Volunteer blog – 28th July – 8th August 2014

African morning in Namibia31/07/2014

Chris won’t stop telling us to write something, so here it goes. It’s the 4th day of my first build week. It’s a great feeling to achieve something as a team and by manual work. Life here is hard but very adventurous. You sleep under stars, learn to count in the Damara language, see amazing sunsets. I also had a scorpion on my hand and nearly lost my eye light because of all the smoke (fires) and sand here. I’ll have to hurry with writing because the African sun sets at around 6pm and after that it’s night dark.
Nice great things:
-Being in a team
– Speaking German, Swiss-German, English, Italian …with each other
– African time
– The friendly locals
– Fun around the campfire
– Ocean side cafe in Swakop
Not that great things:
– Sand in your mouth
– Not enough wet wipes
– Hair that feels dead after not washing it for a week
– Being mocked for being from “Germland”
Bianca, 19, “Germland”

An elephant eatingSaturday, 2nd of August
The last week we built a wall in Sorris Sorris. Last night the local people invited us to an amazing party they organized only for us. It already started at lunch time actually as many of us got some nice bread from “Latuya”. In the evening they cooked springbok meat and self-made bread on the fire. The women were weaving their traditional robes. A man played the guitar and he started to dance and sing. At the beginning, the EHRA group was sitting on the chairs, a little bit shy, but eventually the locals picked up some to dance with them. At some points all of us were dancing around the fire. We had so much fun!
Annina, Switzerland
Needs a shower.

Volunteer's changing a wheelSaturday, 2nd August
– Three best moments of build week: Party
Hand down toilet
Hand up chicken bum
EVERYONE SHOULD VISIT NAMIBIA

Volunteers having a braai with the volunteersThis trip has been the best so far! So many amazing things to see and working as a team to help a community is such an excellent experience. Learning so many new words such as ‘du flacha’ and teaching other people English words is an interesting experience. The tree house at base camp is everyone’s dream and it’s so exciting to sleep under the stars. I will miss all the “germs” when I go back to England, as well as crazy French like guide. Everyone should visit Namibia and come on the elephant project as you get t-shirts and sore shoulders and back. Thank you so much EHRA for giving me this experience! I willn missn thisn tripn loadsn!
Jess – the laughing donkey

Volunteer smilling at the cameraFollowing build week, we went on patrol, to track as many elephants as possible to get their DNA. For the first day, we had almost given up hope of seeing any…until half an hour before we were going to find camp, Chris pretty much ran into the G6. So we climbed a koppie and just sat and watched them, it was so relaxing. The second day, no elephants, but there was plenty of baboons, goats and flies.
Day 3: was more successful than before. We saw 2 bulls: Tusha and Cambonde, the herd Mamma Africa, and a smaller herd. (It was funny watching the babies fall into bushes to sleep) But day 4 was the best. We thought that we had seen the last elephant the day before, as we only had a few hours of patrol, but nearly every corner we turned was a new elephant to admire, and this even carried on back at base camp. Where an elephant that we had seen earlier in the day past us whilst we were cooking dinner. This is definitely worthwhile and one of the best experiences that I have been on! EHRA will definitely give you memories that will last a lifetime!!!
Caitlin, 18, England
By the way: Collin is from now on called cannicollin

EHRA volunteers with localsFrom the 2 M & M’s
Sleeping in the tree house and then in night when you wake up and see the endless milky way above you for the first time in a moment you will never forget: We did enjoy the build week very much: having such a supportive team of individuals initially and also a strong team was an experience we never had before. Incredible to see what 15 pairs of hands can achieve in 5 days, and getting such a generous and warm hearted appreciation from the people of the conservancy on Friday night was deeply moving and really a once in a lifetime experience.
Thank you
Michael – Markus

