Volunteer trip-2nd November – 13th November 2015

2nd November group pic.jpgIt is only the second day of my adventure with EHRA, but I already know that this experience will be the best of my life.

The people are amazing, the staff is wonderful and the landscapes are speechless. If one person tries this foundation they would understand what a dream I am actually living in.
Gabriel Tasso, 03/11/2015

Elephants underneath a tree

Its Swiss and German simples!!!
Dr Rajesh Dasi
We start the day in bed, with coffee which I obviously want to drink. Building a wall seems simple but collecting the heavy rocks is not as easy, especially in the African sun. However it made me realize how we take things for granted. It also opened a window to experience the life people in Africa live, especially when it’s very hot and there is only little water (because I didn’t get the opportunity to take shower in 3 days)
It’s good to experience why everything in Africa is Hakuna matata(no problems) when the vehicle broke, our popular Adolf drove back to drove back to the base camp to get parts and fixed it all on the same day

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10/11/2015
Today was our second day of patrol and much better once we got rid of the French film crew. So far we’ve seen elephants on both patrol days and it has been AMAZING! Yesterday afternoon we saw Tsaurab, one of the bulls in one herd. He was so close we heard the water sloshing as he was drinking!
So far the trip has been brilliant with a great group of people, although a bit much some of the time!!! Waking up as the sun rises with tea and going to bed under the stars is beautiful.
This afternoon we went to find the herd again because one of the babies had fallen in a septic tank. Thankfully it was on-probably just a bit smelly. We tracked the herd for a while. I watched them wander off to find more water with the Brandberg Mountain as the background. It was so beautiful! This trip has been such an awesome experience. I wish I could stay for longer but I will definitely be back.
Hannah Hartman, 21, England

Elephants crossing the road

10/11/2015
I expected to see stunning landscapes. And yes, I did.
I expected to work pretty hard. And it was actually even harder than I expected it to be, but I liked it.
I expected to track wildlife and have the time to observe elephants in the desert, and yes we did. And with a guide like Chris, you get answers to questions you never dared to ask.
What I honestly did not expect is that this is also a stunning wild and interesting experience in sharing time (27/7) with people who were total strangers only 10 days ago. You eat with them, cook with them, sleep next to them and get to know them in a way that usually takes weeks or months – here it all happens within a couple days.
Tina

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11/11/2015
Alison Van Der Linden (“Sheila”)

Today is Wednesday of “patrol week”. We got up early to head out and drove for 6+ hours to get to our final campsite – seeing kudu, oryx, Meerkat and herds of Zebra on the way. (Sadly no elephants or Rhino today – yet) Incredible changing landscapes kept us occupied the rest of the day.
Yesterday near the White lady lodge we saw and tracked the “Mama Africa” herd, which had just had a scare when one of the young calves had fallen into a drain. After finding and following the herd we determined that it was okay and back with the herd.(Thank goodness!)
I’ve really enjoyed my time with EHRA thus far. I wasn’t really sure what to expect coming from Australia, much of the info I received beforehand was second hand. I was a little worried about the heat, working outside and also being much older than the other participants (i.e. /not being able to relate to each other). But the experience has been amazing and exceeded all explanations! The work was hard (physical) and it was hot – but I could have expected that. The group has been a blast – a real mix of ages, gender and nationalities, including the hilarious “swiss boys” on their gap year. Between us we’ve stayed motivated during build week and comradely in patrol week. Hopefully I’ve made some lifelong friends (Chris included,haha) and made a difference to the Desert elephant population in Namibia!!

Thank you EHRA for all the wonderful, positive work that do and our GRAP/Project leaders Chris and Donna (Doner))
Keep up the fantastic work!
(I’m still threatening to send my parents over to do the program soon)
Ali(Alison) van Der Linden
From Dubbo, Australia

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It is the last night of my second patrol week. Having been with EHRA for almost four weeks now, I have had the pleasure of sharing many great memories with lovely people from all around the world. Living out in nature for such a long time must have been the best thing I have done. So far every single time someone spots an animal I still get a rush of excitement , it is wonderful to see so many different animals in their habitat and being “allowed “to stay close by – especially with the Elephants.

