The Travel Channel's Ethical Hedonist's feature on EHRA Life on the EHRA project created by one of our volunteers.
People of Change - EHRA project created by Fernando Sapelli.
Watch EHRA - Elephant Conservation Volunteer videos
Read some of our recent volunteer testimonials
Helga Verhaegh 24 February - 7 March 2014
Talking about being taken out of my comfort zone...this was it! I am 70 years old and have seen a lot of the world.When a friend called me to see if I was game to go to Namibia with her, I said yes right away, but when she said for two weeks I did reconsider. Over 16 hrs flight time from New York for two weeks...I didn't think so, but when she suggested to do some volunteer work after the two weeks my interest was sparked again and after she sent me the EHRA link, I went 'WOW' that is something so interesting and different, yes I definitely want to go and do this.Well, I must say the lodges in Namibia are quite wonderful and the game viewing was very good but what was supposed to be the filler became the focal point of my trip.EHRA gave me the opportunity to have the experience of my lifetime. Yes, the work they are doing is so worthwhile and everybody has deliberated on this already and I am happy to have contributed a tiny bit to it.But I know for sure that I personally got the most out of it.
I slept in a tent, I slept under the stars...in a tree, I used bush toilets, cooked on open campfires had wonderful meals in great company, learned about the stars and the creepy crawlers and most of all was so close to wild elephants that I thought my heart would explode, but I never felt insecure or nervous, between Chris, Mathias and Ernst, there was nothing to fear, they had our back at all times!
To many of you all, this might not sound so different and exciting...for me, it was. I am used to sleeping in hotel beds and have meals served to me on porcelain plates and if I come across as a spoiled person, maybe I am, but what I want to express is:
"Go out and get the experience of a lifetime, young and old, it is challenging but it is so worth it and you are doing something good for these wonderful, endangered elephants".Rachel, Johannes and most of all Chris, thank you all so much!
Erin Powell 10-21 March 2014
I was instantly attracted to the work that EHRA does because of it's genuineness. All of the staff are committed to the cause and truly want to make a difference in the lives of Namibian farmers and elephants. Besides creating a welcoming, friendly atmosphere, the EHRA staff made us volunteers a part of their family - a home away from home.
I couldn't have asked for a more unique, authentic experience. Knowing that I helped influence change in Namibian communities and that I was a part of the process for monitoring, and thus protecting, the elephants was rewarding beyond belief.
Cam Dooley 10th February - 7 March 2014
Walking away with an uncontrollable smile and holding your head up high.
I knew when I booked in for 4weeks with EHRA that it would be an amazing experience, but it became a life changing experience. The journey was shaped not only by the work we completed or the breathtaking sightings but the people! The people who make up the EHRA team and the array of personalities that the volunteers share, created bonds and friendships for life. I consider myself very lucky to have the chance to partake it what EHRA is a part of. From working away on build week, putting in the hard labour, it is really rewarding to see what you can accomplish with some cement and rocks! Not to mention learning some tricks of the trade whilst tracking elephants! Sleeping out in the desert provides amazing opportunities to see the milky way and learn the constellations, all while enjoying great food and a nice campfire! Looking back on my time, I can't compare this experience to anything else. And I can't wait to visit EHRA in the near future.
Katelijn Wolters 10th - 21st February 2014
After visiting Namibia in 2008 and 2009 I knew I wanted to go back. Not as a tourist. I wanted to do something different and make a contribution to this beautiful country. Even though I have a wonderful life in Holland, coming back after my two weeks with EHRA was very difficult and it makes me feel sad.
What can I say? I miss the beautiful landscape, I miss being outside 24/7 and sleeping under an amazing sky, I miss Base Camp with Willy the dog and a porcupine and genet cat going through our garbage, I miss Chris and Mattias imitating baboons , I miss cooking on a fireplace and eating the best gem squash ever, I miss talking and laughing with the other volunteers and I even miss collecting sand and rocks during build week , doing your ‘bush business’ and eating porridge every morning!
But most of all, of course, I miss being around the elephants every day during patrol week. Tracking down Mamma Afrika and Ugab Small herd on our first morning and to see the elephants from such a short distance was amazing and unforgettable! The only solution is to go back as soon as possible, and I definitely will!
Wendy French 24th February - 7 March 2014
I came upon the EHRA website while surfing to find an experience to extend a two-week holiday my husband, a friend, and I had planned in Namibia. We had chosen to visit the country because we had always had a fascination with the desert-adapted elephants, so working with EHRA was the perfect choice.
All of us are 70, so were reassured to see that volunteers are often older. Now that we are back home and reflecting on our time there, it is clearer and clearer how special and meaningful the work and mission are. Build week was gratifying - how many people can say they have actually done something to help conservation of such a unique animal? Patrol week was fascinating: there are no airplanes to spot, no other safari vehicles to call for locations - EHRA staff locates the herds truly through tracking, climbing to the tops of kopjies, spotting broken branches - in the end, providing up close and personal sightings. Chris was collecting scat to analyze the DNA and identify paternity of the calves.
In addition to the experience itself, we will remember the dedicated and personable staff who live close to the earth and focus their lives on keeping it as pristine and natural as possible. They were good natured, incredibly well informed, tolerant of our limitations, and fun loving. It is good to share the planet with people like these.
Catherine Laverick 27 January - 7 February 2014
Through my time with EHRA the experiences I had will stay with me and I will hold close to my heart forever. It is such an emotionally involved project as you are hands on from the word go helping local Damara land farmers and in turn helping the wild elephants, both of which you meet and get to know throughout the two weeks! There are so many highlights it is hard to pin point the best ones!
