Desert Elephant Conservation - Family Trip


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

The family volunteering group help educate pupils on how to live safely alongside the wild elephants and repair the school buildings. The family team support the projects vital research by tracking and recording data on the elephants. The aim is to develop a greater understanding of the elephant herds as well as creating a positive relationship between community and desert elephants.

Camp out under the stars and experience life in the beautiful Namibian desert. Experience life in the desert by visiting tribal homes and exploring the wild landscapes.

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


Key Info

key info
  • Location: North West Namibia
  • Start dates: 11 Aug 2019
  • Duration: 10 days
  • Age requirement: Families with children aged 5+
  • Availability: Spaces available
  • Cost: £895 / €1045 / $1145 - see fees table below
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Project Information

Volunteer role: What will we be doing?

Your family will be part of the desert elephant conservation team who strive to create a positive relationship between the community and desert elephants in the stunning Namib Desert.

The team’s role will involve helping to build and repair school buildings and researching the elephant population out in the desert.


You can arrive into Swakopmund on the Saturday or Sunday to give you time to acclimatise and explore the seaside town. On Sunday evening you will meet the team and be given a short induction to the project.

Day 1

On the Monday the group will depart on an approximate 4 hour journey to the base camp which is located on the banks of the Ugab River. You will be given a project induction and tour of the base camp when you arrive.

Day 2 to 4 - School building and education

Each day you will travel to the local school where you take part in the morning assembly and meet the teachers and pupils. At the school the team may help to repaint classrooms and dormitories, and build elephant protection fences for wells or vegetable gardens. You will be able to take part in special lessons and after school crafts and sports sessions.

The project works with the school to promote elephants in a positive light. The community and school live in very close proximately to the desert elephant (with elephants even occasionally passing through the playing field!) so the team lead elephant education sessions to help pupils to understand how to behave when they are close by.

During this week you will be invited by the villagers to visit their family and you can see their homes and what their daily life entails. This is a unique opportunity to learn about and experience tribal life and their culture.

Day 5 - Rest day

Today is the group’s day off so you can relax at the camp or explore the local area.

In the afternoon there is a 3km nature walk for those who would like to take part. The local guide will explain desert survival skills, point out wildlife and special edible plants in the rocky desert.

In the evening there is a group chocolate cake challenge, where the group work together to cook a cake on the camp fire!

In the evening the team will give the group a briefing on the elephant research.

Day 6 to 9 - Elephant research

The team head out into the desert and wetlands to track the elephants. On the elephant research tracking drive you will travel in a 4x4 vehicle driving along the desert and river looking for signs that elephants have been in the area recently and go for a walk each day to explore the area.

Your family will assist the research staff in monitoring the movements of elephants in the region. You will have an opportunity to learn how to track elephants and you can test out your own tracking skills with the guidance from the local team.

You 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. The team will head down to the wetlands area of the river system where the team often arrange a fishing competition.
During the elephant patrol the team also spend time speaking to the farmers and communities.

On day 9 you will head back to base camp.

Day 10 and departure

After a relaxed breakfast the team will pack up and lead back to the coastal town of Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast.

Working days and hours

While based at the school the team will work for a few hours in the morning, then head back to the camp for a break and lunch before returning to the school from around 2pm to 4:30pm.

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

Volunteers travel in the project’s mini-bus and 4x4s.

Other volunteers

There are usually 10-16 volunteers on the family project, with a maximum of 16. Children aged from 5 years can join the project alongside their parents/guardians. Volunteers represent a wide range of ages, nationalities and backgrounds.

Volunteer reviews

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

Why are volunteers needed?

Work by the family volunteering team is integral to the projects work as the children from the school live on farms where elephants freely roam, so the team empower the students with the skills and knowledge to live peacefully alongside the elephants.

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 provide additional resources to support the research team in monitoring the elephants and compile identification lists on each elephant in the region. This is essential for the long term monitoring of herd dynamics and the region’s elephant population.

“‘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, Director

Location, free time and accommodation


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

  • Taking a safari drive around Etosh game reserve
  • 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

Local area and free time

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

It is a beautiful rural location with wetlands, desert, rivers and rocky hills and mountains. There are a few small communities within the area and due to the distances between the communities the main schools are boarding schools since it too far for the children to walk from home to school each day. It is a perfect location for evening star watching since there is no light pollution!

When you are in Swakopmund city you can arrange trips to explore the sand dunes, relax at one of the many cafes or visit the seal colony. These activities should be booked in when you arrive in Swakopmund.


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

While at the base camp there are very limited facilities and you will be sleeping on a mattress under the desert under the stars.

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

Read volunteer reviews from the Family Elephant Conservation project

Billy – 13 year old

“Sleeping in the tree house under the stars, Chris’s star gazing thing, playing football with the random guy in the green shirt, trying to teach baby Gami how to throw a ball, climbing the neighbouring hill, sitting around the camp fire wrapped in a blanket, chatting and roasting marsh mallows.

Elephant patrol week is not just following elephants around in a truck, you also see jackals, oryx, giraffes, baboons, meercats, ostrich, rock hyrax and loads of antelopes.

If…you are thinking of volunteering, I have two final words for you - do it.”

William – Father

“Hard to believe that a little over a week ago, we were huddled up in our sleeping bags at the 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 knowledgeable guide Hendrick was a bit “heady” to say the least!

The team 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!”

Ingela and family

“You enter the basecamp and your daily life changes completely and you definitely challenge your comfort zones. You explore emotions and touch feelings you might never felt before. To suddenly see and experience the desert-elephants, those you vision, became a mighty humble feeling as well as a unique memory for life. Counting shooting stars while you sense the smoke from the fireplace and hear the calm breath from some of your peers who are sleeping after a heavy working day.

This is a microscopic extract of what we as a family experienced during two fantastic weeks.

Our contribution to the important mission of the project, and the great employees who make your voluntary weeks a genuine experience, feels small and we hope many more volunteer will support the great work and mission.”

Read more reviews

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 - a dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist
  • In-depth volunteering and planning your trip guides
  • 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:

  • Family animal conservation volunteering placement
  • Transfer from Swakopmund city to project
  • Accommodation - open air camping
  • Food - all main meals when at the 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 Pod Volunteer Specialist
  • Feedback scheme
  • Volunteering certificate (on request)
  • References (on request)
  • Member of the Pod community

Not included: Flights, travel insurance, visa (if required), accommodation in Swakopmund and 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
Child (5 to 17 years old) £895 GB Pounds
Adult £995 GB Pounds

Fees in currencies other than GBP are indicative only and volunteers are invoiced in GBP. For current exchange rates please see


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


Pod UK Specialist

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.



  • 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
  • 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 - 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


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