Elephant Patrols & Tracking
A firm favourite with both children and parents is your time spent tracking the elephants in the wild! You’ll pack up the patrol vehicles and head out into the desert in search of the herds. The aim of each patrol is to have a presence in the areas where elephants are under threat, and also record data such as new births, deaths, and the movement and mating patterns of the elephants. Whilst on patrol, your family will not only have the humbling experience of seeing elephants (and other native animals) in the wild but will also learn how to track them, in addition to spending time interacting with local farmers and experiencing camping in the desert as you sleep under the stars!
Working At The Local School
An extremely rewarding part of your time on this project is working with the local primary school. You and your family will take part in an age-appropriate build project that will help better the living standards for the children who board at the school. You’ll also spend time with the pupils in lessons and at break times, where you’ll help to promote elephants in a positive light and encourage the young minds of Namibia to actively care about elephant conservation. This is a wonderful cultural exchange for both your children and the students, as well as a chance to leave a lasting impact for both the local community and the desert elephants.
Whilst in the Namib desert, you’ll also have multiple opportunities to enjoy nature walks with one of the project coordinators. Exploring the desert and the stunning scenery is a treat in itself, but alongside this, your knowledgeable guide will teach you and your children some valuable survival skills, as well as how to track wild animals by foot! In addition to elephants, you may spot other native wildlife such as springboks, oryx, kudu, giraffes and zebras whilst on bush walks and during vehicle patrols. There is even a small population of critically endangered black rhinos in the area, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled!
Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline.
Day 1 - Swakopmund to School Camp:
Today, you will transfer from your accommodation in Swakopmund to the school camp, which is located on the banks of the Ugab River (roughly a 4-hour drive away). After arriving in camp, you’ll have the chance to unpack, settle in and take in your new desert surroundings! In the evening, you’ll have a group meeting about the days ahead and receive a full health and safety briefing ready for your time out in the bush.
Day 2-4 - School Project:
In the morning, you will take a short walk from camp to the Okongue Primary School to take part in an assembly and meet the teachers and pupils! Depending on the needs of the school, you and your children will spend these days assisting with an age-appropriate build project or maintenance task, and you’ll also have plenty of time to interact with the local children through play, arts and crafts and maybe even during some of their lessons. At the hottest part of each day, you'll have a long lunch break and will finish the afternoon activities at approximately 4:30pm. On day 4, you will depart the school in the afternoon and head to base camp.
Day 5 - Exploring Base Camp:
After staying the night in the base camp treehouse, today you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to join a nature walk with a member of the team, and learn some unique survival skills, such as which plants are edible in the desert. There will also be time to explore and perhaps even see elephants visiting the two drinking dams located onsite. The challenge of the day, however, will see your children making a chocolate cake cooked over the campfire, which though it can be difficult, is always a lot of fun! In the evening, you’ll receive a short briefing about the elephant patrols as you prepare for the days ahead.
Day 6-8 - Elephant Patrols & Tracking:
Packing up the patrol vehicles, you’ll set off early to search for the herds. Each night you’ll set up camp where the elephants lead you, sleeping under a blanket of stars and drifting off to the sounds of Namibia at night! You and your children will learn about the herds and their family structures, as well as how to record important data and why it is so valuable to the project team. During your patrol days, if your group manages to reach the wetland areas of the river, you may even take part in a fishing competition!
Day 9 - Back to Base Camp:
Your last morning of patrols will see you waving goodbye to the herd and heading back to base camp for lunch. After a busy week, you’ll be able to enjoy a refreshing shower and a relaxing afternoon by the elephant drinking dams! Enjoy your last night in the desert and exchange stories around the campfire, before heading to bed.
Day 10 - Return to Swakopmund:
Unfortunately, it is time to say your goodbyes, and after a leisurely breakfast, you will pack up and head back to Swakopmund. You'll arrive around lunchtime, ready for you to make your way home or commence your onward travel plans.
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!
Updates & Outcomes
After the success of the Desert Elephants in Namibia volunteer programme, the project introduced a child-friendly addition in 2013 to allow families the chance to partake in age-appropriate activities that contribute towards elephant conservation.
