Volunteer Blog – 22nd September – 3rd October 2014

Volunteers at the completed wall

25 September 2014

It is very good here, it is hot and we are working hard. The people are very happy with the wall. The food is good and Chris is a mad person. I had a great time here and I hope that I come back in the future.

Jeanne 69 years

Volunteers unloading sand

Thursday, 26 Sept 2014

We came on Monday from Villa Wiese in Swakopmund and today is the last day of building week. We finished the wall which was started by the last group. The people are happy. The wall is about 1.75 – 1.80m high and we hope strong enough for the elephants. So everybody is happy. It was a hot day, but not as hot as the other days. My husband put the shoes on and fastened them. I helped him and we also had to collect stones (big flat ones are the best) and sand.

At the end of the day you are a very dirty person. You have to clean yourself with baby wipes. But there is a good, healthy dinner in the evening. You will enjoy everything here, except the heat!!!

But just come and enjoy yourselves. We also have a tracking week

Love from Betty and Hans den Hartog from Holland

Volunteer fitting a rock

Tuesday 30th September

Tjingeling bloggen!

Here I am. At the same camping spot as two weeks ago. The one where I had to pee in front of a tourist bus heading towards the White Lady Lodge. We woke up at 06h45 and had porridge (with syrup, cinnamon and peanut butter) to the view of an even more wonderful sun rise. Tracking the elephants was not that easy today, it seemed as if they were all hiding. We passed for lunch and I slept as a baby (snoring as my grandpa). After lunch the elephants appeared. But no dung. We waited and waited patiently, but still dung. 17h10 we headed towards the White Lady Lodge and bought some beer and used proper toilets. Now we’re waiting for the dinner to get done; Thai curry. Everyone had their (wet wipe) shower and was just relaxing. Hope we get more dung tomorrow!!!

Just realized I’m almost 6 weeks down which means I’ve only got 2 more. Feels strange. EHRA has become my home here. But I’m also looking forward to 5 weeks of adventures

Ida from Sweden

An elephant eating

Tuesday, September 30th

Today we were surrounded by elephants. Everywhere we looked, more elephants. Elephants eating, elephants sleeping , elephants checking out how well the car is built.

After a week of hot, dirty physical work building a much-needed wall for the local farming community, elephant-watching is a great reward. The weather has been hot and cold but the food is always hot.

This is a hot holiday for everyone but if you can love and care for elephants and are not afraid of physical activity, this programme is for you. There is so much to learn and so much to do to help the Desert Elephants of Namibia.

What do you do when an elephant (Kambonde) puts his trunk on you knee? Enjoy every second of it!

Here to Mamma Afrika!

Daina from Canada

Volunteers helping each other

October 1st 2014 Wednesday (and night before)

Last night was quite eventful. After dinner a herd of elephants (Mamma Africa) walked past our camp in the riverbed. We moved to the top of the cars to have a safe view. After a short while we could safely go to bed.

Suddenly I woke up at four in the morning because someone was talking in her sleep. The fire was out and I suddenly heard cracking branches. I first thought it was Chris but he was sound asleep. The elephant passed us at a safe distance (30 meters). Then I heard another cracking sound……another one…….but this one moved closer and closer to camp. More people started to wake up. The huge elephant passed our camp fire at half a meter (our camp at 5 meters) and slowly walked away. Very exciting!!! Next morning we had breakfast and the whole herd (Mamma Africa) walked passed us again on their way back to the Ugab. What a great start of the day.

Sander Bosch – Holland

Elephant herd

Wednesday, 1st of October

Today was a really elephantastic day. It started already at 4 o’clock am when an elephant bull came for a night visit to our camp fire. Laying on the ground he seemed even bigger. That was quite impressive! And just before breakfast the whole Mamma Africa herd passed our camp on their way back to the riverbed. Still in our pyjamas we had to climb on top of our cars top have a save view. That was an amazing way to start the day.

After breakfast we followed the herd with our cars while watching some of them. An young bull named Kambonde sneaked up from behind, so Chris couldn’t see him early enough to drive away. After sniffing around in the car he found my bag of snacks. I tried to hold it back when he grapped it with his trunk out, he was just too strong. He snatched the bag from my hands and dropped it on the ground. My crackers and the bag of apples disappeared straight away in his mouth, but the dried fruits and the dehydration powder he spit out. Chris tried to scare him away by clapping his hands and screaming but it didn’t bother him at all. So we finally had to move the car to get rid of him.

In the afternoon we had another great elephant experience when Medusa walked straight towards our cars just turning around at the last moment to eat from a nearby tree. She was just 3 meters away from us so we could watch her perfectly while she ate.

That was another great experience of many others we had with EHRA.

Meriam Möri, Switzerland and Milena Zurmuhl, Germany

Volunteers

2 October 2014-10-07

Thank you for the lesson of the elephants. I had a good time here. The food was wonderful and the stone collecting was also good!

