We’ve just heard back from some of our volunteers who recently have completed our ‘Desert Elephants in Namibia’ project, and we thought that we’d share some of their experiences with you! This is a fantastic project located just to the north of Swakpomund in the deserts of western Namibia. Volunteers here spend their time tracking and gathering vital data on the herds of Desert Elephants, of which there are only two populations in Africa. They work to help improve the relationship between the elephants and the local communities by building protective walls and maintaining the water pumps of local farmers, which are often damaged when the elephants wander onto their land.
Expeditions here run in two week stints, with the first week acting as build week, where volunteers help to construct walls around the farmer’s and local communities’ water pumps, tanks and windmills which pump the water, so that the elephants are able to access the water but cause no damage to the infrastructure. This is a challenging but rewarding week, and through it you are really aware of your contribution to both the elephants and the local communities in the long run. Below are some testimonials about this week from some of our most recent volunteers!
"Build week was very hard, but it makes or breaks you –literally. Working near 40⁰ C heat is unbelievable. Lots of sweat and dust but I now know how to make cement and build a wall. I feel we have made a difference. We built a wall to protect a pump that is visited at night by the elephants for water. The local people are frightened by elephants, so by educating and helping them, hopefully the elephants will be protected and not prosecuted. Although we all moaned, I really did enjoy shovelling sand, collecting rocks, mixing cement and trying to make a jigsaw out of the rocks!” (Lisa, UK).
“The first day of building is brutal but Chris doesn’t lie when he says, you get used to it knowing that the river of sweat running down your face while you go on sand/rock runs and mix cement is actually benefiting an elephant makes it more than worth it.” (Annette, USA).
Week two is more commonly known as ‘Patrol Week’. During this time, volunteers spend the week tracking the desert ellies (of which there are believed to be around 55 in the area). This is an incredible week, and many volunteers think of it as their highlight! It’s certainly an experience that they won’t forget in a hurry:
“Patrol week is an experience out of this world. I haven’t quite figured out how to put those feelings into words. All I can say is that I’m thankful: For the people I met, the wildlife/game that I saw, Chris and Mattias’s knowledge that made me feel safe, fun camp fire, chats, tasty, improvised meals(thanks, Chris!), and the life changing moment where I saw my first elephant.” (Annette, USA).
“Patrol was AMAZING. We saw loads of wildlife. Too many Ostriches in this country…the landscape is also so beautiful…” (MK, UK).
“What a fantastic experience: We tracked 2 herds of elephants. We have learned the basics of tracks and surviving in the wild.” (Lisa, UK).
Thanks so much to these volunteers for their kind words, as we always appreciate feedback on our projects. Also, a huge thanks to the project staff out in Namibia for sending this and many fantastic photos through! For more information on this amazing project, please see our web page here, and for more photos of the desert ellies, please see our Facebook page.