The project is split into two weeks; build week and patrol week. Build week was so rewarding as you are physically challenged from the start as you locally collect the materials needed to make a wall, learn to mix and make cement and actually build a wall around a water tank on a local farm. It is amazing how much progress you make in a week! Patrol week – well wow, seeing the elephant herds for the first time was so amazing! Tracking the herds and bulls and collecting poo samples for genetic research was great fun and you just didn’t know what was going to be round the next acacia bush or kopi! I think waiting for Bennie the Bull to provide us with a poo sample was hilarious and how excited the team got when we finally retrieved one!!
It is not only the project which is fantastic and rewarding in itself, but the awe inspiring landscape and the people I met, whether it be those that work on the project, those based at basecamp and the other volunteers. It was really interesting meeting people from all over the world and to hear why they have chosen to be involved in this project. Many of these people will be friends for life – you do tend to bond quickly with people when you all haven’t had a shower for a week!!
Steph Hart 13 - 24 January 2014
After being made redundant and wanting to do something positive I found EHRA online and signed up immediately. Having fallen in love with elephants as a child I didn't want to see them for the first time in a zoo or go ride one and feed it as some kind of tourist attraction, I wanted to help elephants in the wild and maybe help change the world for the better, even if it's only a little bit.Arriving at base camp I knew then it was going to be special not just a holiday. Build week was hard as expected but the team worked together and we shared great laughs every day. I loved not having a phone or Facebook and truly getting to know the people I had met by spending time talking.When I met the Elephants for the first time I cried tears of joy, it was such a beautiful moment. They are so much bigger than you could imagine but so calm and peaceful, they are just stunning. As I left on my journey home I didn't feel like I was going home, I felt like I had left a piece of me behind. As soon as I got home I knew it wasn't post holiday blues I knew I had to go back, I emailed EHRA a few hours after landing to re book.My experience with EHRA was life changing and the best bit about it is you can do it, young or old, boy or girl, with friends a partner or solo like I did it doesn't matter, it was the best decision I have ever made.
Sonia Schiermeyer 1 - 12 December 2013
The EHRA project remains full of fantastic moments in my mind!
It was an unbelievable nice time for me and the best that I have ever done before!
Janet and Greg Gilmour 7-18 October 2013
Back in 2011, I was at a Bridal show and entered into a draw to win a wedding. To my surprise and amazement, my name was called and I won!! The majority of our wedding expenses were covered. When guests began asking what we wanted or if we had a registry, it really made me think. I felt that we were blessed to not have the stress of paying for a wedding and we had so much stuff at home already. I had always wanted to visit Africa and decided that we had the chance to do something meaningful and give back. Two years later my husband Greg and I began our honeymoon trip with EHRA…..
Logically I knew what we had signed up for. The experience itself was unlike anything I could have ever imagined. I have never lacked for words in my entire life and this trip left me speechless.
Here is a synopsis of our EHRA experience:
Food: no, no one makes you eat bugs. I never lacked for food or went hungry. The dinners were so elaborate and tasted so good we decided to try the recipes out when we got home. Stock up on any of your favourite drinks or snacks before heading out because believe me you will miss having all the options you are used to
Drinks: enjoy as many cold drinks as you can before you start. The BIGGEST thing I missed wasn’t a shower but drinking anything cold. Bring re-hydration tablets and make sure to always be drinking water.
The landscape: Standing on the side of the mountain and looking out into the Namibian landscape really makes you aware of your place in the world. On numerous occasions my husband and I both voiced how being there was akin to being on another planet. The Namibian landscape changes from desert to dunes to marshes to mountains before you can even have a chance to take it all in.
Toiletries/Hygiene: not being able to shower is not as big a deal as you may think it will be. Bring hair elastics and clips as your hair will get so dusty you won’t be able to do much else with it. Try to bring soap with micro beads or exfoliating beads to get the dirt out when you do get to shower. I found it hard to get the dirt off. I also was the dirtiest person in the group every day so you may not have the same problem.
Bring a wide brim hat and wrap around sunglasses. It will help with the sun and keep the bugs from annoying you. SPF 60 sunscreen is a must!!
The People: getting to stay and work with 15 total strangers is an experience in of itself. Getting to know new people from different parts of the world was great. Comparing lifestyles and talking about our regular lives back home was interesting. I got to learn that chips are crisps and fries are chips. Getting to meet the native people and children of Namibia was eye opening. To be welcomed into their homes and to learn about how they live was humbling to say the least. Feel free to ask questions about their lives and ask to take pictures. The children love having their pictures taken and the awe and wonder of seeing themselves in the camera screen is indescribable. If you can, take a Polaroid camera and then you can give them the pictures you have taken of them.
Build week: mix cement. Go on a rock run. Build the wall. Lunch. Siesta. Sand run. Repeat. That pretty much sums up build week. There is an art to getting the perfect consistency of cement. You will never be able to match the lifting and building skills of Mattaius. Don’t even try or delude yourself into to thinking you can. Building is not a competition. It is about setting new limits on your own abilities.
Last but not least Patrol week: Nothing can prepare you for when you come face to face with a single or herd of Elephants. Bring lots and lots and lots of batteries. Make sure to get out from behind the camera and binoculars as much as you can. Take in the wonder of these beautiful creatures as it will be over before you know it.
Thank you EHRA for the most unforgettable, life changing honeymoon!!!!
Elaine Cooper 23 September - 4 October 2013
So. Thank you EHRA. There was Scorpius and the International Space Station racing across the widest sky, and the milky Milky Way, and the fabulous Fabiola, the ancient Welwitschia, rocks, rocks, rocks, sand, sand, sand, one scorpion beneath a bed roll, sleeping in The Tree That Sat Down, rock paintings from before we began, tracking elephants, Ninja elephants, baby elephant, charging elephant, feeding elephants, playing elephants, confused baby elephant, Savanna Dry, one rhino print, one kindly Colin, a 3am aardvark, porridge and pap, oysters-that-put-Loch-Fyne's-in-a-pokey-hat, Mountain Zebra, six feet two of Mattias shrieking and performing a victory dance as walls and elephants bent to his will, Ostrich, the beautiful Himba, The Shop, cooking sand and sausages, well sand and everything, on a camp fire in the dark in the wind by head torch, exquisitely tailored Herero women, hot water in Uis, gazillions of geckos, a young Jack Sparrow lookalike (that would be Chris and a force for good) cement bags, cement bags, cement bags, rock and sand runs, spades and shovels, and walls to protect wells, and walls to protect electric pumps, clubbing in Swakopmund, it being 8 degrees and 40 degrees and everything in between, and rain and cloud and drizzle and thunder and lightning that lit up fifty miles of desert and mountains and was like All The Gods screaming at what we are destroying. If we don't support organisations like EHRA.
