Elephant Human Relations Aid Volunteer Blog


Volunteer blog 11th March – 22nd March 2013

An amazing 2 weeks not long enough. Thanks to a great team who fed, watered, and kept me/us safe.

Experience of a lifetime! :) Yvonne

elephants

elephants

Elephants- a truly amazing animal, intelligent, social and each one with distinct personality. The more you read about them and the longer you watch them, the more you will see. There is probably no other mammal that at the same time allows humans to observe from a short distance and has such a complex social behavior that you will never feel bored, even after hours of watching in the baking sun. To be in the middle of a herd of elephants, in a car in stunning scenery at night in the base camp, this induces a feeling of happiness that can’t be described with words. We should do our best to preserve this precious piece of nature for future generations.

Human-though Namibia has a small population of just 2 million people, the variety of peoples and cultures in this country is impressing. It is not easy to visit people which were decimated by the generation of my grand-parents, the first genocide in German history. But the friendliness and hospitality of the Namibians never let us feel uncomfortable. I am happy that I had the opportunity to be a guest in this wonderful country.

Relation – Being a manager used to working in an air- conditioned office in a 20…city, serving very poor farmers who have no electricity and very limited contact to the outside world – the contrast couldn’t be bigger. The EHRA – project gives people from totally different background opportunity to learn from each other. We could give the farmers examples how to handle the not easy relation with elephants in a harsh environment, and we could learn even more, the happiness of a simple lifestyle, to value simple things like piece of firewood or just a litre of warm water.

Aid – Though spending half of my life in a developing country, the poverty in this part of Namibia is shocking. Colonialization apartheid has robbed these people one whole century, 100 years without the possibility to develop. Now volunteers and EHRA- staff from all 5 continents work together to improve the life of the local residents.Though tools, financial resources and professional experience are limited, it is impressive what small group of committed people can achieve. Our contribution is small composed to that of big organization, but one wall around a well…mean access of one or more families and their livestock to clean water.- and one possible conflict less between humans and elephants.

Mi Fu (Volker)

China 2013.03.22

Upside down

Upside down

Had an amazing 2 weeks from the moment we left Swakopmund the scenery on the way to base camp was beautiful. I’ve previously visited many African countries, but the landscapes in Namibia are truly unique. The people have a harsh environment & climate in which to fork out a living and yet everywhere there are smiling faces happy with their lives, or so it appears.

Base camp was very well thought out in a wonderful setting.

Build week was tough, but very rewarding. I’m pleased to have played a very small part in the worthwhile cause that is EHRA. We were very lucky in build week to have seen a lot of the elephants, seeing 2 of the 3 herds that roam the region. Although I’ve been lucky enough to have seen wild elephants on numerous occasions, but these of Namibia really are unique. It would be a travesty was the remaining elephants in the region not be allowed to prosper and build their numbers. The more you observe them the more your respect builds.

Thanks to Chris who I thought managed the group very well. He was always willing to answer any questions, most I’m sure he’d been asked of numerous times before. Matteus made the trip a truly memorable one. His jovial personality really, added the atmosphere in the group and it was obvious when tracking the elephants that his knowledge of the area was second to none. Lastly the food on the trip was fantastic and a very welcome bonus from what I was expecting. I won’t hesitate to recommend EHRA to friends looking to help a very worthwhile cause looking for a fantastic experience at the same time.

Mike

22/3/13

Rolling up

Rolling up

Lizzie, March 22, 2013

I can’t believe I’m already writing my final blog. I have been with EHRA for 6 weeks and I can’t believe it’s over! I have had the most amazing time and am so pleased I chose an amazing charity to come and work for. I have heard and seen so many conflicts that EHRA continuously fight for these beautiful elephants. The work you do here as a volunteer is vital to continue to keep the elephants safe and in their true wilderness. Helping the local people to continue co-existing is also vital and I am so proud to say I have been a part of this. With some amazing elephant encounters this week and some very hard work during build week I can safely say this trip has been one of the highlights of my life. Chris is a wonderful leader, Mattias another great tracker (and excellent dancer!) and Courtney who worked tirelessly to keep us all well fed (vegetarians – the food is amazing!) and watered-an amazing team to come and work with! J I will miss them all very much, I have met wonderful people throughout my time here. Lifelong friends and wonderful memories of hard work, lots of laughs and encounters I’m sure are impossible to find anywhere else. Thank you EHRA, I hope you will be blessed with amazing volunteers to continue with your wonderful work! Oh! And thank you elephants for my farewell visit into camp last night. The best night of my life!!!

Group pic



Volunteer Blog 3rd December – 14th December
December 21, 2012, 9:54 am
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This has been an amazing couple of weeks! Build week was a test of strength and wills. Working hard in desert heat, mixing cement and hauling rocks bigger than my head, not to mention the endurance test to withstand dust and sand getting everywhere. Sounds tough, but nothing feels better than finishing up a hard day of work with a bunch of strangers all bound together by a common dirtiness, and enjoying a cider and good conversation.

