Volunteer blog 6th – 7th April 2015

Patrol week – 13/04 to 16/04

Can you imagine going on patrol week and not seeing elephants after an exhausting building week? That’s what happened to us. Well, at lease on the first day, but there’s no need to be upset: once you get over that frustrating first day, you realize there’s an amazing day just around the corner. And then you get to see elephants (finally), Zebras, Giraffes and all kinds of adventures. You go to bed on this beautiful place with a feeling that, in the end, it’s all worth it!
It’s worth all the wheelbarrows of cement, the heavy rocks, the freaky insects, because after you call it a day, you realize life is so much more than what you’ve used to. It’s not just about your own world, but it’s about a wild world so full of life that makes you feel small in a good way. You feel small because you can see how big this world is, and how many precious lives are within. You’re not just a mere human being, you are part of something bigger, and that’s awesome.
So let’s not let ourselves down, cause after the storm comes the rainbow. Meaning: After a long building week and fruitless day, you can’t always see that the best it’s yet to come, and it hits you hard on the face!
So work hard and enjoy whatever comes, cause what came this week was just so fetch( I’m not trying to make fetch happens, seriously) If you get it, we need to be friends.
Julia Willich
Brazil – 2015


Volunteer Blog 20April – 1 May 2015

An elephant eatingWork week 20th – 25th April

Work week was really enjoyable, our task was to build the foundations for a circular defensive wall around a windmill tower water pump and a well to head height.

On arrival we drove up to the site to drop the materials and tools and then set up camp about ¼ of a mile below, amongst a group of taller trees. The mini-bus got a puncture, but we managed to get it to the camp to change the tyre, so it didn’t really delay our work. The first full work on the site was to collect sand and then several trailers of stones and dig out the foundations – This was hard work and quite a shallow trench as the ground was extremely rocky.

Elephants playing
The start on the foundations was delayed a little due to water politics – we had to wait for a tanker to arrive to fill the small reservoir tank.
When we were collecting rocks we saw a few black and white scorpions and some small light green lizards. We put in the foundations the built up the wall around 50% to waist height the rest to about ¾ meter height. The whole week was really enjoyable and everybody worked really hard – good team work and lots of enthusiasm: and great food! All of which left me feeling that I would have liked to stay longer-very happy to have done another week and would love to come back again – thank you to everyone for making it such a great week.

Volunteers pushinmg wheel borrows

I want to start my first sentence by saying that I am happy to be part of the EHRA team of 2015 that will be contributing to the conservation efforts of the Kunene and Erongo region. My 3 weeks here at EHRA has been a continuous process of learning. I learn on the ground and I learn more every week. I still have 5 more weeks to go as a volunteer/intern which I am eagerly looking forward to in anticipation. I have to admit to myself that build week is really tough, namely because you work under the mean deserted climate of Damaraland mixing cement and building the wall. However, we don’t build this walls because we are bricklayers, we build this walls to avoid and / or mitigate human – wildlife conflict as part of the conservation efforts and it is for a cause that sees towards a better relations between elephants and humans. The second week is more relaxed, we do patrolling to monitor population numbers of elephants as well as other game, overlapping into anti-poaching activities such as watching suspicious methodological activities of potential poaching in the respective areas where we camp.

Volunteer carrying water
The lackadaisical attempts by functionary ministries to address the issue of poaching is taking us to the some pariah status of Zimbabwe and EHRA has been working independently, doing patrols to make sure that these animals are conserved, that there is a peaceful co-existence between elephants and humans in Damaraland which is one of the main tourist hotspots in Namibia. I am welcoming and congratulating these attempts by EHRA in the name of tourism because if we don’t conserve and protect our wildlife now, we won’t have a tourism industry tomorrow. Namibia is lauded as the first country in Africa to adopt the protection of its environment in the constitution and we are doing good tourism-wise. It is true that our tourism industry is starting to be frustrated by poaching which is like a cancer eating the industry from the core, however I am highly optimistic that this systematic killings we read in newspapers will stop if we have an EHRA in more parts of the country to fast-track our conservation efforts. All in all, I am happy, I was inaugurated as an EHRA member and got my EHRA t-shirt and looking forward to tomorrows elephants patrol. Auf wietersehen!!!
Garuan Gariseb – Internwith EHRA. BA (Hons) Tourism Management from the University of Namibia