Georgie Wood 26 August - 6 Sept 2013
Life highlights, those moments that change the way we see things, they are few and far between. They have to be otherwise when they do happen they wouldn’t be so special and impactful.
Time at EHRA is full of those moments. It’s the animals, the landscape, the people, the simplicity of the life you lead on camp, all of it combined is what makes it so truly magical. The feeling you have as crouch on a huge rock in the Namibian sunset watching wild elephants graze – well there is not a poet on earth who could come close to describing it.
Bill Sparks - Family Volunteer Project August 2013
Hard to believe that a little over a week ago, we were huddled up in our sleeping bags at the EHRA 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 knowledgable guide Hendrick was a bit "heady" to say the least!
Back at home now and gradually or not so gradually re entering our daily lives and routines, it all seems like a wonderful dream from which you hope never to wake in fear of forgetting it all. Such are the thoughts and feelings that won't leave me alone.
As we move forward in the days and years ahead, I will hold on to the belief and hope that journeys of the type we shared with EHRA leave marks within and upon us as humans that are transformative in nature and which help us to better appreciate this planet we call home and for the people and creatures that have and will cross our path in our ongoing travels. To have this experience with my family is a gift that I will hold dear for the remainder of my life.
You, Johannes, Hendrick, Mateus, Adolf and Darren 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!
Mike Essex 29 July - 9 August 2013
The trip to EHRA in Namibia was one of the best experiences I have had in my life and the memories will stay with me for a very long time. There were so many elements that made it so amazing:
The volunteers: The volunteer group was 14 in total; 8 girls and 6 boys ranging from 18 – 53 representing 6 different countries. Really diverse and with no wi-fi, internet, phone or TV we actually had to talk to each other J. And talk we did. Fantastic conversations around the camp fire, during walk, under stars or on the 4x4s. There was enough time to explore subjects and change my own perspectives and opinions. The EHRA staff of course were brilliant and Chris the guide led the group well. He is a good laugh, enthusiastic, clearly passionate about nature but he does need to build up his muscles though to work on his one arm press-ups because he can’t do any yet!
The environment: Before coming I thought that Namibia was going to be mainly desert. I was wrong and the arid area were stunningly beautiful. Namibia really is an unspoilt wilderness and the view from the kopis were breath-taking – you can literally see 100s of miles. It is so nice to see so few humans around and just letting nature take its course. And whilst the area we went to I not teeming with wildlife, it I surprising what you will see if you sit quietly for a few minutes; lizards, hornbills, hyraxes and springbok.
Build week: During build week we were lucky enough to build a wall at a primary school. 270 kids fascinated by us and also getting in the way. They had very little in the way of material possessions but were very happy – good example for all of us from the western culture.
The elephants: I was knocked out when I saw my first elephant in the wild. It is only when you see them in the flesh that you realise how huge a 6 tonne animal is. Yet at the same time they appear calm and gentle. Their power is incredible yet you get to see and understand the herd’s hierarchy and how much they look after their young.
Rachelle Douillard-Proulx 1-12 July 2013
It's hard for me to put into words how amazing my two weeks with EHRA were. From the moment we met up as a group until I left (very reluctantly) for the airport, it was an incredible experience. Our group was made up of people from all across the globe, so it was fun to get to know everyone and share stories and laugh (a lot).
Build week was physically and mentally challenging, but we all helped and cheered each other on, and it was so rewarding to see the result of our efforts. Gathering around the fire every night for food, conversation and, yes, laughs, was another highlight. Chris and Mattias made sure we were well looked after and shared their immense knowledge with us - I'll never look at the stars the same again (granted, it'll be difficult, since you can see so much more when you're in the middle of the desert).
Track week was a blast; it's hard to describe the feeling when you first come upon the elephants, and are able to just sit there and watch them. We also tracked other animals by their prints in the sand - again, it's difficult to imagine how much knowledge Chris and Mattias have between them, but having the opportunity to learn from them around the fire isn't one I'll soon forget.
What more can I say about base camp other than we got to sleep in a tree house?! Everyone at EHRA was just the best - from emailing with Victro and Rachel months ago to building a wall and tracking with Chris and Mattias, it really was the best two weeks of my life thus far. I can't wait to go back.
Yvonne Leggett 11-22 March 2013
I would highly recommend a trip to EHRA in Namibia to anyone......Big, Small, Young, Old, Blue or Green.
Being 5ft nothing, and a not too fit office worker from London, if I can lift stones, collect sand, track Elephants and sleep under the African Stars, anyone can!
My 2 weeks with the EHRA team was unforgettable and a trip of a lifetime.
Now, I am not one to be so dramatic but this place and the EHRA Team truly knocked me off my feet!
From build week, which was challenging but so rewarding to patrol week which took my breath away, it was all AMAZING. Build week is hard work, but as the days went on I found myself lifting bigger stones, mixing better cement, I really surprised myself. Having a laugh with everyone and seeing the wall grow and knowing this simple wall will help stop conflict between Farmers & Elephants, this all keeps you going, not to mention the thought of another delicious meal around the fire as the sun goes down.
Then Patrol week, words cannot describe, you have to just go and see for yourself. Natural Beauty.