Looking at the elephants

Looking at the elephants

 

Patrol week was rewarding around every corner. The landscape continuously changing, and pleasing to the eyes while grasping to the land rover for dear life as it went down the desert terrain, always on the lookout  for signs of life. Tracks, nests, poop, then a kudu or an Oryx would catch your eye and captivate you for a few seconds until it ran off.

group photo

group photo

Whenever Mathias would slow down his ride and get out of the truck, we knew it was go time. We climbed a koppie overlooking 10foot tall reeds to view the Ugab herd of elephants. Later we parked in the path of the Huab herd and watched in dead silence as they feasted on branches near 50feet away. Three of these brave ones came right to our vehicle and were so close, I think I could reach but and touch them! They are truly beautiful creatures.

elephant herd

elephant herd

 

We snuck up on a Rhino, observed giraffes, springbok, vultures and jackals. We came across an Oryx carcass recently devoured by a leopard, and even followed lion tracks for a spell.

Passing through the river

Passing through the river

 

This has been a wonderful experience, and the things our guide, Chris whom has a wealth of knowledge taught me about survival and the animals and insects around us will never be forgotten. One big takeaway from this adventure: Elephant poop smells great when you light it on fire, and keeps the flies away!

 

Can’t wait to come back soon!

-         Carrie Rubens

Girls possing

Girls possing

 

14-12-12

 

My 2nd time with EHRA, so what more is there to say except it was wicked! The unique shared purpose makes it great and very rewarding for all ages. All you need is lots of energy and a good sense of humour!

 

Zena Brackenbury

P.S: I am after my 3rd EHRA badge…..

Group photo

Group photo

 

14 Dec 2012

 

What an amazing project this has been to work on.  Build week was one of (I’ve had other good weeks in my life, you know!!!) the hardest, sandiest, dirtiest, hottest yet funnest and entertainiest week of my life.

 

Great people, great learning, great great project.

Car check

Car check

 

Patrol week has been described so well in this book by other volunteers and I can’t really find better words to express what it was like. On the whole, EHRA has given me experience, sights and memories that will stay with me forever. I don’t think I ever felt as free as I did sitting on top of the land rover on the 1st day of patrol week taking in the amazing landscape of Namibia.

Taking photographs

Taking photographs

 

Chris and Mathias in particular are 2 individuals that I will remember very fondly. Whenever things get a little tricky in my life, I’ll think of how simple everything can be if I want them to be, as Chris taught me. And if this fails, I’ll use Mathias’s mantra: “ F.. y.., f… y.., f.. y.., f..ng f…!”

 

Thank you guys. Merci, Gracia Daulee.

 

Elsa, London

Happy girls

Happy girls

 

 

 



Volunteer Blog 19th November – 30th November
December 5, 2012, 9:09 am
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30th November

Henrik Borlinger

Sweden

I’ve been here for 4 weeks now. During my stay here I have seen all kind of animals, like elephants (of course!), cheetahs, giraffes, springbok, oryx and many other animals. While building our wall the weather was hot and the sun was shining. Hard work, but very rewarding! The EHRA staff is service minded and professionals.

It’s been a true pleasure being here and it is something I will remember for the rest of my life!

Tips: Bring a buff-will come in handy more than one time! A hat with a strap that will be on your head even when the wind blows.

Best regards

Henrick Borlinger, Sweden

2012-11-30

 

group
                                                                                               group picture

Mikael   ̊Ulrika

30th November 2012

Thanks for 2 fantastic weeks in Namibia. We’ll miss the good food from the master chef Chris, and off course the nice staff of EHRA.

And could we have any more luck? Perfect weather the first week, we saw all 3 herds, Mamma Afrika, G6 and Ugab small herd and I don’t think anyone would forget the meeting with the majestic Voortrekker!

But don’t forget all the small beauties of Namibia, birds, insects, lizards and the close up with the hanet adder and the zebra cobra that we experienced.

After 2 weeks driving through the dry riverbed, what could be a better ending of a great journey then a cold beer with Leo oon the guitar, sunset and the water starting to fill the riverbed? Fantastic!

With love from Sweden!!!

 

Checking cars

                                                                                        Checking cars

 

30 November 2012

As you get used to desert life, a kind of madness sets in, while you still crave a shower, you very easily forget to brush your hair and you either stop caring what you smell like or you either simply stop being able to smell.

You will learn a lot, work hard, get sweaty and laugh a whole bunch (hopefully not when almost getting charged by an elephant)

You will see things you will never forget, meet people you never could forget and will appreciate a warm beer more than you ever thought possible

Simone George, USA

 

Passing the river
Passing the river

 

30th November 2012

Nice people sweating together to build a wall, elephants so close to me, an amazing landscape – thank you EHRA for 2 unforgettable weeks at the Ugab River. I’ll keep it in my heart!

Susanna Hampel, Germany

 

Seeking shade
Seeking shade

 

We’ve been here for 2 weeks. It was the first time for us in Namibia and we love it! We are very impressed about the beautiful landscape, most of all the elephants. As I saw “sir Voortrekker” that was a really magic moment for me I’ll never forget. A very special thanks to Chris and Mattias, you did a great job!

Thank you very much for this great trip

2012-11-30                Andrea (Dani) and Irene

 

River coming
River coming

So I spent four magical weeks in Damaraland. The elephants came so close to us, it was so great to look at them. Especially sir Voortrekker! The night sky was so amazing and I had a lot of fun with the volunteers and Chris, and Mattias. It was really special to build 2 walls with your own two hands. I enjoyed it a lot! Thank you nature and Namibia for the great experience.