Volunteers in Namibia28.08.2014

We are on our way back to Swakopmund. My handwriting suffers from the vibrations of the drive, as I hope one can still recognize what I am writing here. We hear music from people’s I-pods and share cookies and snacks with each other.
Personally I liked the patrol week. We saw many elephants. The nights were cold but also illuminated by a nearly full moon. But home is calling me. I have important duties in Germany and can’t stay longer than those two weeks, but they will last forever in my memory – (just as damn vibrations!!!). Elephants would never forget! Because this the one thing elephants have what I wish to have myself.
Benjamin

Volunteer group photo

Volunteer Blog- 14th July – 25th July 2014

Volunteers group photo30th June – 11th July
Camilla Burrow, 28, UK, 4 weeks

Build Week
7 Bewildered faces stand looking at the foundations of a wall to protect a water pump. It takes no more than 30seconds for the realization of what we’d signed up to do to hit home. 3 Volunteers had already done a couple of weeks and they quickly showed us fresh faced 7 what to do. Thank goodness they were here!

Sat at home in London and between jobs I was looking for something to do which would preferably take me back to Namibia. Having been before, I’d fallen in love with the country and a chance Google search led me to EHRA. After a brief look on the website i quickly sent an email to Rachel to book a place. A month later and the London city girl was in khakis, boots and working gloves (with a feminine touch of purple of course) about to do her first rock run. The team quickly bonded over rock running, sand collecting and cement mixing by hand. The work was harder than anticipated, but mainly due to us all overestimating our fitness. I found muscles that haven’t been used in 28 years. It was fantastic though and we settled into a routine of duties, building, snoozing and eating.

Camping outside is magical. We’d watch the stars and the growing moon, sit around the fire with a drink and help the cooks for the night. There is something so satisfying about ending a day physically tired, full from great food and with such interesting people. Our two guides Ernest and Christine kept us entertained too. Ernest taught us Damara (or at least he tried) and Christine prevented some of the cook novices from poisoning the group (mainly me-thanks Christine).
During the days, Ernest and Christine showed us the local wild life such as different types of scorpions, centipedes, soldier ants and spiders. The hope had been to get the wall finished but unfortunately we ran out of cement before that happened. At first we were a little down beat but when we stopped for team pictures it became evident what we’d achieved in 4 days.
Overall it was such a pleasure to go from suits, offices, meetings and metaphorically getting my hands dirty to working as a team outside all day, covered in dust and cement and building something tangible. I loved it so much, I’m back next Monday to repeat it all over again. Final thought: To the inventor of wet wipes, we salute you!

Volunteers taking an elephant shot
Patrol week
So if we’re honest, this is why we’re all really here. The opportunity to see wild elephants up close and personal is the EHRA “thank you for the building week.” It also plays a vital role in tracking 3 separate herds. This week also promises more sleeping under the stars and the chance for us to perfect our “wet wipe shower” technique.
Something that instantly strikes me is how I really don’t miss my phone and communication devices. It’s so liberating spending the days outside, climbing kopies and following elephant tracks.

Day 1 wasn’t our day. We saw lots of tracks including those of the baby calf, but the elephants had decided to play hide and seek. We did see some of the downside to the desert though. There were a lot of wire snares laid across the river to trap and kill birds. Chris, who was joined by Matthias in guiding us, cut them up to try to discourage the people behind it. It was rather alarming to see how common place they were. Whilst elephants were hiding, we did see a lot of beautiful birds, ostriches and “Australian elephants”(known as cows by everyone else). We drove through picturesque scenery before setting up camp for the night.

Day 2 and the rest of the week were more successful. We saw 2 bulls which EHRA were concerned had been killed and an as yet unidentified bull. We climbed lots more koppies in our hunt for these beautiful and majestic animals and also collected a couple of fresh dung samples. There is something truly mesmerising about been so close to the “gentle giants”.
Our last night of patrol was spent at base camp reflecting on 2 incredible weeks. We have so many stories, jokes and memories to take home with us. For 3 of us, we are already chomping at the bit to return on Monday. Oh and I can’t resist but to Jeff, next time you want to prove a point, listen to Laura and I first!
Final thought: To the incredibly hard working team behind EHRA, we salute you all for an unforgettable experience.