Not forgetting the wonderful 'Base camp' it's ingenious and feels like a palace after a week of camping out. The best Tree House in the World!
Being a woman travelling alone and having camped before, but always with a tent! I was a little bit nervous about this adventure. BUT as soon as I arrived in Namibia I felt safe and relaxed, the EHRA team put my mind at rest throughout the trip. We had some very close encounters with our Ellie friends, all handled expertly by Mateus & Chris. These guys really know their stuff and are brilliant to be around. Even with a bull standing less than a meter away, I felt safe in their hands.
The work that EHRA does really is making a very much needed difference.
Book your trip NOW to have an experience of a lifetime and help EHRA in their work.
The ELEPHANTS need YOU.
Jennifer Loveland 20-31 May 2013
As a long term corporate cube rat and avid traveler, there are a few things I look for in a vacation...I found them all and more at EHRA:
- To see things that are at risk of not existing or changing dramatically in the next decade - rare African Desert Elephants (~80 in the area and a few hundred in the wild that are adapted to the desert) and the patchwork of African tribes that make up Namibia -those not yet consumed by western culture.
- To have new personal experiences and help where possible- camping...I have been twice before, both led to allergic reactions that ended the trip early…2 weeks planned for this. I dug a latrine (my friends won't believe it). Building a wall (gathering rocks, gathering sand, mixing cement in wheel barrows, etc). Coordinating the meals for the day for 11 people. I have written my name in the concrete of a wall I built in rural Namibia...who would have thought.
- To connect with people I might not meet otherwise on a deeper level - 7-14 volunteers from around the globe, the people that make the African bush their mission, and the families that the walls we build help. We had the 4 musketeers from Switzerland, Scotland, England, and Canada..the under 23 set. We had the 3 German speaking ladies from Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, and the 2 30 something ladies from Ireland and the Texas (USA).
- To find a sense of peace and awe of beauty - breathtaking sunrise and set, moonrise and set each day. With one of the few places you can see the entire southern sky with no light pollution. The grace of the elephants allowing us to observe them. 2 weeks with no cell phones, internet, or TV (ok, like 4 hours on a Sunday, but not much…). Breathing fresh air. Slowing down and just watching.
I took about 3 weeks to plan a 6+month around the world trip. Admittedly, I did not do a ton of due diligence, but EHRA was an easy decision. It was reputable and people had nothing but good things to say. They were helpful and responsive and of the volunteer Items I did on my trip, it was the easiest and most pleasantly surprising.
I believe that every volunteer experience will be different at EHRA. Because the Elephants are wild, the time and people and weather are different. I can't put into words the things I have learned on my around the world trip and at EHRA. But I will always remember sitting on my bed roll at base camp, up in a tree, watching all 30 elephants in the area meander down the dry riverbed. It still takes my breathe away when I think of it.
Ingrid Martin 8 April - 17 May 2013
Before I signed up for the 2nd time within 1 year and this time for 6 weeks I was wondering , as knowing myself I would be comparing. And I have to say it was as amazing as last year. Every 2 week cycle with the base structure being the same, it was different. It's the people who make it what it is. This year in actual fact I enjoyed it even better, as knowing the routines I did not need to worry about any of that and I could give my everything in the work ahead and enjoy to the fullest the patrol part. Finding myself not continously having the camera out at every moment to capture it. So a much intense experience. Also my understanding grew due to some real life situations of the important role of EHRA and the battles that are being fought on a daily basis, and all that 24 /7 under the African skies surrounded by nature.What else can one wish for. Loved it , no doubt I will be back again.
Janet Bellairs 11-22 February 2013
I spent 2 weeks in February doing voluntary work with EHRA in Namibia as a (60 something!) birthday treat – and what a treat it was ! I cannot begin to describe what a truly fantastic time I had.
Base camp is such a brilliant experience; the camp is presided over by a large tree house on the edge of a dried up riverbed , and is where we all slept - a fabulous way to end the day. Food cooked on the huge campfire, open air showers and the brightest stars you could ever see.
The build week is hot and hard but SO worth it. You really feel as though you are making a difference, and living out in the desert , just sleeping on a ground sheet in a sleeping bag is amazing.
Second week is spent tracking the wild elephants, so wherever they went, we went, again camping out in the desert and sleeping under the stars. This is not a game park and you never know what to expect ! We almost had to rescue an elephant stuck in a drain !
I could not praise everyone involved in EHRA enough. They make the whole experience something you will never forget. It doesn’t matter where you come from, how old you are, how capable you are….everyone is welcome. Just brilliant. Thanks EHRA
Courtney Gallant February - April 2013
Between 2012-2013, I've spent 20 weeks with EHRA and they have been some of the best weeks of my life. The land, the people, the atmosphere and of course the elephants have changed me, have changed the course of my life, and I can't imagine not having experienced it. The hard work, the incredible rewards, the time with the elephants and being part of the EHRA family is something I will always cherish. The morning and evening fires, the sunrises and sunsets, the incredible stars.. the shimmering air, incredible landscapes, the laughter and the quiet moments.. the teamwork, the accomplishments, the elephants... You'll never find anything like EHRA.
Carolin Gunther 5 - 16 November 2012
It’s really hard to summarize the great 2 weeks I had with EHRA. It was such an amazing, incredible and breathtaking experience! It was so far the best time I had, it’s a great project and absolutely useful. That was very important for me when I was looking for another volunteer project. When I found EHRA I was really impressed and I thought it must be the best one – and it is the best one! This time exceeded definitely all my expectations! On the whole, 2 weeks are too short!
Eating and cooking around the campfire, sleeping under the stars and watching them (I’ve never seen so many shooting stars before), having a great and funny time with super-duper people/new friends, building a huge wall and of course looking for the oliphants and watching them for hours - every second will be kept in my mind for the rest of my life!