Dario Messina 30-11-2012

 

Sitting around the fire
Sitting around the fire

 

After 2 months in Namibia, I can only say that it’s been a wonderful country with wonderful people. I’ll never get tired of these sunsets and evenings around the fire. These two weeks in EHRA were perfect to end this chapter for me. Leaving this behind makes me sad, but I don’t forget that I’ll carry this with me during my whole life. Thanks to Namibia, and to EHRA, and Chris

Leo (the awesome guy)

November 2012

 

Wet hair
Wet hair

 

Thanks for the great time and the amazing experience! It was an unforgettable two weeks and I learned a lot, thanks to you. Keep up all the hard work and good work so that more people can continue to enjoying the majestic Ugab river life!

Olof Johansson

BTS, November 2012

 



Volunteer trip- 5th November – 16 November 2012
November 20, 2012, 11:40 am
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5th – 16th November

group

Build Week

 

When I got to base camp I was surprised at how homely it felt, which was really nice. We were lucky on our build week, because we were building close to base camp, therefore we got to stay at base camp every night. I found build week very tiring due to the heat, as I wasn’t used to it. However it was very rewarding to see it on the last day. The things I used most on build week were wet wipes, water and sun cream.

busy

On Saturday we had a day off and enjoyed a  relaxing day at camp. It was especially nice up on the platform in the tree as it was hot.

On Sunday we went to the rest camp/lodge in Uis. This was very enjoyable and we got to speak to our family and friends which was very much needed for me. We also had the chance to stock up on goodies for the following patrol week.

builders

Patrol week

I felt that we were extremely lucky on our patrol week as we saw a huge range of animals, including CHEETAHS!!! And giraffes. ‘Foxy’ Chris’s car’s short plug broke and we were stuck for a little while after lunch on the Wednesday which was quite amusing and stressful at times. We found on this patrol week that ‘Benny’ one of the bulls had it in for our car and we had a close encounter with him on the first time we saw him. This was really cool, but a little scary. We saw both the Mamma Afrika herd and G-6 herd which were really cool.

All-in-one this trip was one which will stick with me forever. I met some awesome people and would definitely recommend it to someone in the future.  Thank you EHRA!

 

visitor

08.10.12 – 16.11.12

Ok, the first thing I must say is “WOW”. The time here by EHRA was so cool, great, amazing…..and all the nice words I would ever find in my life. Base camp is so pretty and it’s so the perfect spot to have a camp like this ….. I really love the trees house for sleeping, the nice showers(where you have the best shower in my life after the build week), the kitchen and the fire place with the table with normally shade( I say normally because an elephant broke the branches in the first build week when I was here).  Yeah I must say it’s one of the best places in the world I have ever seen in my life before!!! In these 6 weeks I learned so much. I know now how to build a wall….so cool! I also learned a typical game from Africa, “bokdrol spoeg” means “spit a goat poo”! Yes, I had goat shit in my mouth!!! In all I learned a lot of new stuff about the elephants, nature, stars and black holes(thank you Sam) and a lot of other things. I must say thank you to Hendrick for the nice first build week and over nice walk around base camp, you will be forever my desert brother, Mattias for your gentle nature and for teaching me a little bit in Afrikaans, “baie dankie”!!! Thank you Chris for saving us in the desert, for the fun and for being a good teacher in everything……stars, nature, animals, shit…etc…and also thank you Rachel, Adolf and the rest from the great EHRA team…

See you soon!!!

Liann Walther 15.11.12

heavy building



Volunteer blog – 22nd October – 2nd November 2012
November 20, 2012, 11:11 am
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1st November 2012 Trip

picture

Zoe Lawlor, Notingham (UK)

I had always wanted to come to Africa and EHRA was a great choice. It was really special to be involved in something that was actually making a difference for the local people and elephants. Seeing the elephants in the wild is amazing, having an elephant and her calf walk past a meter away’s experience than can’t be described, plus you get to sleep under the stars, meet some wonderful people and really experience Namibia. It has been better than I could imagine.

Relaxing

Nav Tamna 19/10/2012 – 01/10/2012

After taking part in the innaugrat trek with EHRA in 09/2007, I knew there was something special about EHRA, what it stands for and want to achieve. I raved about EHRA then and having done two volunteer projects (10/2010 and 10/2012) I can truly say I can still rave about EHRA and my time in Namibia.

It’s difficult to put into words what it is like volunteering with EHRA and how exhilarating it is. Possibly the very basic and simplistic way of living, having to only worry about what small amount of items to carry in your possession, sleeping under the star lit African sky, amazing moonrise, sunrise and sunset, the stunning Namibian scenery, and of course the desert elephants.

camp

The build week can only be described as exhausting and tiresome, but so rewarding when you start a new wall or complete a part build wall. This is rewarded by patrol week, particularly when you see Mamma Afrika’s herd, and the mighty Voortrekker. On our very first night we had three sets of elephants pass through base camp, with loud trumpeting, braking ranches and elephants running past. For those volunteers who were up, could only watch motionless on the tree house with the elephants just feet away from them. To spend your time observing the elephants in their habitat, it’s difficult to describe the emotion when privileged enough to have a herd of elephants relaxed enough for you to be in their surroundings. You’re also in the company of like minded volunteers who become your family during your time at EHRA, and friends when you leave. Everyone I have met through EHRA has been great and a privileged to know and meet.