Elephants bondingJeff, 25, USA, 11/07/14

What have I learned in two weeks? The desert can’t be transcribed. Catalog it’s indigenous fauna, map its crystalline skies, but you won’t document the essence of interaction. You won’t define the effect this world unto its own brings to bear.
Cast ten strangers onto its sun-bronzed shores, unite them in purpose and observe the swift and redeeming nature by which they interact with one another by which they build their quantized piece of this world. Note the tools they use to cast rock and sand into minutiae of legacy. Plot the points at which they transition from many to one.
Identify the experience, and then experience it for yourself. The desert can only be interpreted through interaction. EHRA defines that interaction!

Elephants taking a bath

Jack (rewritten), UK (4 weeks, ca. 15th June – 15th July 2014)
I have LOVED my time here. I’ve fulfilled a lifelong dream by coming to Africa and seeing elephants and I’m glad I’ve seen a whole host of other wildlife. I loved seeing Oscar and he was the best elephant I have seen, just because he was the biggest. I was lucky to see both herds and bulls and it was exhilarating for them to come so close to the cars. The calf was cute and I hope a suitable name is chosen for her and some of her dung can be collected as part of the research.
I loved meeting and working with new people and I’m glad I got on with everyone. I have learned to slow down with my speech and make sure I am clear in what I say. I thought Chis and Christin were great and everyone’s cooking was excellent. Now I feel like I can do a lot more after this experience and I would love to come and do this again.

Volunteers having morning cup of tea

14th -27th.07.14, Sandy Willmann, 2 weeks
After a chaotic building week with injured fingers, the loss of a tooth and only two half days of building we went back to base camp where we were so lucky to see the herd of G6 passing the camp. This was my first time to see wild elephants and it was amazing! They were so close that I had the feeling I could touch them when i moved my arm. Only one day later when we started patrol week we discovered the herd of Mamma Afrika. It was amazing to watch these beautiful animals taking a bath in a waterhole. As it was quite late we moved to the most stunning place where we installed our camp for the night and had a “lekka braai” under the stars. Coming back to the waterhole the next day the elephants were still there, so we climbed a kopie and watched them for 2-3 hours bathing, playing and eating. It was breath taking! But the most memorable moment was when Mathilda and her 6 week old baby joy crossed the riverbed and let us watch them for a few minutes. The little one is so cute and gives hope for the future of the Namibian desert elephants. I will never forget this trip and the experience with the elephants. Special thanks to Mattias who is probably the best elephant tracker in the world! And also a big thank you to the rest of the EHRA team, you created an unforgettable life experience for us.
Sandy and Stephan

Elephant herd at water

27.7.14, Ben, UK
According to everyone, a chaotic building week, yet one enjoyed by all. Amazing group cohesion. Despite being hampered by injuries, hospital visits and a change of project managers, it has been an amazing two weeks. Never before have I seen a group of strangers gel together so quickly and so well. Personally I felt at home immediately. It has been a unique and once in a lifetime experience. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. The fulfillment and jokes of build week allowed for an amazing patrol week. We were very lucky in the elephant sightings we got. Not often do they come to you. A beautiful sight to witness nature in its simplest and truest form. To get to see the elephants up close and get to know their character is remarkable. I can’t express my thanks enough. Not only to the group but to our two project managers, Hendrick and Christine for their outstanding work, As well as both big and small Mattias’s for their expertise and Collin for his support on patrol week. A big thank you to EHRA, I am certain to return!