Both programmes focus on the tracking and monitoring of the herds to allow the project staff to compile ‘identikits’ of all the desert elephants and map their population and movement patterns. Currently, this project is the only organisation providing accurate figures to the Namibian government on the elephants in the area, including how to identify them by appearance and personality, all of which is paramount to effective elephant conservation management in Namibia.
Additionally, the partnership with a local primary school is allowing the team to improve the living standards for the children who board at the school, as well as promote elephants in a positive light. Many of the children come from surrounding villages where human-elephant conflict has been prevalent, and by working with the school, the team hope to shape future beliefs and attitudes towards the elephants and help decrease the fears surrounding them.
The Desert Elephants in Namibia team had an alarming call this week, a baby elephant had been spotted with a snare wire around its trunk and a collaborate effort ensued to save the desert calf. This unfortunate incident has highlighted the real concern of snare use in Namibia and the importance of wildlife monitoring and conservation.
If you're anything like us, you probably spend much of your time daydreaming about your next 'great escape' - but instead of taking a typical holiday, why not consider a volunteer experience? Here at The Great Projects, we believe that there's a better way to holiday, so read on to discover why a volunteer adventure could be the best way to spend your time away.
2016 was a very busy year for everyone involved with the Desert Elephants in Namibia Project, and we wanted to take a look at exactly what they had been getting up to last year!
Is this trip for you?
This project offers a camping experience to rival all others, as you and your family truly immerse yourself in the Namibian wilderness. Sleeping under the stars in the desert, either on a large tarpaulin or in tents, is an awe-inspiring experience for any young adventurer! During your time spent at the school, you’ll set up a more permanent base, whereas, whilst out on elephant patrols, you’ll set up a new camp each night wherever the elephants lead you! Whilst camping it is back to basics as there are no set showers, but the team will set up private long drop style toilets in each location.
Back at base camp, you will have more familiar comforts such as warm showers and toilet facilities. There is also a ‘treehouse’ platform to sleep on and two elephant drinking dams nearby, so you may be visited by a thirsty elephant or two!
Three meals a day are provided and cooked over the open campfire! Families typically follow a rota of ‘kitchen duty’, taking it in turns to cook for the group using the recipes provided, as well as waking first to make morning teas and coffees for the group. You can expect to enjoy healthy meals with examples such as roast chicken, spaghetti bolognese, lamb tagine and Thai curry, as well as some more local dishes. Most dietary requirements can also be catered for, though we kindly ask you let us know of any upon booking.
Whilst construction or maintenance tasks will be age-appropriate and conducted safely, this project does involve physical activities often in high temperatures. For this reason, we recommend a moderate level of fitness for all. There are no specific skills or experience required to take part, just a commitment and willingness to get involved! If you or a member of your family have any health concerns, please contact us and speak to a member of our team.
There are no specific vaccination or medical requirements needed to join this project, and the vaccinations required will depend on the medical history of each individual. Therefore, we recommend consulting with your doctor/GP regarding your family’s vaccination needs to ensure you are protected and prepared to travel. In conjunction with this, we also recommend that you take a look at the Fit for Travel website for more helpful information on how best to prepare for your experience.
You will need to arrive into Swakopmund the day before your start date (Sunday) and book an additional night's accommodation. On your project start date (Monday), you will be picked up from your hotel at 11am and transferred to base camp which is approximately a 4-hour drive.
There are 2 options for arriving into Swakopmund; you can either fly into Walvis Bay Airport and take a short 20-minute transfer to your accommodation, or you can fly into Windhoek International Airport and take a 4-hour overland transfer. If you plan to fly into Windhoek Airport, please ensure your flight lands at 11:30am at the latest to ensure you have time to take the transfer to Swakopmund. Transfers from either airport are not included but can be arranged for you and paid for on arrival.
Citizens of most countries, including the UK, Germany, USA, Canada, Australia and most of those within the EU, do not need to obtain a visa to enter Namibia and are granted entry for up to 90 days upon arrival. You will, however, need at least 2 blank pages in your passport for the immigration officials to use and your passport must be valid for a period of at least 6 months from your date of entry. If you are unsure of your individual visa requirements, we recommend speaking to your local Namibian embassy at least 2 months prior to travel.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Three meals per day
- Return transfers between Swakopmund and the project site
- Full orientation and support from the project managers
- A monetary contribution to the project itself
What's not included?
- Airport transfers
- Accommodation in Swakopmund