Let’s not forget our guides, whose knowledge, insight and experience is second to none. This, my visit has been a special one as I have enjoyed the company with my son, Sanjiv, this being his first volunteer program, and sure not to be his last. What I can say I, if you come to EHRA with an open mind, this experience will not fail you, you will want to return to EHRA, the desert elephant, and Namibia.

volunteer

Thursday 01/11/2012 and I hate to be back in base camp. Oh, don’t misunderstand me: I love EHRA’s base camp! But since I’m back now it means that I will leave the desert elephant program tomorrow, and I don’t want to leave. I have fallen in love with the desert and its elephants. I’ve fallen in love with the wetlands and its birds and the elephants. Secondly, I have almost fallen in love with Chris, Hendrik and Mattias, even Rachel because they made it possible for me to get to know Namibia, Damaraland, Ugab river and its elephants. For 4 weeks I was their guest and I’m grateful for that. Today I had to say goodbye to the elephants and to the desert and its birds, the wetlands and the mountains. Tomorrow I will have to say goodbye to EHRA’s base camp, to Brandberg and to Uis. The day after: goodbye to all my new friends. Knowing that there’s someone waiting for me at home makes it a little easier, but a piece of my heart will stay here in Ugab riverbed, so once I will have to come back to pick it up.

With Love, Jenneke Ockhuysen 08/10/2012 – 02/11/2012

relaxing



Volunteer Blog 8th October – 19th October
October 25, 2012, 9:27 am
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Janneke

Being at EHRA from 8.10.2012 – 19.10.2012. Coming to Namibia was like coming home. I have been living my dream that I had for so long. Meeting the other members of the group was nice and ii was curious who would be the persons behind the names. 8 woman and 1 man – Lucky for him in camp are only men! We had the briefing on Sunday night 7.10.2012 and afterwards we had dinner near the Beach.

On Monday after shopping for snacks, water and baby wipes, we took off from Villa Wiese at about 13h00 hrs, exiting! After a bumping ride we arrived in base camp around 17h00. Not to forget the remarkable meeting with “the making of Madmax”!!! David said: my vacation is ready yet, I can go home now”. But he hadn’t been in the base camp by than….what a surprise! Great, wonderful, no words enough for it! And the tree house to sleep in is really breathtaking. Meeting Adolf, Hendrik and Mattias. Learning how to make a fire, making beds in the treehouse….almost surreal. After dinner instructions for building week and then to bed early! Waking up at sunrise!

On Tuesday we went to Hendrikfeld/Kairais for construction. Settings up camp, siesta, collecting stones, get us some sand, mixing cement. At 17h00hrs the goats came for a drink, our signal to quit for the day. After dinner a little chats near the fire before sleeping. Tired and dirty we went to sleep, and so we did for the next three days. On Friday we took off early to base, because of a serious reason out there. Rachel was there also and she brought Christopher, our patrol leader for the next week with. He booked us on Sunday “a day out” for a swim, some shopping and souvenirs. We were very pleased.

Patrol week started with a broken car, but since we were driving down the Ugab river near base camp we were near for help, Since Mattias didn’t want to have lunch in base camp, we went off again. At 12h30 we stopped, had lunch under the Ana tree and rested until 14h30. We marched on, went by White Lady Lodge and drove to Brandberg. And there they were the elephants we are searching for. We stopped and try to get them to us. We don’t want them to feel “followed”, we don’t want to make them feel threatened. We just want to observe…….tails and left ears are required for identification. Hundreds of pictures are taken and also of tails and left ears. We saw elephants in the wetlands playing with water and mud, feeding themselves with grass and green leaves. We see elephants with trunks up to reach the fruits out of the Ana tree. We see them in the dry Ugab river, playing with sand. And in the evening we make camp between the two Land cruisers. Eating, sleeping, under the bright stars, waking with sunlight. Looking at elephants is like paradise to me. Sharing this with people I didn’t know before, but who I will never forget.

Thanks to Rachel, special thanks to Hendrick, Mattias and Christopher. I am happy that I am able to stay for another 2 weeks. It will be hard to say goodbye to the others who will go home or travel on. I hope the camp is not too much destroyed by the 2 bulls when we return on Monday 22.10.2012

picture

Fiona

Jenny and I have both done a month with EHRA and the patrol weeks could not have been more different! First patrol, we drove for about 7 hours each day. Travelling a long way was not the most extraordinary terrain. Very rough roads caused a puncture a day (no spares by the end!) and the scenery was just amazing. We did find elephant each day a couple of times not till 5pm. Ultimately we saw each group – G6, Ugab small Mamma Afrika, Bennie, Cheeky and Voortrekker. Best of all was at SRT camp where they had all gathered together – really special. As was the night visit by Bennie as we were woken by splintering of a nearby tree and he coming a within 10 feet and investigating us as all…..