Elephants having a mud bath

25.08.14 – Eline – Switzerland
I don’t have the right words in English to share my feeling….but I can say THANK YOU! I had 2 unforgettable weeks with EHRA!
We had difficult moments on build week, but the group was incredible. Everyone made his best to make the experience as funny and nice as possible, taking care of each other. And the wheel turned on patrol week, we were lucky, lucky, and lucky! We saw elephants each day! Elephants near to the camp, elephants plying in the water and elephants near the car.
THANK YOU to everyone who made these weeks awesome, marvelous and fun!

Volunteers doing joga

Patrol review, 20-24 July 2014
Patrol started on Sunday, but the elephants of the herd G6 decided to pay a visit in camp already on Saturday evening. The group of volunteers stayed quietly behind the wooden fence and watched the herd as they moved past, feeding peacefully, cowing close to eat from the Anatree the tree house is in.
On Sunday afternoon Mattias found the herd Mamma Africa playing in the water at Aruxas 1ST SPRING. The next day we returned to Aruxas, climbed a kopie and the volunteers watched the herd playing and feeding at the spring for 2½ hours, which was absolutely beautiful and exciting. On Tuesday Mattias tracked a bull, starting in the morning. That bull walked very fast , but in the late afternoon we found him feeding in the riverbed. It was Tsaurab. He came very close to the car, very peacefully, as if just to say hi.
On Wednesday Mattias tried to track Voortrekker, but we ended up finding G6 in the afternoon. The last day of patrol EHRA went to the Sorris Sorris conservancy to check up on farms who have problems with the an elephant bull. That bull is unknown so far. There is also a herd around lately, coming from Khorixas. At least Mattias could identify the problem causing bull not being Voortrekker, as thought so by the farmers.

Elephants greeting each other

Volunteer Blog – 16th June – 27th June 2014

16 June
Shopped around in Swakopmund for essentials – snacks, drinks, head torches, gloves, batteries….all ready for build week. Long drive north to base camp through desolate grey sandy country with a toilet break behind a well-placed dune and some time for throwing a ball around. Entered base camp through windy track with rough large red boulders, sleeping in tree and looking at amazing stars at night.

On Tuesday, packed up building essentials – shovels, cement, etc. and rations for the week and started off. The wall was about an hour drive away and within a day and a half, we finished the end of the wall that they had started last week – this had consisted of putting a final layer of rock on and sealing the top with cement.

We were able to use the same camp site that they had used the week before, so got camp set up relatively quickly and spent 2 nights there before moving to the next site.

Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning we had to lay the foundations for a new wall around a windmill. The soil (well, the surface of the land) is packed with rocks of all sizes, so we had to use pickaxes, shovels and hands to remove all the soil down several inches about 2 foot wide. Once we had done that, we put back all the rocks we had taken out plus many many more! However, as one team mate pointed out, we put them back in a more orderly fashion – very large on the outside, mid-size inside, and small to pebble size as filler, with a top coat of cement like icing a cake. It’s a lot like doing a jigsaw puzzle. No matter how many rocks we put in the wall, it didn’t seem to make a difference in the landscape.

As every other night we tried to sleep under our tarpaulin but on this Wednesday night we all woke up. It was a windstorm, which shook the tarp really hard and made a lot of noise. Everyone was waiting for the storm to stop to sleep again. After a while we build it up and slept under the sky full of stars. We hardly all still get a bit of sleep and were full of sand as never before in the week.

After the windstorm the tarpaulin was removed and we had to move the ground sheet under a nearby tree. We are making good progress with the wall and I am enjoying the physical work of collecting rocks, sand and mixing cement. The wall is more than a foot thick and can definitely keep the elephants out. I have mastered the art of getting the amounts of cement, sand and water right. I can also see when other people need water and sand.

 

By Saturday we were ready to head back to base camp, a.k.a Home Sweet Home. We saw a troupe of baboons on the rocks west of base camp, and they moved onto the rocks across the riverbed for the night. This put them right across from our tree house. There were lots of warnings that it would be a noisy night, and apparently many found it so. But it turns out I more-or-less sleep through baboon. At least until the morning, when I swear it sounded like they were disciplining the babies by torturing them. That, at least, is clearly what the babies must have wanted us to think, given that piercing screams at, I guess, being told to wake up.