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I think the most important thing I have learned out here thus far was respect. Respect for nature, animals and more. Seeing the herd with the calf that had an “accident” showed me that as a human you might want to get in between, see how it is doing, help it and care for it. But as a fact it is not always necessary or needed. We should respect the ways of nature, boundaries that are existing between humans and elephants. Leaving that and appreciating it, I guess that is what EHRA is about. It’s the relation and not the relationship which should be protected for a good existence.
Sorry, going too deep….again! Loving it! Loving halftime 4 more weeks to go!
Sophia Kappus

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Volunteer blog – 19th October – 30th October 2015

(The …… are words Rachel and Victro in the office cannot read from the blog!! If you wrote them please email and let us know!!!)

Volunteer group photo
Hello, Hi!
What a day! 3 elephant bulls(Voortrekker included) , 15000 year old wall painting and a wonderful trip through the ever-changing landscape of Damaraland. It is wonderful to know that you can share an epic time with people that you have met just a few days earlier – maybe a week ago but still sharing laughs, memories, Gin and Tonics and Marshmallows. Sorry for breaking your perfect stick….sharing the ….aerodynamic super chairs, the lovely Texan ….brought along, it has been a great day.

Volunteer pouring cement on rocks
Having enjoyed a beef curry in the moonlight – one day till full moon – and wondering if we might be visited by elephants tonight are just a few things I’ll fondly look back on when I’m back home remembering the first day of patrol week.
It strikes me with excitement to share this trip with a great group of people. Always keeping each other updated of things to see along the way, thinking of funny car games and sharing some awesome snacks while sleeping in the midday sun!
Day 1 of Patrol week – Great start! Looking forward to Day 2, more elephants, more ostriches and maybe one or two giraffes.
Sophia

Volunteers resting

Tuesday, Lunchtime on patrol in the Ugab River. We have just watched a big bull elephant meander away from us, 100 yards to our right. I claimed him as “my elephant” – the first I spotted before Chris said “There’s an elephant”. Maybe I’m beginning to get me eye in.
Lunch, again, is cheese, ham, jam, peanut butter. You learn to make one slice at a time or the sandwich dries in your hand as you eat. The crusts are nearly toasted within 10 minutes.

Volunteers preparing for wall building
Today’s pee stop is the big camel-thorn about 30 yards to the left. We cannot use the denser bush in front of us as there is a young bull we passed a few hundred yards further down. He may decide to follow the old bull into the bush so we stay clear. We cannot use the denser bush behind us as there may be elephants there too. We have already seen how half a dozen elephants can disappear behind one dense patch. That would be a big surprise for a pee stop!
I find these rules comforting. Mattias and Chris know what they’re doing. I feel safe and so privileged. And yet not so privileged – proud that I worked last week in searing temperatures, building those walls. This is a small piece of heaven and I am so happy I took the plunge to be here.
Rachel

Volunteers collecting rocks

YEBOOOOO! Had an awesome week with crazy Germans and a lot of mommy’s 
I want to come back! Braaing sausages with Chris!
A camp in the middle of the desert. How could I describe this week. A guide, who is more than crazy, a group, which gets messed up! Love it  What should be so nice to stay without wifi, electricity, and often to go to bed soaked with sweat!
I don’t know. I cannot say why it is so fascinating, but it was very nice because you have the feeling to help people.

Lucas

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Volunteer Blog – 5th October – 16th October 2015

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12/10/2015
Danyn Patel

Woke up at Base camp fairly early, and after eating breakfast, and packing cars, we set off for my first patrol day. After a long, and cold drive to Aba Huab, and Huab we had lunch, followed by a short game of cards, then a siesta in the shade.
After the siesta we followed the river bed down to the elephants, during which time we saw Oryx, springbok and kudus. We eventually reached a small group of four elephants and parked the car nearby. The elephants approached us and walked by the cars. The elephants then moved on peacefully. We continued to follow, before finding another group of elephants in the river bed. After a few pictures, we headed off to find a place to camp.

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Our campsite was between two hills on some dunes. We collected some firewood, then set up camp. Me and a couple of others then climbed to the top of the adjacent hill. Dinner was soon prepared, spaghetti carbonara. This was a great end to a great patrol day. For the remainder of the evening we sat around the campfire, then went to sleep.