Elephant playing with sand

Thursday April 30, 2015
It was first time in Africa and my trip with EHRA was everything I could hope for: adventure, education, an opportunity to contribute and to meet really great people from all different countries. Oh yeah, elephants, zebra, springbok, kudu, giraffe, ostrich, oryx and rhino too!
I also want to give a special shout out to Jill. The airlines lost my bag and I didn’t see it for 5 days. Jill leant or shared everything from t-shirt to toothpaste, water bottle and even a camera. Also thanks to Mattias Chris for their knowledge, tracking skill and tutor talk.
Deborah (doesn’t want to leave) USA

Elephant Cheeky

Thursday 30th April 2015
To see elephants in the wild has been a long held dream for me – since I was a child – This is the first time I have been in Southern Africa and my first opportunity to see wild elephants. Monday the 27 was therefore amazing for me to be so close up to the G6 group was deeply emotional and intense experience. So the next day was simply mind blowing to come in and amongst the Mamma Africa group with other males and a smaller group 23 elephants and to be within their collective and watch their interactions was beyond my wildest dreams. Nothing could top this – I thought – but then on Wednesday we saw the G6 group again and 3 males and one of the males Cheeky came right up to the truck and put on a sand bath display – then we watched the three males in a bonding – greeting: I cannot really find the words to describe being in their space – it was one of the most amazing three days of my life. I am very grateful to EHRA for making this possible, and to all of the fellow volunteers on the two weeks for making it all such a wonderful experience.
Thanks to everyone and especially to the EHRA staff for providing the possibility to meet the elephants in such a natural space….

Volunteers mixing cement

Two weeks with EHRA (20th April – May 1 2015)
– Sleeping in the big Anna tree – lovely beyond imagination
– The southern constellations, about which I learned a lot and who became friends
– The big open space of Damaraland – open space like the beginning of time and mankind
– The feeling of coming to a place where man (are at home) have originated from, of coming home (sounds kitsch, but that’s how it felt)
– Meeting local people/ farmers not as a guest in a lodge, but with a shovel, mixing cement…
– Seeing and watching all these animals, above all, the elephants…das Olifant”
– The campfires on Patrol
– Meeting the baboons, the Go-Away-Birds, the Lizards…
Thank you everybody and God bless you all. Blessing to all who care for our mother-earth and her creatures.
Special thanks to Mattias (Alles Super!), Garuan – strongest guy, Jill – the most immaculate guide, Chris Monsieur,,Gudden”, and all the lovely co-volunteers.
Urte (from Germany) 30th April 2015

Elephant in rocks

Two weeks – this is too short a time for such a magical, marvellous, enriching experience here with EHRA. I never thought that mixing cement and setting stones in place in the desert heat could be so much fun! The energy created by everybody working together with such enthusiasm and humour helped me to do things I never knew I could, and I will take that home with me. Then the patrol week – I have travelled a lot, and had wonderful experiences among wild beings – but this has been one of the very best. It is so very special to meet the elephants when you have spent a week working to help make their lives here easier, and help the people live with them without conflict. How wonderful not to be a safari tourist among these majestic beings – thank you to everybody for making this possible – Chris for his amazing skills and experience, Jill for all her dedication and care for everybody and for her impeccable elegance in the bush! And to all my fellow volunteers and Mattias for the laughs!

