Volunteer blog – 6th October – 17th October 2014

Group Picture

We never had this much fun in a collective shower before, definitely. This use of wet wipes is under rated! We learnt how to build walls, how to entertain cows – cow cinema is a thing, we know it – and that Namibian woman are the toughest when it comes to mixing concrete.
Cooking on a fire sure does take longer, but its way more fun. And we learned how to get one going in the desert.
We found out that “lighter for bush business” means exactly what we thought beforehand.
While the elephants kept us waiting for a while we got entertained by springbok, oryx, zebra, kudu, ostriches and lion tracks. It’s amazing to make your way through almost untouched nature that seems to have fallen out of time. Or “Jurassic Park”, for that matter.
Thanks for an unbelievable adventure
Anita, Monja and Ingrid

Elephants playing

Lauren Evans
I’m 2 weeks into my 4 weeks on EHRA. We all meet on the Sunday evening to meet everyone and talk about the 2 weeks ahead and to arrange a meeting time to leave the next day for our week of building walls for the local farmers. After leaving on Monday we went to base camp which is a camp on a river bed, and the place where we all sleep in a tree (like when you were a kid wanting a tree house).

Volunteers busy with sand runs

Packing and leaving on the Tuesday morning to the farm where we were knocking down and rebuilding an old wall which had been knocked down by an elephant. Build week involved LOADS of sand runs, rock runs (big ones, flat ones, small ones…) hahahaha…After finishing the wall we took a picture and head back to base camp to get ready for our few days of patrol. After a weekend at camp and Saturday going into a nearby town to swim and shop. Leaving early Monday morning out looking for elephants. We didn’t manage to see elephants for two days until one afternoon after tracking through thick bushes and chopping down branches, we came across some. After a 20 minute swim, we had elephants walking towards us. We got into the car and drove up a hill to set up camp and watch the whole 3 herds walked past us.
After dinner and ready for bed, Chris heard lions, so we did a night watch so that we could keep ourselves safe. All safe and back to camp all is well and had an awesome time. Looking forward to my next 2 weeks.

Volunteers watching

Jodie Curry (Australia) 16 October 2014
I have just finished the most amazing and rewarding 4 weeks with EHRA in Damaraland, Namibia. Learning how to build rock walls and make cement, rock runs, sand runs. It is like piecing together a large and heavy jigsaw puzzle. The weather was very hot and it was hard work, but we had a lot of fun. I am glad I was able to contribute to something that benefits the local villages and elephants.
Patrol weeks WOW. The first week we saw all three herds plus the bulls. Highlights: when the elephants walked past our camp late in the evening and early the next morning which saw us retreat to the cars. Also having one of the female elephants walk right up to the car to feed from the tree we were under. To look into her eyes, mouth and the details of her skin. No baby elephant poop this week.

Volunteer fitting a rock

The second patrol week saw us venture out even further in search of the elephants. Along the way we saw kudu, ostrich, springbok, oryx, steenboks, mountain zebra and lion tracks. Parts were not easy going breaking or chopping branches out of the car in the car lean to left, lean to right. We finally got through and it was time for a swim in the spring. After swimming we were sitting on the rocks when the elephants appeared! So we headed back to the cars to watch. While setting up camp and cooking dinner all three herds passed.
We had not long gone to bed when Chris noticed there were lions close by. Everyone was soon out of bed and so began the long and mostly sleepless night of lion watch in 2 hour shift. Yikes! The experiences, friendships and memories made on build and patrol weeks will not be forgotten. Sleeping in the treehouse at basecamp or under the most amazing Namibian sky I had the best 4 weeks ever. A massive thank you to Chris, Mattias, Adolf, Matthias and the EHRA team. I will be back.

Elepahants play fighting

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 10th February – 21st February 2014

Mamma Afrika

10/02/2014 – 21/02/2014

We’re sitting in Base camp and looking back at two amazing weeks. It started just wonderful with ‘the bull with the broken tusk’ visiting base camp just when we arrived on Monday.

One tusk elephant

Build week was tough. Collecting rocks, sand and mixing cement, but we have managed with only four of us to dig a foundation and start building a new wall. It was actually great doing this. Like Chris said: A happy farmer is a happy elephant’.

Elephants

 Patrol week was the best! On our first morning we tracked down Mamma Afrika and Ugab small herd. It was amazing to see the elephants from such a short distance. After that we tracked the elephants every day and tried to collect some poo for the American DNA research. We were lucky several times! Not having a shower and do your ‘bush business’ wasn’t that bad at all and the food was really good.

Elephant Mamma Afrika and calf Madiba

Thank you Chris and Matthias for taking care of us. We really had a fun(and swaffel) time!

Cameron, Hannah, Jennifer and Kate

Volunteer group pic

 For Chris this was an exceptional trip as this was the very first time they were offered accommodation on a farm in a room! He said they were very lucky to get that room as it rained heavily throughout the night and even the goats were trying to get into the room. He also is thanking the farmer for offering the accommodation and the volunteers for these past two weeks!

