The Desert Elephant project works directly with local communities to provide hands-on conservation support through the construction of protective walls which allow elephants to drink water, but prevent access to the windmills, water storage tanks or pumps. Free-roaming desert elephants in Namibia, Africa can be destructive in their search for water, and due to the devastating succession of droughts in the region, they are often competing for the same resources as other animals and humans.
Desert elephants can drink up to 160 liters of water per day and will travel far in their quest for water. Elephants have an incredible sense of smell – they can smell water from miles away! – and out of desperation, they frequently destroy water pipes or spear their tusks through water tanks to provide water for their herd. This behaviour can leave communities without a local water source for years.
Protective walls are an immediate solution to the existing conflict and allow humans, livestock and elephants to share waterpoints. Since the start of the project in 2003, we have constructed over 220 protection walls with the help from over 3,500 volunteers, and in order to build more walls and provide support to communities, we need your help.
People from all walks of life have joined this volunteer project and made a huge difference to the elephant conservation programme. In fact many volunteers return every year for some more action! So why not join us and find out how satisfying and great fun volunteering in Africa with us can be!
The volunteer program is structured in 2 week rotations and you can sign up for a maximum of 12 weeks. Volunteer group size is maximum 14 and people of all ages and from all walks of life join the program, as part of travel plans during a gap year, working holiday or career break through Namibia and Africa.
Week One – Building Week
Tuesday morning we travel to the local Namibian farm or homestead where you will spend building week, building protection walls around water sources or building alternative water points for the elephants and even the areas newly released black rhinos.You rise early to beat the Namibian heat and then stop around 12 to travel back to camp for a traditional African siesta and lunch. In the afternoons you start work after 2.30pm and work for a couple of hours, before the time comes to head back to camp in time for a fantastic sundowner. Evenings are spent talking and relaxing around the camp fire, listening to the sounds of Africa. Building walls is sweaty, hard work but each volunteer does what they are capable of, and you work as a team to complete the project.
Base CampSaturday morning you pack up the camp and travel back to the Base Camp for a much deserved shower and relaxation. The next two days are yours to explore, read, relax, take a swim in the elephant drinking dam and enjoy yourselves!
Week 2 – Elephant Patrols
On Monday morning volunteer teams pack the Landcruisers and leave on Elephant Patrol. This is an amazing week where you join the elephant trackers on a (mostly) vehicle based patrol where you travel through the area to track the local herds of desert elephants. This week is your reward for all the hard work on building week.The aim of this week is to track the elephants, record data on births, deaths and new elephants, GPS their positions and take ID shots and notes about each and every elephant.
Expect to get sweaty, learn about conservation, make new friends, sleep under the stars and enjoy the natural surroundings. At the Desert Elephant base camp everyone sleeps in a large tree on a wooden platform! There are also showers and long-drop toilets here.
You will leave base camp and be camping in the African wilderness for the duration of your time on each project. There are no washing facilities on either build or patrol weeks but you can enjoy a shower at the EHRA base camp when we return for the weekend in between the two weeks. Occasionally, if there is enough water available at the build site, we may set up a basic shower at the build project camp. Tents are provided this week and soon you will make the camp home!
All cooking is done over the fire and you work in pairs taking it in turn to be on kitchen duty, which includes providing the first cup of coffee to everyone in bed, to breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have great recipes and we can also cater for vegans and vegetarians. Please let us know if you have any particular dietary requirements including food sensitivities. We can accommodate varying needs including gluten or lactose intolerance.
Swakopmund is a great little town, safe, by the sea, surrounded by sand dunes and with lots of activities to keep you entertained, from skydiving, kayaking, dolphin watching, sand boarding to name a few. There are lots of cafes, interesting shops, restaurants, a few bars and even a cinema! For anyone traveling onwards through Namibia we can also help you to plan your trip and recommend the best agents, car hire, places to stay and see.
The majority of the work that we do is concentrated in the North West region of Namibia, known as the Southern Kunene region, which is considered one of the most stunning areas in the world. Its free-roaming desert elephants are among the most special wildlife you will ever see, and their ability to survive in the harsh conditions of the Namib Desert showcase nature at its best.
Dates & Costs
The cost to join a two-week volunteer project is £900. If you wish to stay for multiple consecutive trips, or return at a later date, the price decreases for each subsequent two-week period you book. This funds our daily operations as well as the vehicle-based patrols. Please note that rates may change without notice.
You are welcome to book for a minimum of 2 weeks to a maximum of 12 weeks, and you can start on any of the starting dates.
Volunteer Project Dates 2020
|6 January||17 January|
|20 January||31 January|
|3 February||14 February – 3 spots|
|17 February||28 February – 0 spots|
|2 March||13 March – 5 spots|
|16 March||27 March – 1 spots|
|30 March||10 April – 5 spots|
|13 April||24 April – 7 spots|
|27 April||8 May – 7 spots|
|11 May||22 May – 6 spots|
|25 May||5 June – 9 spots|
|8 June||19 June – 8 spots|
|22 June||3 July – 8 spots|
|6 July||17 July – Fully booked|
|20 July||31 July – 7 spots|
|3 August||14 August – 12 spots|
|17 August||28 August – 13 spots|
|31 August||11 September – 11 spots|
|14 September||25 September – 10 spots|
|28 September||9 October – 11 spots|
|12 October||23 October – 9 spots|
|26 October||6 November- 9 spots|
|9 November||20 November – 10 spots|
|23 November||4 December – 12 spots|
|7 December||18 December – 13 spots|
Volunteer Project Dates 2021
You are welcome to book for a minimum of 2 weeks to a maximum of 12 weeks, and you can start on any of the starting dates!
|4 January||15 January|
|18 January||29 January|
|1 February||12 February|
|15 February||26 February|
|1 March||12 March|
|15 March||26 March|
|29 March||9 April|
|12 April||23 April|
|26 April||7 May|
|10 May||21 May|
|24 May||4 June|
|7 June||18 June|
|21 June||2 July|
|5 July||16 July|
|19 July||30 July|
|2 August||13 August|
|16 August||27 August|
|30 August||10 September|
|13 September||24 September|
|27 September||8 October|
|11 October||22 October|
|25 October||5 November|
|8 November||19 November|
|22 November||3 December|
|6 December||17 December|
Prices include return transfers from Swakopmund to the Desert Elephant Base Camp, and all accommodation, food and camping equipment during the Volunteer Project.
Flights, insurance, airport transfers along with food and accommodation while you are in Swakopmund are all excluded from this price, but we can advise you on getting the best deals.
How to get there?
You have the choice of two airports to fly into. Windhoek International Airport in Namibia’s capital city or Walvis Bay Airport on the coast.
Windhoek is a five-hour drive from Swakopmund, so please land by 12 noon at the latest on the Sunday; so that you can catch the scheduled shuttle service through to Swakopmund on the same day.
Walvis Bay is just a 30 minute transfer to Swakopmund. This is a much easier journey although flights are often cheaper into Windhoek.
When booking a return flight from Windhoek please ensure that you are not flying any earlier than 2pm on the Saturday following the end of your volunteer project. This will allow you time to get the shuttle from Swakopmund to Windhoek airport to catch your flight.