Thanks to the wonderful group I had around me! We had a great time in the beautiful Damaraland and we saw the Cheetaaahs!
A HUGE Thank You goes to the whole EHRA staff!!! You definitely deserve the award for “Best Volunteering Organisation”! Just carry on.
Julie Grosso 19 - 30 November 2012
I feel so privileged to see happy, healthy, and confident elephants living as they are meant to live in the wild. This is the perfect way to see Namibia.
Thank you EHRA staff and fellow volunteers for making my two weeks an incredible experience.
Tips: Bring boxed red wine for the camp fire, and don’t forget your flip flops!
Jesse Arrowsmith 30 July - 24 August 2012
I would highly recommend the EHRA program for anyone. The program is professionally run and allows you to contribute to a very worthwhile project. I will treasure my experience forever and in addition to the good feeling of making a difference during build week the memory of seeing my first wild elephant up close still takes my breath away.
Filip Vandeweyer 23 April 2012 – 13 July 2012
Looking out for a meaningful career break for a couple of months, I searched the internet to volunteer for a wildlife project. I stumbled upon the EHRA website, which advertised: “If you’re looking to bottle feed baby-elephants, look further, this is real conservation work”. No-nonsense, loved it.
Before signing up with EHRA, I looked for half a year almost every day on the website. Eventually I signed up for the full 3 months. It’s a gamble, because let’s be honest, you’re giving money to people you don’t know. In hindsight, I don’t think I could have spent my money any better.
3 months with EHRA; this means a couple of tons of sand, a few tons of rocks, over 200 bags of cement, 5 walls and thousands of elephant pictures.
But these are just numbers. It’s impossible to describe the experience to get back to basics and realise how comfortable this can be, to camp into the wild, to sleep under the stars, to meet the most fascinating people; but also to see how people and animals struggle for survival in one of the driests parts of Namibia. And how you can make a subtle difference in maintaining the balance between human survival and conservation.
It’s incredible how people from all corners of the world come to Namibia to pile up a bunch of rocks, so one more farm has a secure water supply and another possible human-elephant conflict is being avoided. The reward: a sincere and heartwarming thank you from the farmers and the experience of a lifetime especially if an elephant (or even rhino!) comes closer then you could ever have imagined.
Three months flew by, and it feels like I’ve been there for only 2 weeks. All good things come to an end, but this was the end of an EHRA.
Michael Blodgett 4 June - 14 July 2012
There is no way you can leave EHRA without knowing you’ve had one of the most sensational experiences you’ve ever had in your life. Whether it was from seeing the beauty of an African sunset from the top of a massive granite koppie, tracking herds of elephants in their own habitat, or staring in disbelief at the size of Voortrekker’s footprint, I’ve never felt more alive in my life than I did while I was volunteering in Namibia. EHRA allows you to experience the Damaraland region the way it should be experienced by completely immersing you in the serenity of the bush, all the while surrounded by a diverse and lively group of volunteers, a friendly and experienced staff, and good food. (Great food) Chicken moambe and pap, anyone?
Ingela, Julia and Espen July 2012
You enter the EHRA basecamp and your daily life changes completely and you definately challege your comfortzones. You explore emotions and touch feelings you might never felt before. You share daily life far away from standards you are used to with people from different parts of the world who have values and backgrounds that are different from yours. BUT, you unify under the same mission , to build rockwalls in a primitive way with your bare hands and simple tools as well as processes, in order to crearte a win-win sitution between the locals and the desert elephants. To suddenly see and exeperience the desert-elephants, those you visioned during your building week, 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 workingday.
Geraldine Ischer 23 April - 1 June 2012
During my gap year, I wanted to go to Africa more than anything. I searched for the perfect volunteer project, I knew exactly what I wanted : a month in Namibia with elephants. EHRA was absolutely everything that I was looking for. The landscape, the work, the people, the ELEPHANTS... hhhh everything was amazing. I will never forget the first night I slept under the stars during build week, I couldn't fall asleep because the stars were so breathtaking that I couldn't stop looking at them. The food was delicious (really delicious!) I even took photos of the recipies so that I could try them at home. I was supposed to stay 4 weeks but I loved it so much that I decided to add two more weeks and I am really glad I did. Ehra has actually influence my decision to move to Africa after university. Since I came back from the life changing trip, I've been missing it a lot ! I am sure I will come back one day and do the project one more time. I have without a doubt nothing bad to say about my trip to Namibia. It was perfect and I really recommend it too every nature loving adventurers out there !
Kyla Mandel 18 - 29th June 2012
I only volunteered with EHRA for two weeks in June but it was the best two weeks of my entire summer. I was initially attracted to this program because of the unique mix of hands-on work building walls and the chance to see elephants in their natural habitat. Camping under the millions of stars, cooking meals together, and working hard during the day to build the sturdy stone walls and find elephant footprints brings everyone together instantly and you can’t help but make great friends. On our trip we had the chance to see a family’s home which had been trampled by elephants the night before. Seeing this allowed me to truly understand why EHRA does what it does; we help to forge a better understanding of how to live harmoniously with the elephants rather than simply seeing them as troublesome creatures. Seeing the elephant herds was incredible. We heard them trumpet, saw them throw dust on themselves, and were also lucky enough to see their 8 week old babies. This is a trip I will remember for the rest of my life, and I strongly encourage anyone interested in volunteering to stay for longer than just two weeks, you won’t regret it.
Colin Valentine 4th - 29th June 2012
Just a short note to say thanks to you all for accomodating me at such short notice--and in my usual shambolic manner--and for providing me with an enjoyable, insightful, and very worthwhile time with EHRA.
I have worked on several conservation schemes and generally leave with mixed feelings, questioning their usefulness and integrity. Not so with EHRA. I left Swakopmund believing my time and money well spent; the cost, effort and cause not only justifiable but necessary; the results tangible.