2nd Patrol we were going to stick to the riverbed which sounded rather tamer but only an hour beyond White Lady Lodge, we found a group in the second wetland. Over the next days we saw all the groups, not all together, but had a lot of time to just sit and watch and appreciate the behavior of the adults and babies as they fed, mud baths, drank, sprayed water and pull down branches of trees. So Jenny and I feel very fortunate to have had two build sites with shades for mixing cement, wonderful sunsets, convivial group, fantastic starlit nights (I saw 4 shooting stars), great campsites with steep hills to climb for stunning views, and altogether astonishing experiences.

rocks

Jenny

I cannot add to what Fiona has written. It was an absolutely amazing experience to spend 4 weeks with EHRA – a time I will never forget. One thing I must add is the times we had the visits from the two male elephants who are seasonal visitors to the area. The first time was a Saturday evening just as the tea was ready. The two were eating from the trees by the tree house whilst Mattias continued to mix the pap to go with our chicken moambe! Eventually they left and we enjoyed our meal wishing they had come little earlier. The next visit was on Monday morning at 05h15! One of them broke through the fence and started to eat from one tree house tree. We all lay there and watched as the sun came up. Breakfast was late as those on duty were not able to get up to light the fire – Chris appears at 06h00 and wondered what was going on. It’s a fabulous start to our patrol week.

watching

Jodi

10 Tips for the first – time travelers to sub- Sahara Africa (Namibia) from a New Yorker more accustomed to the noxious odour cubs of NYC than the pleasant scent of Rhino:Poop

1) Don’t be afraid! Yes, there are wild animals everywhere – Remember you’re in the desert. But the moaning cows and noisy goats who wander into base camp mean you no harm, and they truly are more afraid of you than you are of them. Besides if you clap at them, they’ll leave camp quickly.

2)If you must use the loo – there are a lot of buts on this trip, and they’re afraid, don’t go far! Just go close to the tree house or close to the build site and patrol site campsites.

2a) Bring your own small role of toilet paper.

3)Bring many baby wipes! 50 nearly isn’t too many, some of my fellow travelers used even more over 2 weeks.

3a) And don’t forget hydration sachets (electrolyte powder mixes)

4) Consider buying a blanket from PEP or Pick n Pay in Swakopmund before you begin your travels. Even if you have a warm sleeping bag, a blanket (fleece or even acrylic) can ward  off the morning dew.

5) Vary your clothing. Bring a good mix of tank tops or quick dry long sleeve shirts. You’ll be hot. You’ll be cold. You’ll be everything in between. In early morning to mid-October, we had a good mix of temperatures, though the nights were generally warmer rather than colder.

5a) Don’t bring any clothing you love because chances are that dirt you earn will be hard to permanently shake. But Ellen does a remarkable job of getting most items clean between build and patrol weeks. Ellen visits base camp to do laundry between your 2 weeks; you can buy a large box of detergent for the whole group in Swakopmund.

6) Wear neutral-colored clothing. No neon blue, red, orange. Even white and black should be avoided because all can disturb the elephants. Personal note: I found them majestic and almost mythical. Of course they’re real, but they’re gentle giants and fascinating – and just wait and see – you’ll get the picture.

7) Bring a scarf – again a neutral colored item, to protect your eyes and mouth from the considerable wind you’ll encounter on the road.

8) Save enough apples for apple crumble between your 2 weeks. It’s delicious, but you’ll need less margarine, than the recipe calls for.

9) If Chris is with you ask him to play two truths and a lie with you. It’s fun, late around the camp fire.

10) Expect the unexpected and roll with it. Tires will blow and will get in your eyes. An elephant may even tap your vehicles windshield with his trunk. It’s all part of the beauty and charm of the journey. You never know what’s coming at any time in life, but you’re in good hands with EHRA.

Jodi Lee Reifer

New York, USA

18 October 2012

P.S.: Rhino poop really smell good!

And elephant poop too.

P.P.S. Burn the elephant poo to keep away the Mopani bees.

rockclimbing

Holly Hammill

Before I came to EHRA a well-travelled friend told me:” If you want to see desert elephants, Damaraland is the place to go” and EHRA are the experts….

My 2 week trip was beyond all expectations. In the first week we built a wall to protect a farmer’s generator. Farmer apply to have an EHRA wall built and the hard labor (and it is hard in the heat) really makes a difference. Build week was a fantastic experience in itself, but the best was yet to come.

The second week was spent on patrol. There are 3 herds in the area and we managed to see all of them. Sitting on top of a land cruiser, watching a herd in its natural habitat was one of the greatest experiences of my life. We got unbelievably close to the elephants and they were unsuspected carrying on with their daily business. They were almost hypnotic to watch – always moving, but ever so gently and slowly, and making no sound other than the ripping crack of branches. We were fortunate enough to also have an early morning wakeup call from two bulls breaking into camp as we slept in the tree house. An unforgettable experience.

I leave EHRA base camp with a heavy heart. This place is incredible and I will remember it fondly and often!

Below is a link to Holly’s picture slideshow that she has put together! Beautiful pics Holly!



Volunteer blog 24th September – 5th October 2012
October 18, 2012, 8:38 am
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October 4 2012 Build Week

Going into build week, none of us knew exactly what to expect. We showed up at our build site to find a wall partially built by the volunteer group before us. It seemed like a small addition that we needed to complete, but once we got started, we realized how much work it is to build the rest of the wall. We were lucky to have some large rocks left over from the week before us, but we were introduced to the work of wall building by going on a sand run to shovel sand into the back of the trailer for the beginnings of cement mixing. After a short lesson in cement mixing from Mattias, we quickly became familiar with the shatings of “more mix, more mix” from Mattias. Once we became comfortable with our group( which happened quickly), we yelled back. “more build, more build”!

ehra group

It was interesting to see how our perspectives changed throughout the week. When we first started picking stones for the wall, our “baby” stones cuhat  Mattias and Hendrick called small stones were tiny and we thought all big stones were nearly large to carry. As the week went on, our idea of “baby” stones became larger and larger. By the end of the week, we had four sizes of stones that we collected: small, medium, large, and Mattias. “Mattias stones” being stones that only Mattias could lift.