Sunday afternoon several of us hiked up to the top of the rocks where the baboons had spent the previous night. It’s a great place to get a view of the area. You can see for miles in all directions. And we went shortly before sundown, so we could see the sun sinking behind those western rocks. The word awesome comes to mind (frequently on this trip). Since I had cooking duty Sunday night (grilled meats, roast potatoes, 2 kinds of squash) I left before the others to get started preparing. Willie, the incredibly sweet injury-prone adopted camp dog, had followed us all up, and he decided I shouldn’t go down alone, so he took me down. He was occasionally exasperated when I didn’t follow the path he chose, but generally was willing to re-adjust his route and take over leading again. He didn’t leave until he had me safely down. So I gave him an extra ear and chest scratching that night.

 

Hello my friends, I am Sophie and I have been at the EHRA project for 5 beautiful weeks. Every week was an awesome week on its own. I worked with great people! I think I can say we are all friends now. It feels better here than at home when I can be with my EHRA family.

I enjoyed every building week with a lot of hard work and great dinners. After my first building week I felt all my muscles when I was mixing the cement and collecting big rocks. The work got better and better after every week. I never had problems with the work. I can work more, faster and be better help for all now.

My first patrol week was so incredible and beautiful. I feel so free and happy, I think that it was on one side that we had the most beautiful landscape in Namibia and I spend my time with really lovely people. We counted two elephant groups, black rhinos, giraffes, kudus, zebras, oryx and baboons. Is there something that you can ask for more? NO! Every patrol week we had great adventures.

A big thank you to the EHRA team!!!

 

We also had the chance to help at the game count, but it is a tough thing on one side, but I am happy that we could help them. I also found new friends Franco and Thasima, two nice guys.

Today (25th June) our day started early as all of us was motivated to find “Mamma Afrika”, the EHRA herd. We had a much colder morning compared to the past days, so we are all sitting together to be really warm packed in the cars, that looks a little funny in my opinion because we are in Africa. Kieran and I sit behind in the car and were listening to music with a big smile on our faces – it was a really fun day.
After driving some time without seeing an elephants but with a lot of tracks, we drove up to a hill to have a whole view over the area. Mattias and I counted the elephants and were a little bit confused because they were throwing dust and were running and maybe angry.

The safest thing we could do was to sit at the koppie and take a look at what was happening. They were moving all the time; they were not able to stand still, most of the time we were only able to see trees moving or a head from an elephant in our way. That was such an awesome moment. We were able to look at them from a higher point out in car, a kilometre far from us. The two groups “Mamma Afrika” and “Ugab small” were happy to meet us. It was such an interesting and beautiful adventure to watch them.

Thank you very much for this time we had in Namibia, with the EHRA team. I enjoyed myself a lot, it is one of the best times I had in my life-maybe the best.
I hope I can come back.
Sophie

 

So, it was my final week at EHRA waking up on Monday morning full of excitement on a cold Namibian morning. We load up the 4×4 with all the kit, food and people we need for the week of tracking. An hour later we end up leaving due to a fuel problem on the old girl (Mattias’ car!). But this doesn’t trouble us and we begin the trip full of excitement and anticipation for the week to come.

The tracking begins with sad news that a young male elephant had been shot as part of the conservancy quota. Our mission for this week then was to track down all the males and find out which had been killed to update the database.

We came across fresh, day old tracks by the side of the road. It was a male travelling alone. We spent the day going from farm to farm trying to pick up any clues about the direction he was travelling in. Finally we spotted an elephant shaped rock that actually turned out to be our elephant. It was an unidentified male from a different area, but he was very shy of cars and didn’t want to hang around, so we left him to his business and set off to make camp for the night.