Thank you

Jane 69. Holland

Baby elephant with herd

 

Volunteer Blog – 8th September – 19th September 2014

Volunteers group pic

13/09/2014

TJENA!

Elephants in camp today! Two male elephants came and ruined our beautiful camp, but it was okay because this was the first time I saw elephants in real life! They are sooo majestic and beautiful, they just amazed me. We were just coming from Uis after a day of relaxing and feeling clean after work, and when we arrived at the base camp again we had to park by the pleasure dome and climb up the mountain not to disturb the elephants. After a while more elephants came, and then the whole herd-Mama Africa came! We sat there on the rocks for like an hour, just watching them in the heat of the sun. Then I think everybody went into an elephant-coma, cause most people fell asleep or were in a generally dosy state of mind. We pick our clean clothes from the trees, which the women from a Herero village had cleaned, some socks disappeared, and we suspect that the elephants may have ate them.

Elephant and Volunteers

Tonight we’ve had a wonderful dinner, a lamp stew and some corn thingy. Tomorrow awaits some work, but mostly relaxing in camp, preparing for patrol week.
Sofia, Sweden

Elephant herd

15/09/2014

Leyla, Sweden –Best patrol ever!

And I am not exaggerating. The day started from Base camp with breakfast and packing of the jeeps with everything we need for patrol week, because this was the first day of patrol. It started off good, and we saw four males – Cheeky, Bennie, Voortrekker and Kambonde, then we saw all of the herds in the Ugab G6, Mamma Africa and Ugab Small. It felt like the elephants where everywhere and we got so close! There are lots of baby elephants and (I think) the youngest one we saw was Joy – who was born in June this year. She was very cute with her little trunk that she doesn’t really know how to use. Also, we witnessed a bull fight! But, the most impressive sight was when Mathias made a soft rumbling noise (like the same noise elephants do) and the elephants answered him.

I am only staying here for two weeks, but even though time has flown by, it feels like I’ve been here for a long time. I have experienced so much and it is really easy to feel at home with all the other volunteers. I am now sitting in the orange light of a beautiful sunset and a fire is burning behind me. I think this might be the most beautiful place on earth. Time for dinner and good nights sleep under the stars!
Thank you EHRA!

Elephants approaching a waterpoint

17/09/2014

Sander Bosch – Netherlands – Second best patrol ever!

Two days ago we had the best patrol day ever, today surely is the second best. Obviously waking up to an amazing sunrise near the White Lady Lodge (after enjoying a cold beer there yesterday), we slanted off toward the Ugab river again following tracks. The temperature was quite chilly however the surrounding area made up for that. We started following a few springs and pools of water. Quite difficult driving, but exciting. We arrived at a quite large water pool and just around the corner we saw some elephants approaching. Quickly we turned around, parked the cars and climbed up the rocks overlooking the pool. The first elephants to arrive jumped in the water and started playing, diving and splashing. These were adults as well as kids. So if you wonder if elephants play, the answer is yes! They couldn’t get enough and kept jumping in and diving , splashing and playing submarine with the trunk. Amazing!!!

Elephants getting ready to swim

A little one was so wound up after swimming it ran around trumpeting and even started chasing a bird. After this amazing sight the others (All of them, Mamma Africa, Ugab small and G6) walked past us while we were still on the rocks. The morning was ended by Chris starting a kudu-dropping-spitting competition all though surprisingly enough no-one wanted to join him. Now it’s time for lunch, wonder what the afternoon has in store for us…..

Elephant cow and calf

Volunteer Blog – 25th August – 5th September 2014

Volunteers group picture

 

26th of August 2014, Build

Today was the fifth day of my fifth week and the first day outside base camp for the five new volunteers in my group.

When we arrived at the Sorris Sorris conservancy I admired the big wall around the water tank which I had helped to build during my first two build weeks and it made me miss the former groups. Ernest showed us around the conservancy and Christin helped us to set up our camp for the following days. Then we started digging up the ground around the hot water tank in order to build a smaller wall around it. The first sand run, rock run and cement mixing of the week followed quickly and everyone worked very well together as a new team. It got really hot around noon and we were all thankful to have lunch and rest in the shade. After lunch break we carried on working until the Chairlady of the conservancy came to us with a warning: Some killed Zebras and Ostriches were to be brought in, to be prepared for eating next to our sleeping area! I had already experienced this before when some Kudus had been prepared there and so I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal, even for a vegetarian like me. When the people with the dead animals arrived, I was amazed by how big the corpses were. I watched a Zebra being cut open. The men pulled huge organs out of it, one of which looked like a big bubble. It exploded and brown stuff came out of it. I quickly turned away in fear of being sick. Soon the smell of blood and shit filled the air and we moved our campsite further away to sleep only on the ground sheet and with nothing but the night sky above us, just as we would out on patrol. Ida, a lovely Swedish volunteer, and I prepared Lamp Tagine for dinner, which thanks to Christin turned out nicely. It was an early night for us since everyone was quite tired after all the manual work and the new experiences. All in all, an exciting and successful first day of build week!
Bianca Schweer, 19, Germany