We learned different ways to build the wall from Mattias and Hendric. Mattias appreciated an orderly wall while Hendric liked to build a “funny” wall with a bit more creativity in stone placement and stone sticking out in every which way. Both were good teachers and all of us fell into our place whether it was building the wall, becoming expert cement mixers, gathering water or collecting stones.

girls

Other talents also came at through the week, whether it was starting a perfect fire, making a delicious cup of coffee, or chasing away the local cat from our campsite. Our saying all week was, “we want to be at the base camp on Friday!” Meaning that we wanted to finish the wall early enough to enjoy the tree house at base camp that we so much enjoyed.

adolf helping

October 4, 2012 – Patrol week

Our break between weeks at the base camp provided us with valuable knowledge that served us well during patrol week. Hendric led us on a “survival walk” where we learned how to follow a guide and how to find water and civilization if left in the desert. We were all hopeful about seeing elephants and asked Hendric about the chances of us seeing elephants on patrol. Hendric replied, “you will see elephants unless you close your eyes”!

watching

Patrol on Monday led us to the wetlands where the Huab small herd walked right past us. An entire day of driving (and car surfing-standing up in the truck for a great view around you, just look at far trees!), our last minute find was the G6 herd. Mattias run up on the sand to assess the situation before we all headed up to look, and when we initially tried to follow, he turned and said, “you do not go, I die first.”Luckily we had a beautiful view of the G6 herd as a reward for an entire day of driving.

g6

It was getting late and we were a bit tired when we got to the camp, so we hurried up to eat and head to bed. The starry sky was amazing above us, and if you looked closely enough? (and got lucky!), you could see a shooting star. We all fell asleep content with seeing the G6 herd.

shower

Around midnight, a loud crunching, snapping noise was echoing in the mountain valley around us. Most of us slowly woke up to the sounds around us, and each of us either rolled over to try to go back to sleep, or looked up to find an elephant chomping on a tree about ten meters from us. One of the first rules of elephant viewing is to not wake up anyone who is sleeping because you never know how they might wake up. One of our members was trying to sleep with ear plugs and a face mask, so when she was given a shake to wake up, she thought something was trying to crawl into her sleeping bag, leading her to wake up with a squeal that nearly terrified all of us. The elephant took a quick look in our direction then went right back to his midnight snack. We thought we were in the clear as he began to walk away from camp, but he turned towards us. Loud whispering came from across the sleeping bags with everyone “yelling”, “stay still! Don’t move!” He looked in our direction and took a few steps towards us which led us all to consider our escape plan for if the elephant came any closer. Some of us planned to stay still, some considered making a run for it, others decided everyman for himself and throw others in front of them, and others fell right asleep. Our moment of terror was relieved when he peed and pooped right in front of us before going on his way. He apparently hadn’t had enough of us since he came back for a yarn snack of bark which woke up less of us. But left us much more comfortable with his presence. We learned in the morning that it was Voortrekker, one of the bulls, who came for a visit.

bull

Our tracking was complete the next day when we got close enough to almost see both G6 and Mamma Afrika herds together. A walking journey got us close, but not close enough, so we turned around to head back to the trucks. Mattias was in front to lead us back, but we didn’t get far before he turned around as signaled for us to more (quickly!) in the direction someone asked what was going on and he said, “ I’ll tell you later, go!” and signaled towards the bush and rock. We ran through some prickly bushes and climbed up on the rocks, turning around to watch Bennie, a bull walked along towards the herds. Unsure if the path was safe, we got another adventure into our trip as we did some rock climbing before realizing that our path would be impossible. A simple walk back in the sand led us to our tracks.

Our patrol journey was completed with a visit by three bulls and the G6 and Mamma Afrika herds visiting us at the Save the Rhino Trust camp. Voortrekker gave us another scare as he walked right next to our tracks leading to more yelled and whispers of, “don’t move! Don’t move!” from Adolf. He was merely on his way to water before heading along with the other bulls. A shin wait later, both G6 and Mamma Afrika passed us, letting us get a good look at the little babies learning to use their trunks – both sticking them straight out while flopping their ears and getting it stuck in their mouths.

On Thursday we were more than satisfied with our elephant patrol and looked forward to a trip back to the base camp with showers that awaited us. About an hour into our trip, one of the trucks sputtered to a stop. After some tinkering under the hood, we realized that we had run out of fuel in one of the trucks.  With us 60km away, we had to go into survival mode using medication from what Hendric had taught us earlier. We used the satellite phone to call Rachel to help make a plan. One truck set off for Uis while the rest of us set up a roadside camp, making a fire for coffee and tea and setting up a tarp for shade from the hot sun. Five hours, one lunch, and one scorpion later, the other truck returned having run out of gas themselves about 10km from Uis.  They came bearing gifts of cool beverages and chips, which were very welcomed and appreciated after our time in the sun. We were definitely ready to head back to the base camp. A long, bumpy scenic drive back gave us our final taste patrol driving in the African desert and a fantastic view of the sunset behind the Brandberg Mountain.

small

It’s been amazing two weeks that flew by faster than we wished it would. The teamwork on build week and elephants in patrol week, with laughter around the fire. All the time and shavers at base camp at the end of the weeks made for a wonderful 2 weeks that none of us will ever forget. Thank you EHRA

cows



Volunteer blog by Manda Foo 27 August – 7 September 2012
September 10, 2012, 3:14 pm
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27 August 2012 Build week Manda Foo

Volunteer group in Namibia

Volunteer group with their huge wall! well done

We arrived at base camp at 5pm when the afternoon sun bathed our treehouse, the stone domes and the harsh red rocks across the dry river bed.  With only leaves and the night sky overhead we shared our first dinner together and got acquainted with the weeks routine.  The moon came out and slept with us all week.