The next day we set off to track a group of elephants which takes a through a very unused track. After being stabbed, scratched and beaten by every single branch we finally emerged 2hours later with an unhappy Chris as his paint job was ruined! We spend the next few hours finding tracks and after climbing a rocky mountain we spotted them in the distance. Unable to get close by the car Chris and Mattias set off on foot to get a closer look. All young males were accounted for.

The next day we set off to find “Mamma Afrika”. Spotting them from afar they are running and trumpeting. We are confused not knowing if there is a problem or not. Then Mattias begins to jump with joy “there is a new baby” he shouts. The elephants were most likely celebrating the arrival of a new baby. The rest of the day was an unforgettable blur of elephant encounters of which I will never forget. The little baby maybe only a day or two old and mother felt comfortable enough to eat and walk around right next to the car.

My week might have started with bad news that an elephant had been killed. But it ended with the discovery that a new life had been brought into the elephant family.
I would like to quickly say a massive thank you firstly and foremost to Chris whose hard work means that these amazing creatures have someone on their side and he makes these life experiences for others possible. Also Mattias for his joy and amazing tracking skills. And finally Christine who will make an amazing guide and who have all become great friends over this past month. So thank you everyone, I will never forget you guys or this experience of a lifetime!
Kieran Collinson

Volunteer blog 2nd June – 13th June 2014

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Thursday 3rd June

Today we started our “building week” at Welbedagt. Upon starting our build week we saw a lot of lizards as well as big and small scorpions. It was really awesome! They were so beautiful, I liked them. After a great dish (spaghetti bolognaise) we sat around the fire and enjoyed the silence and the beautiful stars, when I suddenly felt something underneath my feet. I remembered Chris’s words to first take a look. I looked down my leg underneath my feet and I saw a snake, a puff adder and my reaction was to whisper to Olifant (big Mattias) and told him “there is a snake underneath my feet!” I don’t remember having had no shoes on! “Oh…..” the next moment. After slowly and carefully moving away from the snake, we caught it and release it far away from the camp. Now I put my shoes on when it’s dark.

Awesome, nice first day!

By Sophie MONKY
Christin and the crickets!
Sophie and the snake!

 

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5th of June 2014
****The cement wimp****

“John, you look big and strong, but at cement mixing, you’re a wimp!” So said Sophie to me, and she was right. I am totally useless at mixing cement, but I have strong arms and legs and can lift the heavy stones all day. Sophie on the other hand is an A+ mixer of cement. Others in the group can find the perfectly sized stones to fill out the wall. Others are Jack-(or Jill’s)-of-all-trade who pitch in wherever a hand is needed.

Together, we made tremendous progress on our wall today. This morning when we started, we had laid the foundation along with a second layer of rocks covering about 20% of the wall’s perimeter. When we concluded this evening the wall was over a meter high in some places and at least a meter for the rest. The rapid progress and cool weather today made the day pass quickly.
We are a bit disappointed that we didn’t finish the wall, but were looking forward to wrapping up our build week tomorrow and getting back to base camp to take a shower. (That part will not be as a team).

 

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6th of June 2014

The  Final Push

With 6 cement bags left we begin the “final push”.
The wall was slowly taking place and we were all on a mission to finish all the cement bags. We went for a final rock collection, me, Sophie, John and Anne made it our mission to collect the finest rocks to add to the wall. We then travelled to collect the sand to make the final batches of cement. Mattias developed a technique of throwing cement at the specific rock he wanted. This was quickly picked up by Ernest which provided much amusement for all of us.
Ernest took on a technique of laying random “anything will do rocks” as fast as possible. Whereas Matthias expertly selected each rock to fit the next place. The excitement of the last day gave us the extra push to finish all 6 bags and build the wall as high as we could in the time we had. The hot work from the day meant everyone appreciated the stop at the shop to pick up a cold beer. We then unpacked all our kit from the building week. A cold shower felt luxurious in comparison to the wet wipes on build week. And a mug of red wine and chatter around the fire provides an amazing end to the building week and the “final push”.