What more can a volunteer ask for? I would like to return and hopefully will. Again many thanks to all of you involved, you made a worthwhile experience even more enjoyable.
Abby Hoffman - 21 May - 13 July 2012
My experience with EHRA was unforgettable. Building weeks were my favorite part because it was astonishing to see what a group of 14 people could accomplish in such a small amount of time. I also made amazing connections during build week because while you work, you can’t help but to talk and get to know each other. Some days we would also play music while we worked, and people would sing along or dance. In addition, we enjoyed playing cards and going on hikes during afternoon siesta and sitting around a campfire, eating delicious food and listening to bush stories or star gazing at night. Even though we did some hard work during build weeks, it was always fun and I made some great friends all over the world that I still keep in touch with!
Patrol week was a unique experience because most game drives take you to see animals that are kept in parks and reserves and pretty much raised so people can go look at them. The animals in Damaraland, however, are truly wild, which makes them all the more spectacular. I could just sit and watch these elephants for hours. Sometimes, the elephants wouldn’t notice we were there and we got to see them eating, or playing or rolling in the mud. Other times they would hear or see us and we got to see their incredible defensive displays where they would trumpet and run together or sometimes even give us a little warning charge to let us know who is boss. On top of that, the whole week was spent driving through a pristine landscape that few travelers get to see, where we encountered ostrich, springbok, oryx, kudu, zebra, jackals and giraffes. One day we even saw a black rhino and her baby which is incredibly rare!
Overall, every part of the experience from the location and the food to the staff and other volunteers was incredible! I couldn’t have hoped for anything better and I can’t wait to return!
Ingrid Martin 23rd April - 5 May 2012
Volunteering with EHRA was the best thing i have done for a long time. Amazed by the different kinds of people of all age brackets it attracts , all having one thing in mind wanting to do something positive and strong feelings to protect wildlife.
No question the 1st week was hard work, but I enjoyed every minute of it , as at the same time it bonded people. Patrol week was , what one would normally only dream of. Of course it is always luck how many elephants one would see in that time. However it opened my eyes to the effort & the enthusiasm EHRA people put in trying to make locals understand and buy in, in the harsh daily environment they live in, that there is a life out there that wild elephants can live in harmony along side humans. I wish I would have had at the time more time to do a 2nd or even 3rd cycle . - I feel so privileged to get an insight into this kind of world and I definitely will be back again.
Claudia Ruecknagel 21st November - 17th December 2011
When I tried finding the right volunteer project for myself last year I wanted to do something useful for humans as well as working with animals in the wild. I found EHRA and thought: this is it.But I never expected it to become such a wonderful experience.We definitely all got so much more out of this whole project than we all thought before. Living in the bush 24/7, physically working from 8 till 5 with a little siesta during the day, being surrounded by strangers all the time in the beginning and no shower for 5 days was really pushing the limits but getting close within hand reach to the elephants was all worth it. And I made friends who will stay with me for a long time since EHRA. Volunteering is the way to go - and everybody involved in EHRA is putting so much effort and love in the project that nobody will walk out of this experience without saying they absolutely loved it. I cant wait to go back.
Emily Webber - 10th - 21st October 2011
Everyone should experience EHRA! We all had our own reasons for doing a trip like this, some wanting to escape the city life, some to find themselves, some just there for their friend, but whatever the reasons the end result was same for everyone, totally inspired. For me, two weeks wasn’t enough and having to come home was a real shock to the system, there simply wasn’t a moment that I didn’t love, even the land cruiser break downs! I will never forget sleeping under the stars rolling over and watching a bull elephant eating out of the tree less than 10 foot away, or laughing and singing with new friends, seeing black rhino in the wild, making 4 whole roast chickens for dinner, taking a shovel and matches to the toilet, new found love of peanut butter and jam sarnies, the stars – brighter and clearer than I have ever seen, the sound of trumpeting elephants in the dark, or the joyous feeling of a shower after building week! (If you like home comforts, this probably isn’t the trip for you, if you can handle Glastonbury festival then you’ll be just fine!) I feel very privileged to have been able to be a part of something that I feel is so special and does such great work. I will be back, hopefully for longer this time! Thank you EHRA for memories and an experience I will never forget!
Alessandro Cabai 1st - 26th August 2011
I'm really sad here in Italy... today I started to work in office ... sadd saddd!!! Thanks for last month .. probably the best time all my life!! EHRA is really amazing volunteer project!! All staff are wonderfull including Rachel and Johannes! I met only nice people!! I worked hard and helped as best I could! What can I say?! Sleeping under the stars, living in nature, helping each other, see animals, eating around the fire .. absolutely unforgettable moments!! I hope to see u soon .. if possible I would like to go back for some (2, 3, 4..!) month to help Ehra! I can't stay far from you!! :)
Katrin Junker - 18th July - 12 August 2011 and 2010
Imagine living out in the bush for two weeks, waking up with the sun in your face, collecting rocks, shovelling sand and mixing cement to help the amazing desert elephants as well as the local farmers, enjoying the tasty evening meals cooked on the fire and sleeping under millions of stars. That is EHRA. Imagine having breakfast and watching a herd of elephants walk by, listening to the sound of breaking wood at night knowing the elephants are close or sitting on a big rock watching, smelling and listening to the elephants drinking only a short distance away. That - with a bit of luck - is also EHRA. I liked it a lot - enough to come back a year after my first trip with EHRA - and I can warmly recommend it to every openminded nature lover who is not scared of hard physical work and dirty clothes, cold nights in the African winter and hot days in the summer or close encounters with all kinds of fascinating creatures of the Namibian bush. You will enjoy it!