Baby elephant laying down

 

It’s sunny, again, as every other day. It’s also dusty, dry, windy and absolutely amazing! We’re about half way through with the wall (2nd) and it looks really nice! It feels as we all started to appreciate the small things like finding a nice flat stone or a spider we haven’t seen before. Yesterday was really nice with amazing food and live music by the camp fire. I and Larissa have made a new best friend here; he’s a dog and really adorable. Yesterday I saw my first elephant, which was pretty cool, and I’m starting to look forward to the tracking week. I’m also looking forward to my next shower, sleep and everything. I’m even looking forward to start work again, but first I’m going to have a well-deserved nap in the shadow since its lunch time……
Greeting, Ida, 24, Sweden

Volunteers complete protective wall

 

Saturday 30th August
Well we finished building the wall in record time and come back to camp yesterday afternoon. Build week was really hard work and by the time we were nearly finished, I kept dropping concrete as I couldn’t lift the trowel to the top of the wall because my arms were so tired! It was so amazing to think that a small group of us (only 6 plus the fantastic staff Christin, Erenst and Mattias) build a huge wall by ourselves with just basic equipment.

It was so good to go on the sand runs (the hardest) and the rock runs to get all the things we needed. The rock runs were great fun as we got really excited about finding the best rocks (yes, this seems crazy to get excited about rocks, but you’ll be the same)!!!

Baby elephant

 

So after a great build week we are back in paradise (camp) and have 2 whole rest days before we start patrol on Monday. This morning we washed out all the boxes and then did some yoga to stretch out all the aching muscles. Now everyone is sitting or lying around relaxing and just enjoying being clean. The shower when we got back yesterday was so fantastic! The washing lady is very kindly washing all our filthy clothes so that tomorrow we will have clean clothe as well as clean bodies.

What an amazing week, can’t wait for patrol.

Volunteer ladies

Nicola, 39, UK

PS. Can’t believe I forgot, when we got back to camp yesterday there was an elephant drinking from a small pool in the rocks right next to camp. A fantastic welcome back and felt like a “thank you” for all our hard work!!!

Volunteers sitting around the fire with locals

 

31st August
First Encounter with Bennie
After being back in base camp after an exhausting but successful build week, I got to bed early. A bit later I heard Chris coming up our tree house announcing that there was an elephant around. I didn’t pay too much attention as I was quite sleepy, but later in the night I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I woke up from cracking branches right next to our tree! It was so close that I thought next moment the elephant would be putting his trunk right on my legs. That’s when I decided to get out of my sleeping bag, just in case. At first I couldn’t see Bennie (the day after we were told that it was him) but only shadows rumbling around the camp. Suddenly Nicola sat behind me, Bianca was awake too, and the three of us watched together. I was quite happy not to be alone as I found the situation exciting but also a bit scary. With the others around I felt safe. Bennie roamed through our kitchen, breaking branches, and making that typical elephant noise. I wondered whether he would eat the vegetables we had left on the kitchen table: I would do that if I were an elephant. Later we found out that he hadn’t. We sat there for quite a while. It was the first time I had seen an elephant that close: it was really amazing, and I’ll never forget that night. In the morning we would even see Bennie in daylight, he’s sooooo huge! What a wonderful experience!
Sandra, 45, Germany

Elephants relaxing

 

Sept. 3rd 2014
Second encounter
A few days after the first encounter with Bennie we got in touch with another elephant. His name is Tsaurab. He is solitary, but was close to Mamma Africa and Ugab Small herds. This time “getting in touch” is meant almost literally. We were watching the herds from the car. Two of us (Ida and Duke) were sitting on top of the car. From time to time an elephant came close to the car, watched us for some time and then passed along the car and walked away. This was already an excellent experience, as they came quite close.

But then Tsaurab walked towards the car. He came even closer without turning away. He only stopped when his feet were about 2 metres from our car, and then watched us curiously. His tusks were 30-50cm away from the car. I could see that one of them was a little broken. The trunk was also directly before the side of the car, it seemed as if he was scuffing and touching.

Elephant eating

 

Everyone in the car was dead still and didn’t move the slightest bit. I wondered what would happen next. Then Tsaurab didn’t seem to be excited or aggressive, just curious. I asked myself if he might start playing with our car. I thought I should be terrified and my heart should pump like mad, but I didn’t. It was indeed a scary moment, but also the most magical one in my life. I had never before been this close to a wild elephant. It was absolutely amazing! Tsaurab now started to touch the empty seat in front of me with his trunk and examined it. I was relieved that he had not chosen my leg to place his trunk upon. So I just kept still and watched this enormous trunk.

