by Lena Göransson
Going on a volunteer holiday instead of an ordinary beach and sun holiday is the best thing I have ever done.
I have been away to the African continent four times, and it has been ups and downs. My volunteering with the Desert elephants in Namibia is a once in a lifetime experience, and it´s something I tell everybody to do!
Getting Ready for the Desert
The project is run by EHRA, Elephant Human Relations Aid, and they are based in Swakopmund, Namibia. You go for at least two weeks (minimum), and the project is simple, first week hard work, second week tracking and counting elephants. We were a group of 8 people (2 couples and 4 solo travelers) and were from 6 different countries.
We all met up in Swakopmund on a Sunday in February 2014, and in the evening Chris, who would be our ranger, came and had an information talk with us. Monday morning we all packed up and drove right out in the Namibian desert. It would be a week with no contact since mobiles are not working in the desert. Chris had a satellite phone in case of emergency.
After about 4 hours’ drive we came to the basecamp. There we did a roster for the week, two people making breakfast, two preparing lunch, and two for dinner. Since there is no electricity, it’s quite a feeling making oatmeal in the morning over wooden fire.
First Task: Building a Wall to Protect Elephants
The next morning we all left base camp and went out even further into the desert. We had a wall to build! That was our work for the first week. We were going to build a solid wall around a water tank. Farmers write to EHRA for help. Since the desert elephants destroys there water tanks, the farmers want to shoot them, or poison them.
So EHRA comes in and builds the wall, so the farmer don’t have to worry about the elephants. In February it’s very hot in Namibia, it was about 40 degrees and no shadow to talk about. Lunch was always just a sandwich and rest during the worst hours in the day. Then back to building. We did finish the wall, and the farmer where so happy he gave us a goat!
Second Task: Spending Time with the Elephant Herd
After the first week we went back to basecamp, where we could shower and rest for two days before going out on second week. This time we were tracking elephants to see where they were and if they were all there, any newborns etc. etc.
We did stick to the rosters schedule, which made it easy. We had some amazing moments with the elephants. Every day we did have very close encounters, one was trying to take my scarves I had over my shoulder (scary)!
My two weeks went too quickly, and on the Friday morning we went the 4 hour drive back to Swakopmund that we had taken two weeks before.
I met people I will have as friends for the rest of my life. Most of us bonded under the amazing African sky. We all had the same interest in nature, for the elephants, and the way of traveling as a volunteer.
So if you are in for an adventure, close encounters with animals, can live without your mobile and hair dryer and a shower every day, with a warm beer (no fridge) by the fire in the evenings then go!
Epic Adventures is an ongoing series of inspiring stories written by fellow travelers. If you have a story about your past adventures you want to submit, please message me at eclectictrekker(at)yahoo(dot)com.