Darcy McNicholl 6th June - 12th August 2011
After ten weeks with EHRA I can’t help but feel lost returning home and living away from the bush. Being in the presence of elephants and being apart of a project that allows you to have such an intimate experience with the wild has forever altered my perspective of western life. This experience has caused me to revaluate what I really need as well as appreciate how important it is to concentrate my studies towards preserving the environment. Although I must return to modern life to do so I will still miss cooking out on an open fire and being able to fall asleep starting up at Scorpio up in the cloudless sky. Even though I have to leave EHRA eventually we take with me a wealth of experiences and stories that will over time define who I am as a person and reinforce my love for the bush and the biota that lives within it. All I can say is that the bush is infectious; once you experience it you will spend everyday dreaming of a way to get back. For now I must return to my studies but I know that my days in the bush are not over yet.
Cristina Pedrini 1st - 12th August 2011
Unfortunately I returned home, Italy is too far from Namibia. People here ask me how it was with EHRA, there are not enough words to describe what this experience was for me...
you are to share the effort of hard work and the joy of being together with people from all over the world, together we feel that our help, even if small, is a part in a major project. All this in an amazing place, where the horizons are never ending, and where you can sleep under a sky full of stars you’ve never seen that before. Even if I struggled with the English language, I am glad too that I have known all my friends. Thanks EHRA for all this, I brought home with me a beautiful memory of you!
Pippa Tronc and Pete King 23rd May - 3rd June 2011
We spent two weeks in the desert with EHRA in May '11. This was the experience of a lifetime, I often catch myself daydreaming
about Namibia, the beautiful elephants and the wonderful people we met along the way. Ben, Neil and Mattias were lots of fun and we felt so safe with them. We carry fond memories of each person in our group and of Damaraland itself.... so stunning! It was hard to believe we were really there. You guys are doing a fantastic job and we hope to be back one day!
Geoff and Jane Stoyles 14th - 25th March 2011
As an older couple we were quite aprehensive about taking this trip but we really enjoyed the whole experience! Be ready for things not to quite to plan and remember, this is Africa so things are not always done in the way you might expect!
However, the experience of camping wild in the bush, our tent lit by the light of fireflies, cooking porridge over an open fire, completeing a difficult physical task (building the wall!!) and tracking and watching the wonderful elephants in the most beautiful landscape is something we will always cherish (and hope to repeat someday!)
I would say to anyone who loves adventure - go to Namibia with EHRA!
Jacob Kornerup Ditlevsen 14th - 25th March 2011
Back here in Denmark it is very hard to get used to having natures beautiful scenery ruined by cars, houses, shopping malls and so on. For me the best of Namibia and my stay with you guys at EHRA, must have been the fact, that no matter where I turned my eyes to, I always saw either a smiling face or a panorama of nature. The Ugab river, with and without water!, thunderstorms and lightning almost every evening, the enormous plains of bush and koppies, or the fantastic views over endless desert areas. I SIMPLY LOVED IT, and I cannot wait to figure out how I can get my life to move to Namibia. I am coming back, of course I am coming back to assist EHRA, but also to Namibia in general.
Aled Morris - 28th Feb - 11th March 2011
My time with EHRA was more than I could have ever expected. I made some great friends and have taken away some even better memories from my time with you guys.Namibia's beauty is difficult to translate into words. There is such a difference between the lush green areas surrounding Windhoek, compared with the arid desert we pass along the way to Uis and then the bushland which surrounds base camp. It is as if there is a postcard-photograph view everywhere you look. Once we arrived at the build site the experience really began. Cooking over an open fire for fellow volunteers and staff next to the Ugab river bed was a great challenge and one I looked forward to every time I was on 'duty'. The building itself was hot, physical and great fun with everyone pulling together and chipping in to help each other out when needed. Neil and Matthias are always on hand to give their expert advice on rock selection to mixing cement and general information about the area we were in. I feel that I learned a great deal about the environment, the culture of the locals and the challenges that Namibia faces - this again was down the the in depth knowledge and passion for conservation that Neil possesses. I will never forget one night whilst on tracking week when we set up camp at the foot of a koppie and watched G6 walk off into the distance, later there was a stunning lightning storm on the horizon whilst fireflies flew around us and we stared up at the Milky Way. That was unbelievably beautiful.
Sally Mortensen 02/08/10-13/08/10
My two weeks with EHRA really was the single best experience of my life. It exceeded all of my expectations! The only problem was that it wasn't long enough. Its not often that you get to live the way we lived out in the bush. Every night I would be so excited to go to bed just so I could gaze up at the amazing starlit sky and wait for a shooting star. There's nothing better than getting back to basics and forgetting about the materialistic things back home. The people are awesome!! Especially the leaders. Not once did I question my safety as I knew I was in the hands of real professionals and also really fun guys! Working in the community and feeling as though you're a part of something is such a rewarding experience. And of course the elephants are incredible! I felt so privileged to be watching such magnificent and graceful creatures. Thankyou EHRA! I will definitely come again!
Francesca Nuttal 15/03/10 - 21/05/10
Volunteering for EHRA is one of the best things I have ever done, I booked in for two weeks and stayed for ten. The project is a perfect mix of serious hard work and constant fun, the volunteers and staff are some of the most wonderful, crazy people you will ever meet and every night I went to sleep knowing I'd done, felt or seen something truly special. Building the walls and tracking the elephants is incredible and really important, but there is so much more to EHRA than the work they do with the locals. Whether you're there for two weeks or three months, its about getting to leave the rush and baggage of normal life behind and live in the most natural, basic way in one of the most staggeringly beautiful, remote and magical pieces of the world; where you sleep under stars, cook over fires, forget what the date is and get up before the sun does. I live by the lessons I learnt there and could never do it justice. I challenge anyone not to fall in love with this place.
Karin Bosveld 13/09/2010-24/09/2010
Back home in London after two weeks of being an EHRA volunteer in Namibia, and suffering serious withdrawal symptoms!