Thank you and blessings

Volunteer group picture

Volunteer Blog – 23rd March – 3rd April

EHRA volunteers group photoMarch 27,2015 “The best investment one can make is to invest in people. Investing in people yields the greatest wealth.” – Tate Mattias Senior (B.J) Elephants standingApril 2015 We’ve just finished 2 weeks in the bush. It’s difficult to capture in words the experience of landing in Namibia and starting the EHRA build within 24 hours or so. All I can say is, it’s been one of the best and most satisfying experiences of my life. I love the EHRA model: simple and strategic intention that is at once tangible and effective. Big ups to our leader Chris, who is a great blend of knowledge, authority and fun. Not an easy balance to strike with a bunch of rookie wall builders in this environment. The land is absolutely stunning as well as harsh, filled with beauty and just a little bit of danger. I felt completely safe under Chris’ guidance and leadership. I’m in for another two weeks and one am looking forward to it – we will finish our wall, and that will be a great feeling. Rebecca, USA Volunteers busy building

Volunteer Blog 23 February – 6 March 2015

???????????????????????????????Build Week 23 – 27 February 2015

This trip started off with only 5 volunteers attending the meeting at Villa Wiese on Sunday evening. Fortunately the three missing girls arrived on Monday morning in time to go shopping before we left…
After the first night at Base camp we repacked our bags, loaded the cars and headed for the building site. It was a long drive on bumpy roads, but we got there shortly after lunch to find the half-finished wall that had been started 4 weeks earlier. Camp was set up, brand new work gloves taken out, water bottles filled up and sun screen put on before we went off to get our first load of rocks. As the days went by, we could see the wall growing bit by bit. Every time we switched the pump on to get water for mixing the cement, the goats and cows came running to get their share to drink. It was hot, so we kept drinking lots of water, used some rehydration sachets (or de-hydration sachets?!) even though they taste like ten dead Zebras…..The shower from the pipe was well received by some of us – thanks Chris! By Thursday afternoon the wall was finished – it looked nice! On Friday morning we packed up camp and hit the road again. With not everybody feeling well, we had to make a bit of a plan, but we managed to get back to Base camp safely. In the meantime the message that an elephant was stuck in the mud and needed help reached Chris, so we got buckets and water and climbed straight back onto the car. The plan was to cool the animal by throwing water on it, but the elephant had obviously sensed it and didn’t want to meet a bunch of EHRA volunteer, so it managed to free itself just before we got there! Mattias tried to follow it, but the elephant was moving faster than we could drive….so we had a late lunch and then drove back to Base camp to enjoy the well-deserved showers!
Katrin, Switzerland

???????????????????????????????Things I won’t easily forget
1. Taking a shower after a week of hours work is the most enjoyable thing on earth. You’re covered in sand and dirt and you’re finally able to wash it all off. It just gives you such a relief, it’s unbelievable. I never thought taking a shower could be so great.
2. Here at the main camp, there is a very wide spraying shower in open air. If the sun shines in it and you stand right in the middle, you’re able to see a 360 degrees rainbow. You can just look to every direction you like and keep on seeing it. It’s like you’re in an imaginary world.
3. There are some places in Namibia where there is a 360 degrees horizon. It gives you a feeling like you’re in space, where you can see everything around you in a range of hundreds of kilometers. It’s so amazing that you can’t avoid shedding tears of happiness, and it just gets you thinking how small we actually are on this earth.
4. Sleeping in open air is great. Here at the main camp, we sleep in a big tree with a platform where we can put our sleeping bags on. If you pick the right spot, you have a perfect view on the overly bright stars. Before you go to sleep you can look at those stars, listening to the wildlife coming out at night. Nothing is better than doing that before you go to sleep.
5. Sitting on the highest mountain top gives you such a free feeling. It lets you think that you literally and figurally are on the top of the world. The strong wind in your hair, the adrenaline and the wide view are enough to actually give you some life visions of what you want to do in your life. It’s like you gain spirituality and creativity when you’re so high in the sky. This is where I actually wrote these 5 notes.
Alexander Meeus
18 year old
First week