Volunteer accommodation

Volunteer Blog 27th January – 7th February 2014

 

EHRA Volunteers group

27th January

Cat from the UK

Paradise would have to work to beat the eco-wow factor EHRA base camp has to offer. After driving for a few hours through the awe-inspiring wilderness that is the Namibian desert and taking a dirt track over the dry Ugab river, we rolled up in our vehicle to base camp. Our bed for the night was built into the tree canopy, views of rock boulder hills and later at night a sky full of stars awaited our team.

However, no time to relax too much, as this was only to be for the one night before embarking further on our adventure!

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 WELCOME TO BUILD WEEK!

A 3-hour morning drive, picking cement bags up on the way, saw us arriving at the farm where our work was to begin. What once was a stoney sandy space with a couple of evil, spiky acacia trees soon transformed into our base camp for the next few days – tarpaulin up, kitchen tent (and fronts!) constructed, fire pit and “toilet dug”, it was starting to feel like home – well almost!

No rest for the wicked, at 3.30pm – once the heat of the day had passed – we headed down  armed with water and work gloves to the water point. Here we admired the beginning of the wall the previous group have started. “180cm”- Chris yelled- this was the height the wall needed to be built – a big challenge given that a couple of us (me included!) in the team were only 160cm tall! Vertical challenges aside – the team was eager to start.

That evening, after baby wipe showers, we set our roll mats and settled in by the fire for some lovely food cooked in bush baby pots (or Baby bush as Rickie called them!) The team over the next few days worked between the morning and late afternoon and got into the swing of participating in the daily sand run, mixing cement in the wheelbarrows, rock finding and building – team work!

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It was touch and go whether we would finish it despite our hard work as we nearly ran out of cement. Phew, Chris to the rescue drove to the town (1hour and a half away) to buy some more bags of cement!

Determined to finish, the team powered through the final hours at the speed of lightning and with Mattias’ expert skills-finished the wall! Elation! What a feeling-we had built a wall! The farm owners were so pleased with our work that they gave us a goat! It is a very high level of appreciation in the African culture, despite a couple of us within the team that wanted to free the goat (ha-ha!). The farmers ‘prepared’ the goat for the meat eaters within the group. A happy group set off back to base camp – via the shop where cool drinkers and copious numbers of magnum ice creams were consumed!! BRING ON PATROL WEEK! After a shower of course….!

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BUILD WEEK SURVIVAL GUIDE

What to bring…..

-Baby wipes! And lots of them

-Work gloves (not woolly gloves-Who brings woolly gloves to a desert?!)

-Rehydration sachets

-Plenty of salty snacks – no chocolate!!

-Sunscreen, sunhat, glasses

-One change of clothes – yes it can be done!!

-Bottled water (the water from the tank even with juice taste gross!!)

-Sense of humour

-Team work mentality

Thanks for a fantastic week so far, I am really looking forward to patrol week and seeing the elephants!

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 Karen from Denmark

Victorious is how I feel when:

          I get out of my comfort-zone

          I decided to go

          I go through the heat

          I am at peace in the group without taking too much responsibility

          I am without a bath for 4 days….

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Gratefulness is how I feel when:

          I am sitting at the fire at 5:30 in the morning listening to an elephant braking branches in the dark 20m away

          I see the baby elephant stumble around with his family

          I feel my senses kicking in as my ancient reptile brain awakens as it was always meant to do, but doesn’t!

          I listen to Chris being Chris – funny, serious and one of the most knowing people I have ever met!

          I know that Mattias-always in the background-silent, observant, helping and eye out for everybody!

I am leaving tomorrow, but the African sky, memories of shooting stars and this trip will stay forever. I had a dream of following a herd of elephants 23 years ago. The dream has been fulfilled! Thank you Chris, Mattias, the group and EHRA! It has been a heart-opening experience!

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 Emile and Riekie from Holland

Once upon a time…

When we fell in love with Namibia last year we knew we want to go back and do more. After searching we decided we want to do something for people and nature. It became EHRA and wow, what an amazing time we had. We choose 4 weeks, because we thought it will give us more sight in what they do. And it was rewarding. The first building week we started a wall at a farmers place with a wonderful group of people and of course Chris and Mattias made it complete. Sometimes the work was hard, but it was satisfying getting cement and the sand runs. Teamwork and a lot of laughs made it already a fantastic first week. Our reward came sooner than we expected. While driving back to base camp (lovely view) we talked about patrol week and seeing the elephants. There they are “waiting” for us at base camp. They walked by and this was our first meeting with Mamma Afrika and Ugab small heard. Patrol week starts and what a special week again. Especially Wednesday and Thursday.  It was a wonderful lunch surrounded by elephants and what about Thursday, Voortrekker the largest bull came closer and it was like he said goodbye. What an amazing experience!

Volunteers relaxing

Unfortunately these two weeks came to an end. The last dinner and going out night was the best way to say goodbye, we shared the best moments.