Desert elephants have been replaced by multitudes of homo sapiens, southern yellow billed horn bills (took me at least a week to be able to say this fluently) by city pigeons, hanging on top of the jeep taking in unlimited skies by crowded underground journeys and all this without my very lovely, funny and inspiring EHRA volunteers. Life is tough when you have been to paradise in Namibia!
It has been an amazing two weeks and thank you to all who made this happen! There have been so many highlights, but just to name a few... Sleeping under the stunning Namibia skies and experiencing its magical sunrises and sunsets. I can now build a wall - bet that no city girl in London can say the same! A very close encounter with Boss the adolescent elephant bull of the H2 herd whilst sitting on top of the jeep (shaking like a leaf may I add); seeing Ben wearing a pink tutu on his head; staying in hyena camp where time has stood still for millions of years; and last but not least beating Neil whilst playing ping pong - he was not happy! Oh, and the fun of getting stuck in the desert for a day. Even the mechanical challenges, four cars broke down completely, could not break the spirits of the fantastic group of people I was surrounded by at all times. Annabelle: my brilliant cooking partner, Katie: 'the voice' of Hull, Sam: my jeep/lip balm buddy, Rene: de Zwollenaar, Ben: 'Mr Nature' himself, the super lovely Chris: you have converted me into a bird afficionado (have even bought THE book), Cornelia: popping up when least expected to make my day, Gareth: Mr muscle thanks for literally carrying me to my water bottle, Joe: the surprising source of all knowledge, and Matt: thanks for joining me on this incredible adventure. And then of course the fab foursome: Neil, Doreen, Stafford and Matthias, your energy, enthusiasm, knowledge is incredible! Let's hope I can join you for another adventure not so far into the future!
Clare Fyfe 21/06/10-13/08/10
I'm considered by friends and family to be a bit of a city girl although I do live in the Scottish countryside so it was a surprise to them to hear I'd booked up for 8 weeks with EHRA. The whole idea of tracking the eles fascinated me and I wanted to join a real - out in the desert - programme; I was not interested in anything cosy or cuddly. Build week is a great way to get to know one's fellow volunteers and to participate in something lasting and so worthwhile - it's a good feeling to see the wall growing in front of your eyes; day by day. Camping out each night is special and I will never forget the eles walking by as I was drifting off to sleep on our night watch - I was not 'on watch' at the time I hasten to add - my turn came later. Being able to observe eles in their own habitat, not on a reserve, is a privilege and the memory will stay with me always. Thank you EHRA for enabling me to a) have the time of my life and b) for doing what you do!
James and Bev Bexton 16/08/10 -27/08/10
What a fantastic experience! We wanted to be part of a project that was fun, where we learnt new skills, and that we felt made a real difference to the community in which we were working. This project achieved all three. We met some great people and Neil, the project leader, was both knowledgeable and sensitive to the Namibian environment. We felt in safe hands while getting up close and personal to the elephants. We would recommend this project to anyone!!
Andy McBride 05/07/2010 - 16/07/2010
I have just returned from a trip to the World Cup and the EHRA project in South Africa and Namibia; and despite being a football lover, the highlight of my stay, and my year, was without doubt the EHRA project. If you love adventure, wildlife and authentic experiences, this is the trip for you. It is a given that you will learn lots about elephants, but you will also learn about other people, how to cook over an open fire and yourself. Neil and his assistant Matthias had a fantastically reassuring mix of intimate knowledge of the bush, people, leadership and most importantly a great sense of humour that helped bring our diverse group together.
We saw elephants up close, met local people, saw eagles, baboons, a leopard (well, half the group did), jackals, scorpions and genets to name a few, and you will also see some crazy dancefloor moves on the last night in Swakopmund! It all added up to my favourite holiday in years and unforgettable experience. In fact, it was so good that I decided not to catch my flight home and stayed another two weeks in Namibia. What more can I say?
Katrin Junker 21/06/2010 - 16/07/2010
I decided to join EHRA because I wanted to do something different. It had to be useful, situated in Namibia and in favour of Africa's fascinating wildlife. In fact, my four weeks with EHRA turned out to be much more than that. Collecting all those rocks and building the wall, following and watching the elephants, camping out in the bush and sleeping under millions of stars, meeting a whole bunch of like-minded people and making new friends was just a wonderful experience! Would you have known that elephants can walk so silently that you won't hear them come, that elephant dung keeps insects away when you burn it and doesn't even smell bad or that ant lions can only walk backwards?
I will never forget the last night of my second building week. It was just after sunset, we were sitting round the fire, when I suddenly noticed something moving not far away in the bush. Cows, I thought, as they had walked past and almost through camp a few times during the week already. Then I realized those cows had trunks! - Neil, the elephants are right there! - It was a herd of nine animals. Amazing!
Joining this project was one of the best things I have done so far. Don't be surprised if I come back soon...
Claes Kilander 21/06/10 - 30/07/10
I love Africa! I love Namibia! And I loved my 6 weeks with EHRA. It was without a doubt the single best experience I have ever had. It is such a different environment and after only two weeks back in Sweden I already want to go back. The project itself, the places you visit and work at and the people you meet and spend your days with are all amazing. Volunteer work like this attracts normal people and not just treehuggers. I've made lots of new friends and done many things that I would never get a chance to do back home.
I'm sure you'll enjoy watching and tracking elephants as well as building a wall to help a farmer but you've probably already realized that. From my experience however, you'll enjoy the rest of your experience just as much, if not more. Go! You won't regret it.
Aaron Sohi 07/06/10-18/06/10
Thank you EHRA for making that two weeks two of the best of my life. The welcome was warm, the staff were great and willing to help at all times, and always with a smile on their face. The experience is ingrained on my soul, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Rajesh Sadanandan 10/5/10 - 21/5/10
The volunteer project was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life....living in the desert, under the african skies, in the company of scorpions, hyenas, flies and the majestic desert elephants..far away from the complicated rules and expectations of the modern day civilization, I was at peace