P.S. The schwaffle by the elephant was an experience I will never forget.

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Volunteer Blog – 10 – 21 August 2015

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EHRA means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

To some, EHRA is seeing elephants up close; feeling their earthy breath on your skin; feeling a connection with these magnificent animals; feeling humble in the presence of these silent giants.

To some, EHRA is sleeping under the stars; cooking over an open fire; driving through vast and empty landscapes.

To some, EHRA is building a wall; working hand in hand with the local farmers; making a difference, however small in may be.

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To me, EHRA is Chris. And I hope you get the chance to meet him. Chris has been managing the EHRA-camp for the last four years. He will be the one greeting you with a cheeky smile on Sunday night, telling you what to expect in the next two weeks. He will be the one to welcome you to Base Camp, his current home in the desert. He will be the one to cook with you and built with you; and he will be the one to share his stories around the fire. Chris will be the one who is always happy to share his knowledge and who is eager to learn about yours. The one to make you laugh telling bad jokes and trying to speak German (…simply add „-en“ at the end of every word – that’s German!). Chris is the one to take you to the elephants and to make you understand what these animals are all about. In so many ways Chris is EHRA and I cannot imagine what this place would be without him.

So, I hope you get the chance to meet Chris. And by the time you leave Base Camp you will feel that you have met a truly good and humble young man. And that you have made a friend for life.

…Or maybe that’s just me.

Gesa

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Volunteer blog – 27th July – 7th August 2015

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Hi my name is Ricky and I am a 6 weeks old baby elephant. Last week I flew over Damaraland for the 1st time in my life! Here is my story:

I was with the herd and we went drinking on a farm. It was very dark and quiet. Suddenly a stampede started and I ran after my mom. I could hear humans making noises and I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I somehow got separated from the herd. They were on the other side of the fence. My mom stayed back but eventually left. Being her first calf she chose the security of the herd. I was alone and lost!

Elephants standingOn Monday morning the Quantum was not ready and we were trying to fit all the volunteers in Rachel’s, Colin’s and Hendricks’s car to bring them up to base camp. Adding to the stress of not having the mini bus at the beginning of the trip, Joe received pictures of a baby elephant that had been separated from its herd on a farm in the Kamanjab area. Nobody knew where its herd was and the little elephant had been on its own for two nights.

Phone calls were made and people were trying to make a plan. Axel from SRT , having done work for the MET as a vet went there and looked after the little one for a day. The baby was later looked after by somebody from a nearby lodge after he left.

Feeding timeIt is on Tuesday morning that the EHRA team headed off with the two 4 by 4’s, not to go build a wall but with the mission of finding the herd the baby elephant belongs to! After 4 days of tracking the herd in very rough terrain the volunteers went back to the camp to carry on with the normal schedule of the trip. On Friday afternoon Axel and I got to the farm where the baby was. We arrived at night and upon our arrival we discover that the baby was lying on the ground, very sick with an infection and had difficulty breathing.

on the way to the carThe farm owner called Frank and all his family, with the help of Colin and Doc Betsy Fox had packed hay for the calf to rest on and had put some warm blanket over it. The vet immediately put a drip on the elephant’s ear and started to rehydrate it. After a few hours he switched to a glucose solution to boost it and 30 minutes later it was back on its legs, so we loaded it at the back of a car and drove it to the farm where it spent the night. A horse stable had been accommodated for it and a small kraal built in front of it in case the small one wanted to go for a walk. The environment was more suitable for the young elephant and if it was not for the help of Axel and the people we met that night , it would have been dead the same evening .

on a dripKnowing that now the elephant was safe and rehydrated, we all went in the house and stood by the fire and went on a Heineken drip to rehydrate ourselves after a long evening!
The next morning we woke up and walked Ricky in the sun to warm up and he really enjoyed it but was so weak we had to carry him back inside with the help of a blanket under his belly. Frank offered to fly Ricky to another lodge where 4 young elephants had been hand raised and lived in a small compound under the supervision of a very reputable vet. So here we put the baby once more on drips to get it up and strong enough to make it through the 20 minutes flight to its new home. We landed while a car was chasing 2 gemsbok and a blesbok off the airstrip and the baby was driven to the compound where 4 very inquisitive young elephants where waiting, waving their trunks in the air trying to get a sniff of the newcomer.

baby ele in the planeJust after we arrived an elephant milk substitute was mixed for the baby and it swallowed 3 liters of it! It was very tired and very thirsty! It now was in the best of hands and had the best chances of surviving. A caretaker would now spend all of its time with it and the baby would be fed the right food and have the affection it needed.