Volunteers working on wall in Namibia

Go Ed!

Our task for the week was to build a four sided wall to protect a water source on a farm.  Among us we mixed cement and sand, collected rocks from a nearby defunct wall and sand from the riverbed.  Rock run, sand run and more mix became the punctuating cues of our building task – everyone resigned quickly to being in a dusty and crusty state.  That’s a euphemism, we were filthy.

Volunteers working hard

More mix more mix

Volunteers sand collecting

More sand more sand!

The work is hard and mainly done in the punishing sun, but it is wonderful to be out here.  We are fed and entertained well enough – the starry sky is a fine shelter at night.  While I squeeze yoga in the afternoons, others siesta.  The morning vinyasa sessions are my favourite time of the day, despite it being cold and my fingers and toes freezing in the sand.

Lovely Mattias in his new car

Mattias from EHRA in his new car, what a beauty!

Protection wall

Nearly done!

We finished the wall on Friday afternoon.  We packed up smiling and turned back to camp which became strangely familiar in such a short time.  On breakfast duty on the fifth day, a chilly Saturday morning, I sat in the dark after having started the fire and listened patiently to the kettle whistle.  Those last frozen minutes before morning turned up on the horizon arrested me and brought me into the present moment: in the Namibian desert.  I love mornings.

Stuck in sand

The poor Quantum is not a 4 x 4!!

3 September 2012 Patrol Week

Elephants: We had some close encounters with them.  Day 2 on patrol was when we found a herd chomping on tree branches and leaves noisily.  All ages mingled; the bigger elephants took up protective stances and stared, then realised we were just gawking humans and resumed foraging.  The youthful bulls played with their trunks entwined.  A couple of curious ones came extremely close to our land cruisers and one stroked a sizzling bonnet with its trunk.

Desert elephant

Medusa, not so mean this time!

The babies tottered about and tumbled in the sand, lying down at any chance.  They would dig their trunks inquisitively around the sand or reach up towards the depleting tree branches.  We stared in awe for an hour or so at the creases among their tough grey skin, their shy and curious eyes, and their flapping ears.

Baby desert elephant

Mama Afrika’s baby Saskia! too cute!

Baby desert elephant

Ears a flappin!

youg desert elephant namibia

Not too sure about what the trunk is for………..

On our drives we also saw giraffes, ostriches, oryx, spingboks and mountain zebras.  And one leopard fish vulture.  There is an immense and primordial freedom about driving through the wide and wild landscapes.

Giraffe

Giraffe in Doros Crater area

A few mishaps occurred – like several breakdowns and Gemma falling off the top of the truck.  Easily gotten over when we fall asleep with the milky way’s shimmery arm above us.  This evening, as with all evenings out here, the crew crowd around the fire.  The smoke and jokes get carried by the wind, as does Laura’s contagious cackling.

This group is good and laughs a lot, we are a travelling circus troop chasing the wild heart of life.

Volunteer group on patrol

The circus troop



Volunteer Blog – 30th July – 10th August
August 14, 2012, 10:32 am
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Week 1 Build Week by Nicola

Our project was a part built wall around 2 water tanks.  We didn’t get much done on the first day but then life soon settled into more mix more mix more stones more stones more mix more sand more mix!  We had a little excitement added when the trailer broke and getting stuck in the river bed collecting sand but were determined to finish the wall in our week.  There were only 8 volunteers but we worked well as a team and would have finished if we didn’t run out of cement! (there are only a few stones that need to be laid!)

Unused to the manual work I was tired but proud and pleased with what we achieved.  Glad I managed to buy some heavy-duty gloves in Swakopmund before heading off though!  We all wore the same clothes all week as they get so dirty, don’t bring many clothes for building or patrol week as there aren’t showers, just lots of baby wipes!!!

Busy

Week 2 Patrol Work

Base camp has a lovely tree house to sleep in and it was good to be back, and if that wasn’t enough we had two bull elephants pass by camp before we’d headed on patrol! Later we were whisked down the road to see Mama Afrikas herd, G6 herd and Voortrekker was with them.  It was lovely to see the herd interacting together  WE set off on patrol with the feeling we’d been very lucky already, especially since the 2 bulls had passed so close to camp that Bennie could have out his trunk into the tree house!  We’d not been out that long when Mattias found some fresh tracks and we caught up with a lone bull.  In the afternoon we found herd H1 and spent a while watching them from a distance.  The highlight was the 2nd day though.  After a cold, misty night we were a bit miserable but we all perked up when we found herd H1 and H2 and spent time observing both.  The baby calves were funny to watch, how they reached into the mothers mouths to take food, trying to feed themselves and swinging their trunks, seeing what they could do with them!  H2 was so relaxed the babies were allowed to wander some way off by themselves.  Although you could see the elephants taking in our scent they didn’t seem the least bit bothered we were there as they pulled down branches and continued to eat.