Kieran Collinson

Leamington Spa, England

 

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13th June 2014, Patrol week

As I write this we are bumping along the road back to Swakop following the end of an amazing and rather special patrol week. Our week began with a full day of tracking elephants on Monday and we were lucky enough to find a beautiful unidentified bull. Tuesday and Wednesday were a little different as EHRA had been asked to help out with the yearly game counts on Ohungu and Otjimboyo conservancies. This was a fantastic opportunity to discover how things are done in Namibia – slowly and with much discussion as it turns out! Our 9 am training session began at 4pm (after the awkward moment when “Kevin” was asked to lead the opening prayer!), but thankfully Cards Against Humanity kept us in stitches for hours! It was also a privilege to meet, eat dinner with and work with the local people who were all very welcoming and interesting people. Despite the low numbers of game spotted (Chris and Matthias saw nothing!) we all had fun and a good feeling about the way it was conducted and the progress being made in discussing issues like poaching.
Another eye opening experience for us this week was removing 4 lines of wire snares being used to catch sand grouse and on one line we must have disturbed the poachers as they had left behind 41 dead or dying birds. Although distressing, it was good for us to see the problems EHRA is facing. Thankfully the day ended on a high note with some fantastic sightings of the Ugab small herd – it’ll be hard to top on my next patrol week!
Thanks EHRA for a fantastic first two weeks – I can’t wait for more stars, campfire cooking and most of all elephants!

Emma, Scotland

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13th June 14, Last day of Patrol week

Sitting in my room at Villa Wiese in Swakopmund I try to go back to yesterdays patrol day. A good part of the day was already over, but we did not see an elephant yet. Would we not meet any today? Chris and Matthias did their best in tracking them and around noon we finally saw very fresh tracks + elephant poo. With today’s hot temperature, the poo is still quite wet and green – it can only be half an hour old!!! Climbing a small mountain, we were able to see one adult and 2 baby elephants, but just half a minute later, they were gone again, lost in the bushes and under the trees! Back to the car, driving for 1km and climbing another mountain: and here it is – the Ugab herd! 3 female adults and 3 baby elephants. We made it; we tracked them, and can finally enjoy watching them. We observed them for at least 30 minutes and were so grateful to be part of their day.
After a short lunch break we wanted to head back to base camp, still discussing the herds and the pictures took when a massive elephant head just next to the riverbed (where we were climbing) showed up and scared us to death!! We should never freak out, that’s what Chris has taught us the first day, but hey, what you can do when this big elephant takes you by surprise!? We stopped, slowly reversed to give the elephant more space. When she came out of the bush closer to the car, starring at us (as if she wanted to tell us off for ruining her siesta time), surrounded the car, winked at us for one last time and disappeared into the bush again. What an encounter!!!(See the video on youtube – Kieran shall provide link)

 

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Thanks to the EHRA team for setting up this project and having us for the last 2 weeks. Two unforgettable weeks with lots of action, hard work, nights under the stars and at the campfire, good memories to take back home, and the new friends we could find. And Elephants!! Some of us will be back for 2 more weeks – see you all on Monday again!!

(Daniela, Switzerland 13.6.14)

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Volunteer Blog – 5 May – 16 May 2014

Image14th May 2014

Patrol week is everything and more. We have seen a lot of elephants and other animals such as giraffes, Oryx and Ostriches. Of course some cows and goats passed our camp. Patrol is about elephants but not only, it’s also about how to survive in the dessert. Now we know how to cook and eat a snake and to catch some fishes with a scarf. We caught them for the pool at base camp. Hopefully they will survive the rest of the trip.