On the roof of the car Duke and Ida looked Tsaurab straight into the eyes. Ida told me later that there had been bees flying around her head all the time and she couldn’t dare move to chase them away. So it was quite hard for her to watch Tsaurab. After a little while Tsaurab moved away from the car. He seemed completely relaxed and hadn’t done any harm.

So whenever you find yourself close to an elephant – don’t move. Don’t make any sound. Just watch and enjoy the magic of the moment!
Sandra, 45, Germany

Elephants racing

Volunteer blog – 11th August – 22 August 2014

Volunteer group photoAugust 22, 2014 Jane Terrell, USA
Ditto on what everyone before me has written – and more specifically Kudos to our outstanding group. Everyone in our group worked hard, fulfilled their duties with enthusiasm and without complaint, and had fun fun! What a great group of people – restores your faith in people, especially the very young group. We had so astute, warm, cooperative and joyful. And it includes Chris and Christin too! I hope EHRA is able to continue the good work for many more years and make a difference in the lives of the people in Damaraland so they come to fully realize the benefits of preserving this unique ecosystem. May the elephants amble freely through the desert and the people enjoy fresh water and productive farms, Thank you EHRA

Volunteers morning dutiesAugust 22, 2014 Jeannine Bourdeaux, USA
Some favourite moments from this trip: Riding on the bedrolls on top of the Land cruiser, ridding along the sandy track and soaking in the colors of the Namibian desert; shovelling pink sparkling sand into wheelbarrows in the early morning light during build week; waking up at dawn and building up the fire to put the big black kettle on to make tea and coffee for everyone; driving down the riverbeds and coming upon the elephants; watching them walk in their amazingly graceful way given their size – Their gait somewhere between an amiable and a glide; looking at unfamiliar stars in the black night sky; watching the changing purples and blues of Brandberg mountains in the changing lights laughing with everyone; meeting the group of energetic, hopeful and friendly volunteers; listening to Chris talk about the elephants and the San people; falling in love with the Namibian desert hearing a little about the Damara area and about the conservancies was interesting too. Hopeful in a way which was good, but also seeing what a fragile and precautious state nature and the people are in, I wonder what the future will bring. I hope that EHRA continues to get more support and attract young volunteers who then are inspired to make their own stand with their lives for the environment and the future, taking “a path with heart” as the staff of EHRA is clearly doing with their lives.

An elephant bullDorothea Geitz, Germany, 22,08,2014
Rock-run, sand, cement mixing, putting giant rocks and baby rocks together to a man high wall, learning to speak Damara, sleeping under the stars, washing with wet wipes, a perfect guide(always full of jokes but also with an answer to almost all questions), tracking elephants……
A perfect african adventure!
Thanks a lot and good luck for the future!

Damaraland sunsetAugust 22nd, 2014
Leah Wersebe (USA) Rachel Pellkofer, Laura Beitkreutz(Germany) , Cat Faherty(England)
We never expected to learn the Chrisen language in Namibia, but we are all fluent now which will be quite useful. The four days with Mamma Africa and her herd (especially our adopted baby Joy) were completely unexpected because we were so physically close at times and our hearts were beating out of control because of this. Some best moments and words are: Chris and his holes, flutschfingering, schwaffling everything within sight die wasserflaschen, looking for morgen, rusks, éclairs, coffee to ffees. George not cleaning himself and peeing right next to us(Chris does too though), sunsets on the koppies, delicious food, the night of the spider where we learned that Chris does not help a damsel in distress(and what kind of underpants he wears), Mattias laughing at Chris during patrol week, Ernst and his singing and his teaching us clicks, Christin is just perfect – with spices, food, life, love and happiness(however she sneakily conceals rusks), cow Joy is incredibly KNUFFELIG, LECVER/LEKKER, Everything was guten!! The most important/guten thing was the time George was ceremoniously kicked out of the herd by Katja putting burning elephant dung oh his head. We are all very pleased by the amount of shit we helped collect.
P.S We all know who the snorer was. Danke schÖn foe everything!!!

Volunteers posing

Laura Breitkreutz(Germany) 22nd Aug 2014
I’ve spent 6 weeks with EHRA in Namibian desert which is a long time. And I’m sure I will never forget this time.
Thank you EHRA for all the experiences I could make! My 3 groups have been totally different, but I learned that, same interests and aims bring people together. EHRA’s work makes it possible to protect the desert elephants in connection with helping the Namibian farmers and teaching people from all over the world about nature and life. Thank you Christin, Chris, Hendrick, Mathias, Doreen and Collin!

Volunteers collectin elephant dung

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