Elephants

After lunch we headed out and again it wasn’t long before we saw herds H1 and H2 again heading towards us across the plains.  What a magnificent sight, over 20 elephants steadily making their way towards us.  WE travelled across the plain with them stopping ahead of them watching them go past, getting ahead and again watching them pass us until we were almost upon the water point.  As we stopped one time two elephants decided to go behind rather than in front of the truck and the first had her baby with her.  I hardly dared breath as I could have virtually reached out of the truck to touch them.  It is incredible how little noise they make as so many elephants headed towards the water.  There was a bit of jostling and one loud trumpeting as their trunks were thrown over the side of the water tank to reach the water.  Some of the elephants came to look at us from a distance but again were nonplussed by us being there.  I’ll never forget such a fantastic day as long as I live feel so very lucky!! The highlight of my trip!!! (so far Nicky has another 2 weeks to go!)

walking by the car

Patrol Week Jesse, 32 from Australia

We haven’t yet finished our patrol week and it has already been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  We’ve seen four herds of elephants (including Mama Afrika) and some lone bulls.  To see H1 and H2 stride together along the plain was breathtaking and seeing the babies interact was really moving.  On top of this our excellent EHRA guides have been able to show us Zebra, Giraffe, Springbok, Kudu and a Black Rhino!!!!

Working hard during build week has been worth it, we got to do something that makes a difference and now Namibia is putting on a show for us!  The weather has been great, though some night s little chilly and the food and sleeping arrangements better than I hoped.  With one more day of patrol and 2 more weeks for me I wonder what else we get to experience!!!

building

Advise to volunteers from Liz Flight, UK

Build week

Essential – work gloves, sensible shoes, wet wipes (lots) sun cream, strong work ethic, head torch!

Patrol week

Essential – warm sleeping gear, head torch, wet wipes, no change of clothes needed! Good camera

Luxury items I wish I had – hot water bottle, cafetière for proper coffee, flask so I could take hot tea on patrol in the mornings!

Don’t worry about bringing lots of clothes, you get so dirty on build week and there is no way to shower so its best just to keep one set of clothes to ruin!

Everyone has to have a go at cooking for the group but if you’re not Jamie Oliver in the kitchen don’t panic the recipes are fool-proof! You can’t go wrong!

NOTE to Rachel – Please can you produce an EHRA cook book for us to buy along with the T-shirts!

The guides do an AMAZING job so be sure to look after them if you buy yourself a coke, remember to get them one too!

There are a few shops in between patrol and build week so take money with you.  Also its nice to try to spend money in the small communities you pass through!

What I wish I had known – A lady comes to wash your clothes on the Saturday between the two weeks, she charges N$25 per bag of clothing.  Be generous and give her more money if you can afford, she does a great job!

REMEMBER – build week is very hard work and its essential you pull together as a team to get the job done.  Patrol week is your reward for a good job done.  Both weeks will provide you with amazing memories to last a life time!

picture



Volunteer blog – 18th – 29th June 2012

Volunteer blog by Saskia 

Namibia

I have just finished three months with EHRA and cannot imagine going home and leaving this place. I was also here for a month last year as a volunteer, and was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to come back as EHRA’s volunteer assistant, something I highly recommend to all past volunteers.

relaxing

The two weeks just gone was my last trip, so I felt a bittersweet mix of emotions—excitement to be back out in the bush and grim preparation to leave base camp and say my goodbyes. Still, it was an amazing trip. On build week we made fantastic progress finishing a monster wall that we had started on the trip before, and even having a whole extra day spare to begin the next one. I won’t lie, build week is hard, dirty work but always fun and highly enjoyable. Basic living and manual labour must do something for the soul, enhanced further by working alongside some truly great, diverse and interesting people. I love the fact that a single common passion can bring together such different people from such different worlds, and build week is where discovery of peoples’ stories, strengths and senses of humour really happens.

ellies

Cooking and eating around a campfire each night never loses its charm, nor does lying in a sleeping bag under a blanket of African stars that need to be seen to be believed. Shooting stars are no rarity here either, and you’re likely to lose count as you drift off to sleep. Being woken up the next morning with a hot cup of tea in bed, brought to you by fellow volunteers on breakfast duty bookends a perfect sleep—and is undoubtedly now my favourite way to wake up.

hard work

The weekend is spent at EHRA’s beautiful and nothing short of amazing base camp. And as if that is not reward enough for back-breaking build week efforts (a shower in the stunning clay-walled showers set in the side of a rocky hill at base camp is all the reward I need!) Monday morning sees us setting off to track elephants and camp in the wild for four days.

all smiles

We were lucky this past patrol week to have both EHRA’s genius trackers with us and we were soaked with information about the bush, plants and wildlife and the techniques used to track the giants we are all here for. After a morning following a trail of fresh dung (demonstration of which is always a laugh!) and impressively massive fresh tracks we found the bravely small ‘Ugab small’ herd, just three adult cows strong with a two-year-old juvenile in tow, with Cheeky the bull never far away this week either. On our final day of patrol we were treated to the sight of Mama Afrika herd—14 adults strong, with three tiny babies all born in past 12 weeks— heading down the dry Ugab River bed towards us.

working

There are so many unforgettable moments to experience on an EHRA trip; combine them all and it is easy to see why so many volunteers, me included, will say without hesitation that volunteering with  EHRA is life-changing. The bush, the people, the elephants and the sense of self that I have discovered here will remain with me for life. And I know that while I may have had to say my goodbyes this time, I will definitely be back.

elephant




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