Namibian desert roates weekly, the first role is based at a community building project and the second focuses on researching the wild elephants.

Community building

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

During the first week, the team work with the farmers to help reduce the conflict between the elephants and the farmers by building protective walls around their water points, or constructing new water points for elephants away from the farms.

Volunteers are taught traditional building skills and can help:

  • Digging foundations
  • Collecting rocks
  • Mixing cement
  • Building walls
  • Maintenance and repairs of previous projects

Elephant research

The essential research role gives volunteers the opportunity to learn how to track elephants and assist the research staff in monitoring the movements of elephants in the region. On the elephant tracking drive volunteers join the local team in the 4x4 vehicle driving along the desert and river looking for signs that elephants have been in the area recently.

Volunteers may assist the research team 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

During these drives the team may spot other African wildlife including rare black rhinos, giraffe, zebra, springbok, ostrich, oryx and kudu. This is also a great area of bird enthusiasts with some beautiful birds including hornbills, love birds, Egyptian geese, rollers, eagles and even pearl spotted owls. You can learn more about the elephants and the project here.

“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

Typical day 

You will meet the team on Sunday evening in the coastal city of Swakopmund and be given an induction to the project. On the Monday morning you will travel with the group to the base camp, which is a 4 hour journey into the desert. 

During the community building role volunteers work each day generally between 9am-12pm and 2pm-5pm, with a two hour lunch break in between.

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

You can learn more about the volunteer schedule here. You can spend your free time relaxing and taking part in some of the amazing free time activities that Namibia has to offer.

Other volunteers

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

Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) award

This placement has been approved by the DofE as meeting the requirements for the Residential section of the Gold Award.

Local support

You will be working alongside the local team at the project which is made up of local and international staff.  Mattheus Junior, Adolf, Mattheus and Chris support volunteers at the project. The support staff are located at the project site where the volunteer accommodation is based. 

Accommodation

This project allows volunteers the rare opportunity to appreciate the simple things in life and truly get back to basics, camping in the open air under magnificent African night skies.

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

During the building week and elephant tracking week you will stay at a basic camp site in the desert. There is a simple dug toilet and no shower facilities. 

Volunteers have access to the internet at weekends.

Meals

Meals are included and the team of volunteers take it in turns to prepare the meals over the camp fire. Here are typical examples of the food you will have:

  • Breakfast – porridge, toast, tea and coffee
  • Lunch – sandwiches, pasta, salad 
  • Dinner – spaghetti, thai curry, fried rice, stew + the famous apple pie!   

Vegetarians and vegans are welcomed and can be catered for.

Drinking water is provided at the placement.

When in Swakopmund there are many restaurants and cafes, from pizzas to Indian restaurants where you can buy your meals.

Location and free time

The project is located in the Namib Desert, traditionally knowns as Damaraland.

During the weekend between the building and elephant tracking camp, volunteers can visit the nearby town which has a café, swimming pool and internet access, restaurant and small supermarket.

During your weekend in Swakopmund city, you can arrange trips to explore the sand dunes, relax at one of the many cafes or visit the seal colony along the Skeleton coast. These activities should be booked in when you arrive in Swakopmund.

Travelling in Namibia before or after your placement

Namibia is next door to South Africa and is an extraordinary destination distinguished by dramatic desert landscapes and endless horizons. It has been described as “Africa for beginners” and a brilliant place to see African wildlife including elephants, rhino and cheetah. Popular activities in Namibia include:

  • Taking a safari drive around Etosha National Park
  • Exploring the sand dunes by the Skeleton coast
  • Kayaking among hundreds of seals at the Pelican Point seal colony

To find out more see: Lonely Planet Namibia

Dates

Start dates

2019: 4 Aug, 18 Aug, 1 Sep, 15 Sep, 29 Sep, 13 Oct, 27 Oct, 10 Nov, 24 Nov

2020: 5 Jan, 19 Jan, 2 Feb, 16 Feb, 1 Mar, 15 Mar, 29 Mar, 12 Apr, 26 Apr, 10 May, 24 May, 7 Jun, 21 Jun, 5 Jul, 19 Jul, 2 Aug, 16 Aug, 30 Aug, 13 Sep, 27 Sep, 11 Oct, 25 Oct, 8 Nov, 22 Nov

Closure dates

Closed from 7 Dec 2019 to 5 Jan 2020.

What's Included

Included

  • Dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist to support you
  • Transfers to / from Swakopmund city
  • Accommodation - open air camping
  • Food - all main meals when at project
  • Induction
  • Support from the local team
  • Support from the Pod Volunteer UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Volunteering certificate and reference (on request)

Not included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Vaccinations and medication
  • Transfers to / from the airport
  • Living costs - accommodation and meals in Swakopmund, snacks, drinks, laundry
  • Any tourist trips / activities you choose to do in your free time
Price table
2 weeks £1095 GB Pounds
4 weeks - 2019 £1795 GB Pounds
6 weeks - 2019 £2395 GB Pounds
4 weeks - 2020 £1845 GB Pounds
6 weeks - 2020 £2495 GB Pounds
Extra fortnights £470 GB Pounds

Discounts

  • £75 discount for every additional project you book as part of the same trip
  • £100 discount for any family members who are under 18
  • £75 discount if you have previously volunteered with Pod Volunteer 

Where the money goes - financial transparency

Your fee covers the overseas costs of volunteering and the costs of running our organisation in the UK, on a non-profit basis.  For more details and a breakdown of our costs please click here.

Book with confidence - financial protection

All monies paid to us are financially protected through The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT). 

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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

Read volunteer reviews from the Desert Elephant Conservation project

Mark

“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 time!

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.”

Simone

“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!”

Peter

“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.”

Liann

“Volunteering was the best thing I’ve ever done. My first trip was a life changing experience, hard but amazing in the same time. As soon as I got home I started planning my return. 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.”

Read more reviews

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protection walls and elephant drinking points built by volunteers

"It was an amazing experience that will stay with me forever! Pod Volunteer provided the ideal amount of support and guidance"Satvinder

Bee

Pod UK Specialist

Apply and you'll hear from Bee 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