ImageWe have realised that we don’t need that much out here, if you only have wet wipes you will survive!
Emelie and Theresa

Image16th May 2014 – Leaving Base camp

Africa gets under your skin. The heat, dust, sand and smells start to invade your senses, take over your system and run through your veins. In a few short weeks the dry river beds of the Ugab and the Huab fee like home, the strangers you have met are your friends, and the cycle of totally different way of life becomes your own. Returning to EHRA after 10 years has felt like a homecoming, and I have felt blessed to have been able to do so. I have been re-awakened. I have felt again the pulse of the desert; the beating heat of the mid-day sun, the breezes blowing through the Mopani’s, and the Ana trees, the chirping of the armored crickets in the bush. I have re-discovered the heartbeat of Damaraland in the low-pitched rumbling of the elephant herd as it communicates over kilometers of bush, rocks, sand and grasses. Waking in the cool sharp light of pre-dawn each morning and watching the sun pull warmth, and golden light into each day has been a benediction. Falling asleep each night under a pattered quilt of stars, with a backdrop of campfire embers and rocks still holding the heat of the day has been a blessing. And between the rise and set of the African sun there is the friendship and camaraderie found in shared work and living space, the laughter and knowledge and stories passed between your guides and your fellow volunteers. The comfort of having given something back to this land, its people, its wildlife and its very existence. We are here to make a difference – we are making a difference; that knowledge is what we take away. Thank you EHRA – see you again soon.

Jill. Hampshire, England

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Volunteer blog – 21st April – 2nd May 2014

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2nd May

If you don’t know what to think about camping before you come here, I’m sure you’ll absolutely love it after your weeks here. There is nothing more unstressful than wake up at sunrise, having some porridge for breakfast and then go to ‘work’. Watching the elephants is great, but I enjoyed the wall building even more. After a week of searching for the biggest, the best and the most flat rocks, I now see perfect rocks everywhere along the road. This trip made one addicted to rocks!

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This trip will teach you a lot about yourself and give you new skills. I now have a large variety of dance moves to use in clubs in the UK, inspired by my time at EHRA. The mopane bee dance, the pap stirring dance and the giraffe to name a few. Seriously some of the most fun I’ve ever had and want to come back!

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Getting out of comfort zone, getting in touch with a different way of living in a different environment with other conditions. All this opens up your mind and heart and soul. Moreover you’ll learn a lot about natural relationship, animal/animal, animal/human being, human being/human being. And during the whole time you are superbly taken care of, in a mindful, enthusiastic way. You can feel safe in any respect. An experience i would not want to miss and that I’ll take into any life I will have, hopefully for a long time. I can highly recommend this trip!

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Volunteer blog 7th – 18th April 2014

ImageApril 2014, Claire O’Reilly, Hayling Island, UK

What is there on offer with an EHRA experience? Turns out there are a lot more than was written in my travel brochure! Meeting a group of volunteers from across the globe, who all are here for the same reason: To help elephants, do your bit for the community and see a beautiful country while your there. Once you’ve got settled in Swakopmund and filled yourself with schnitzel, it’s off to build a wall for a week. Out of our group of nine, we had no building experience and were all a bit daunted by the idea of hand building a wall that can withstand elephants. But once we got going, we started to enjoy the rock runs and shovelling, even if you ended up filthy, tired and sweaty! It’s so rewarding to see something that you’ve all created. Apart from the building, you get to camp under the stars (and learn about the constellations!), cook on an open fire and enjoy the peace and quiet of no electricity, wifi and running water. A few beers and some warm red wine in the evenings helps a bit too! Then you are back to base camp for some ‘luxury’ (a shower and a swim in the elephant dam with the tadpoles) and a bit of a rest before starting your elephant tracking week. Seeing desert elephants in their natural environment is an experience none of our group will ever forget, especially some of the close encounters we had! Apparently elephants really like gem squashes……Not only elephants, but the opportunity to see giraffes, steenboks, ostriches and many other creatures. Driving through the landscape is also very beautiful, so make sure you have plenty of space on your camera!

ImageThere are so many highlights, but every experience is different. All I can say is that it’s one of the best experiences of my life and something I will treasure for a long time.
I love rocks!

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