Elephant dust

Volunteer Blog – 09 February 2015 – 20 February 2015

Damaraland view12th February 2015

In a rare moment of peace I can watch the sun go down behind the mopane trees in the river behind build week camp. The heat has gone from the air, the mopane bees seem to have gone to bed and the earthy aroma of the wild sage lingers in the air. Dinner is babbling away in the pot, while a motley and very dirty crew are playing cards by the fire pit. The same crew have kept me entertained for days now and any moments spent away from them, make me want to go join them. So join them now I will – shuffle me in guys.
PS: The wall is making good progress.

Elephants in shade

16th February 2015
Our first day of patrol found us tracking the G6 herd, but with no luck. Setting up camp late, we were busy cooking the “quick + easy” dinner – spaghetti carbonara (yum!). But the G6 herd decided to grace us with their presence several times. A late dinner which no-one minded!

Elephants with calf

Patrol week
Today we were awoken from the inside of our dewy sleeping bags by a cheery smile and hot cup of coffee. Attempts to start the car were made successful by Mattias and his gentle words of wisdom, then we were on our way.

We adventured into the west and after a while came across a delightful place for lunch. A few of us volunteers were feeling energetic and opted to trek up the dunes to find the ideal viewpoint for taking photos with our new friends.

Volunteers playing cards

Once back in the car we ventured further, with the surrounding area becoming greener and greener. After a while we stopped by a wetland and Chris opted to demonstrate his fishing skills-survival-esk. Imprinted in the mud we saw lion, hyena, baboon and elephant tracks.

Volunteers camp

We then trekked to the top of a koppie constructed of black basalt rocks. From the top we could see a group of 10 elephants, including a baby, no more than a month old. “Guys let’s find a place to camp” said Chris once we were back in the car. Our search was cut short as we came across a group of tourist whose car was stuck in the mud. We lend a hand and before long they were free, with big smile printed on their faces.

Volunteers starting a fire

We woke up to an amazing sunrise on the desert of Damaraland. To make it even better, a hyena decided to do her morning walk near our campsite. It was a brown hyena, even Chris saw it for the first time. A great start for a great day!

It took us only a few hours to find the group of elephants that we saw yesterday. The landscape we drove through could not have been more beautiful!

Elephant pooing

As we found the elephants, we noticed that a few animals were not there. So after lunch we decided to go and find them. And so we did! We found another cow and her baby and a younger female. Not far from them a young bull made his way through the bush.

Tired and happy because we saw so many elephants we decided to set our camp early and have an – I was told – amazing Thai Curry.

It was a very guden day!

Volunteer group pic

Volunteer Blog – 26 January – 6 February 2014

Volunteer group photo31st January 2014
Just over a week ago, we had our “last night” of the first patrol in base camp and experienced the first desert rain of the year. A hot humid night full of insects and a visit from the porcupine made for a restless night. In only three days, we could see a big difference the rain had made to the landscape in Damaraland as we returned to base camp for a “cycle”, and with a new group of volunteers. Green grass is spiking up, creativity that looks like a lawn out if you look into the distance. The acacias scrubs are all budding new leaves and some are covered in their furry pale green flowers. New plants are emerging from the stony grounds and we have been trying to identify them.

Volunteers collecting sand

Our build week was at a new location, it is shady but stony which made digging the foundation difficult. All around us and at our campsite, mopani seedlings and acacia seedlings are sprouting from the ground in small fields. The farm goats, cows and donkeys appear to have a spring in their step and are enjoying the grass shoots, like the elephants, they seem to get excited before they come to drink water at the trough by the build site. After having their fill, they watch amused as we sweat building rock walls. Water in the desert is a very special treasure, if you are to look closely at life it delicately sustains.
Every night at our build camp, we watched the storm clouds tower up over the eastern plains, lightning and thunder accompanying them. But then they dissipated and missed us. We are all hoping for a big rain to make the rivers flow!
Mel, Scotland