We all flew back to the Garubib farm and soon a fire was lit and dinner was on its way. We all sat outside exhausted by another long day in the bush. We were all put on a Gin and tonic drip which we all needed. We all enjoyed dinner and shared past experiences in the bush while sitting under the light of paraffin lamps! The only thing we inevitably ended up talking about was the exciting adventure we had been part of, and most importantly all the amazing people that had been part of it. We all worked towards the same goal and did it in the best way we could. We had the right people with the right attitude.

everybody in the planeI would like to thank all the people that have been involved in the rescue for their hospitality, generosity, knowledge on the subject and the positive energy that emanated from everybody!
I am very sad to announce to everybody that on Sunday afternoon the baby died, in the compound it was at. We were all so hopeful because the baby seemed to be fine and after all the mountains we moved to make it happen we were only thinking about its survival. Effectively hand raising baby elephants is really difficult and we gave that little one the best chance it had! We are all affected by the death of Ricky but it is only nature!
Nonetheless it was a very positive experience, because we will make sure that in the future, infrastructures are in place to deal with such situation and protocols are followed to be as quick and effective as we can. Should I also mention the nice people we met and good contacts we have made!

Chris

2015 08 09

Take off

Volunteer Blog 13th – 24th July 2015

Volunteer group photoSome “Geezer” made me write something so here’s my take on EHRA. In this modern day and age we all live such fast paced non-stop lives surrounded by social media and an electronic buzz. Too often find I find we take things for granted and very easily forget our natural roots. EHRA is the perfect place for human kind to return to his natural environment. There is something so special about seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat. No fences or glass or screens between you and it, just absolute faith in your guides. The sense of what one feels when seeing these desert elephants up close is hard to describe. What I can say is that EHRA as an organization gives you a release from the hype of modern day society and really step back to a time when man and nature live side by side and for that I will forever be grateful.
#neverstopexploring
Rob, Scotland

Happy volunteers23rd July
I never thought base camp would feel luxurious, but after a week on patrol it almost feels like home. No, in all honesty patrol week was one of the best weeks I have ever experienced. We travelled for nearly all day on the first day without seems anything and I was beginning to feel that this was all a hoax and someone had some fun with a frying pan to create footprints. But not too long after lunch we ran into my first ever elephant, grazing in the riverbank. He was soon joined by the rest of Mamma Afrika’s herd including 2 calves.
Everyone can easily visualize an elephant and has seen them on T.V regularly, but nothing compares to seeing them for real. Their great size is so impressive and reminds you that not too long ago they would have set snuggly into a landscape of mega fauna. Just seeing their skin wrinkle and crack as their huge muscles heave their mighty bulk from pace to pace is mesmerising. I loved watching them manoeuvre their trunks so intricately to eat branches even though they could just trample down a whole tree for no reason, it seemed. Their trunks seem so much more useful than an arm or hand as these are so many more combinations of movements.

Volunteers carrying cementWhen you looked into their eyes you knew someone was home, analyzing you in return. It was endearing watching them interact with each other. On the second day one of the younger males mock charged the truck and a female next to him put her trunk across him as if to reassure him or tell him not to do it again. I am looking forward to another week of observation so I can see more behaviour.
After we had seen all the elephants we went into rhino and giraffe territory in hope of seeing one. After a whole day of teasing footprints but no animals I lost hope of seeing anything, particularly when we woke up to heavy fog. Miraculously after only a few minutes we saw a giraffe and her baby. I was so happy to see them. In fact I enjoyed watching them as much as the elephants. I was content with this sighting and as I settled into another few hours of no animals, 2 more giraffes walked past us! I could not believe how lucky we were to see 4 giraffes when Rob shouted – Rhino! – No Way! We jumped out and walked over the hill and managed to glimpse it running away. I felt like the luckiest person ever. I couldn’t believe we saw so much in one morning after a day of seeing nothing. Another giraffe topped our patrol as one of the best weeks of my life. My journey of sighting African wildlife has got off to an amazing start!
Clemmie, 22 From the New Forest in Hampshire, U

Volunteers mixing cementSome random thoughts and suggestions:
– “Be guided” + “Be careful”
– At night if you have to kill-a-snake(go for a pee) don’t wait until you have to sprint, always walk slowly.
– Bring thermals, woollen gloves, down jacket, woollen hats –Africa in July is very cold
– Bring lots of treats on patrol week, chocolate, biscuits, fruit sticks as you get hungry sitting and watching
– Choose your rocks wisely – Mattias likes the very big, flat ones!
– Washing wheel barrows is an art form – perfect it wisely
– Do not let the apple crumble burn
– Do not use your phone to use as a camera as you will not be allowed to take it on the project week
– The recipes are amazing and simple and tasty
– When the lion (bear) starts eating you it is no longer playing so fight for your life.

Elephant walkingSong words written – 23rd July 2015 by Tommy and Rob

Chorus: Well, we are sitting here in the Namib desert,
Sitting here with nothing to do
Sitting here watching the sun go down
Over there by the sky is blue
Welcome to the EHRA family
They’ll always remember you

When the hornbill sounds and goes “kaakal”
Then we know the night will be so true
The stars are out and the Milky Way is clear
The elephants are watching over you
The wind is cold and our sleeping bags are wet
But they are not yet soaked through

Chorus
The wall we built was fairly high, 1.8m exactly
I have learned to find a stone,
To fit any hole, but that doesn’t matter,
Because Mattias said it will never do.

Elephants

Volunteer Blog – 29th June – 10th July 2015

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My name is Skye and I am very dirty. 2 weeks with one shower in between was definitely worth it. Namibia is a land of dirt and heat, but look hard enough and you’ll uncover its hidden treasures. 2 weeks with EHRA was an unforgettable experience where I learned things and discovered things I surely wouldn’t have back home in Cape Town. “Build week” which was first was packed with lots of hard and rewarding work. I learned how to mix cement and discovered that I had muscles in places I never knew I had. The second week which was called “patrol week” involved no hard work, but lots of “treasure digging”.
We discovered elephants , baboons, ostriches, steenboks, kudu, giraffes, Zebra, springbok, rhinos, oryx, a range of livestock, interesting spiders and insects and (best for last) lions! The entire experience was combined with amazing people from all over the world which proved for good food being cooked and brilliant entertainment.

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Coming to EHRA wasn’t my first volunteering experience but it was the most rewarding. It is enlightening to see that EHRA enjoy the animals but they also do the hard work to help the local community by building the walls to keep elephants out. It is hard work and you can begin to question yourself but as the week end and you see the hard work and the wall, this is a very satisfying feeling. Patrol week is the reward for the hard work also! Seeing the animals in their natural habitat untouched by human and learning facts about them and the environment. If you are passionate about Africa and the animals, seeing them in the wild I would highly recommend EHRA.
Lucy Lilburn – Scotland – 29th June – 9th July 2015
P.S. I love Gesa and Chris

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At EHRA I had the chance to experience intact wilderness, spot majestic African wildlife and enjoy doing hands-on work while getting my clothes dirty on a local farm. The main motivation for my trip was naturally to do my part in improving the welfare of desert-adapted elephants. Therefore, I enjoyed mixing cement and carrying rocks not only for a protective wall but also – most importantly – knowing that my effort will eventually serve EHRA’s purpose in bringing harmony amongst the local people and elephants. I realized by my own experience that it’s not animals that need our help. Animals are fine, and we could admire them from a distance during the patrol week. It is people who need our help during the build week. People don’t take advice which they didn’t ask for, but they are willing to receive help. In the level of awareness it means grasping the bigger picture, adapting the perspective to value the invaluable wildlife and discovering how to live at peace with wild animals – here EHRA offers education. On a concrete level it’s about building walls and here we volunteers have our role to play. We do our work from our heart and receive a thank you in various forms directly from nature that is embracing our experience during the entire stay.

Heidi H., Finland