An Elephant holding a stick31st January
There’s a great African story about travellers who ventured on an expedition into the African savannah. The travellers landed their plane on the continent – met with their travel guides. After very long days of travelling the guides sat down and refused to move for days. The guides informed the irked travellers that they had to catch up with their souls after long days of travelling. Much like the group of travellers, I came to catch up with my soul – at EHRA. I could not have asked for a better place to rest, learn, meet fellow travellers, and be graced by our planet’s amazing wildlife species – elephants. I’d like to believe that this stop-in wasn’t a simple coincidence, but that it was meant to be, and aligned by the universe. I’m glad I got to catch up with my soul at EHRA. Thank you all for making this camp what it is in the heart of desert elephant country. I wish you all my best with your conservation endeavours. I do hope our paths may cross again. Cheers! – A fellow traveller B.J

Volunteers on the platform

Volunteer Blog – 12 January – 23 January 2015


12th January 2015
The year has started off with a bang for EHRA team! After only 5 minutes after our arrival at base camp Mamma Afrika’s herd appeared in a distance. With gear all around the place we moved to the viewing window of the Pleasure dome’s patio to watch the herd. It was very exciting to watch them. Later the Ugab small herd also came into the camp and joined them and both moved down the river, keeping an eye on us. Much later the herds moved past us in the tree house, stopping for less than 8 minutes away from us. Could our first few hours in camp get any better? Well yes, Voortrekker sneaked around the bend and after a quick drink, moved on further up the river
Mel, Scotland

Volunteers relaxing

January 16, 2015 End of week 1/Build week
Any group that gets to participate in EHRA’s project is lucky – when else in your life will you have the opportunity to help Namibian farmers, fall asleep with the breeze on your skin and a view of the stars, and live at a “base camp” where elephants stroll past and genets climb through the kitchen? We felt our group was especially lucky this week because we got to complete the rock wall at our build site! So many groups before us put in the effort to make this wall and thanks to lucky timing and determined work we got to see it finished and return to base camp on Thursday. That meant we had time on Friday morning to help with some home improvement projects around base camp! It really does feel like a cosy home with the best outdoor shower ever and our nice sleeping platform in the tree to catch the breeze. Advice we would pass on to future volunteers: bring lots of wet wipes and sparkling juice as an afternoon pick-me-up on build week. Don’t forget your work gloves, sun hat and a sense of humour!

Elephants drinking water

20th January
Our patrol week began with a tip-off that the G6 herd were heading our way….but there was no appearance from them before we set off. Our agenda was to see if Mamma Afrika had rejoined her herd. The last time she was spotted was 4 weeks ago on a patrol. We caught up with Mamma Afrika’s herd quickly down the Ugab river. Ullysses came immediately to greett us in the truck followed by one of the juvenile females and another baby. Mamma Afrika was not to be seen. We continued down river and came upon Tusker feeding by himself. We continued on to the Brandberg, but then Chris decided that tracking the G6 herd might lead to Mamma Afrika’s whereabouts. We headed back upriver, stopping to say hello to Mamma Afrika herd, the Ugab small and Voortrekker. Narrowly dodging Kambonde hiding behind a tree, Ullysseb and Cheeky came to say hello to us in the truck as well.
Volunteer cooking

We headed off to find the G6 herd after a quick change of a flat tyre and a stop at base camp. We found them after 2 days bush whacking with the land cruiser. They were shy and trying to avoid us so we left them to it. Mamma Afrika is still unaccounted for.
Today we travelled back to the wetlands of the Ugab river. It involved quite a bit of 3WD driving and lots of reeds are still stuck in the land cruiser. No Mamma Afrika, but tracks of Black Rhino, Hyena and Lion meant that we drove a lot further to set up camp for the last night on patrol, but still Mathias slept with both eyes open!

Volunteers swimming