And then it was Sunday and a start of another 2 weeks, new people and new experiences. During building week we did a great job finishing the wall which we started with the first group. The people were grateful and gave us a goat! We are not really used to this type of presents, but again…..a real African experience. So another patrol week is coming. Could we have so much luck again? Yes! Again seeing elephants every day.  Yesterday it was almost a show. The little 4 month old Otumbwe came to see us at the car and show us how tough he was. Ulysess also came to us and say hello to the people on the rocks, and could almost kiss him :)

On Thursday, we woke up early because we heard twigs breaking. And there he came, down the koppie. Later on we found the herd again and Kambonde came closer and closer!  This was the best goodbye we could ask for. At this moment we write this on the swing in base camp and realise that we leave this camp for real. We are blessed and keep these moments we had in our hearts. Thanks guys for having good foods, camp fires, good (warm) wines, a lot of laughs, special evenings always sleeping outdoors with the stars and different places. And especially Chris thanks a lot!!

Desert elephant Duchess and Otumwe

 Lena from Sweden

My two weeks at EHRA went so quickly. The first week was building and it was hot, heavy and fun. The most important thing to bring is baby wipes! But the satisfaction of building, and finally see the wall finish is a great feeling. And the wonderful feeling of sleeping under the African sky is unbeatable. The second week is amazing. To be so close to the elephants is fantastic, but be aware, don’t bring a flowering scarf, the elephants might want it :)

Thanks for a wonderful 2 weeks.  I would love to come back, hopefully with my son.

Ps: Thanks a lot Chris for being such a spice, master and Mattias for being just Mattias

African nights sky

Volunteer blog – 9th September – 20th September 2013

September 2013

(This entry appears to be written by a plastic flamingo kinder surprise toy!)

My EHRA adventures began when a build-week weary crew rocked up in the dusty town of Uis with a chocolate craving and a curiosity for African kinder surprise toys-and there I was! I was invited to be the car mascot for patrol week and gratefully accepted, but the bloody Ausies called me Kylie! I took up my place in a car in the back of the seat, but my one-legged karate stance made it a bit hard to stay upright on the bumpy dirt roads, especially with Mathias’ erratic driving. First stop for patrol week was at an EHRA sponsored school, where we handed out donations of blankets, underwear, pens and pencils for the kids. They were so grateful and sang 3 songs for us – I’ll have to remember to tell my flock about the GROOVY song – it was awesome! It wasn’t long after that that we spotted our first ellies! They were so huge and I was at first quite scared, but thankfully I was squished into the back of the seat by the volunteers climbing onto the roof of the 4×4 to get a better view. I was most thankful as I couldn’t move my plastic wings to cover my eyes! Mamma Afrika and some bulls were the first ones we come across. It was the first time I’d seen elephants and it was amazing. You don’t come across as many on the Supermarket shelves in Uis, let me tell you! The second and third days of patrol we saw the G6 and Ugab Small herds. They came right up to the cars and rocks that we were sitting on, it was such an incredible experience. Back at the base camp now and I’ve taken pride of place on the table. I do hope other groups look after me – I am quite adventurous and can be quite fun! Just like EHRA J Even though I’ve only been with the group for a week, we all had a great laugh. Can’t wait to see what we get up to on my next adventure!

Love – Karate kicks

            Kylie the Flamingo

Handing out donations

Handing out donations

9-19th September

Our two weeks are almost up and everyone is chilling out at base camp enjoying a little

R’n’ R. The breezy tree house is the perfect spot to unwind, reflect and chat about the fabulous two weeks we’ve just had. Elephant patrol – well it goes without saying how awesome it is to see the desert elephants roaming free going about their daily routine. Build week – well it seems so long ago! Despite us all being strangers at the beginning, we pulled together to achieve a near complete wall and all felt rather pleased with our hard work at the end. Memories I’ll take away with me….great people and new friends, the smell of burning ellie dung, Mattias’s laugh, bird chatter everywhere, super tasty camp dinners, superb sunsets and of course the elephants. We were lucky enough to have the G6 herd come right up to our patrol cars twice. We were within metres of them and at one point completely surrounded!

My top tips for enjoying your time at EHRA:

  1. You can never have too many wet wipes!
  2. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! (Unless you like the scaly look…)
  3. You know it’s hot when the Mopani bees make an appearance – beware of their preference for getting up noses and ears!
  4. Burning elephant dung helps keep the bees at bay and actually smells quite pleasant too.
  5. Bring a few cold beers or ciders to enjoy at the end of the day – African sundowners are the best!
  6. Mattias will manage to make you look like a pony weakling with his superb boulder carrying capabilities – just accept it!
  7. Dry shampoo isn’t all its cracked up to be….just tie it all back or shove it under a hat and save luggage space for wet wipes!
  8. One set of clothes for build week is perfectly acceptable. Everybody smells as bad as each other J
  9. If you are sprung by goats during “bush business” beware…the farmer is usually close behind!
  10. The resident camp hornbill’s name is “Haratio” (Steve)…just so you know!
  11. Amidst the hundreds of photos you take on ellie patrol, just remember to also just sit, enjoy and immerse yourself in watching them not through the lens of a camera.
  12. Come with a sense of humour and lots of enthusiasm. Laugh lots and enjoy all the experiences thrown your way!

 Thank you Chris, Mattias, Baron, Rachel, Victro and the rest of the EHRA team for a fab experience. EHRA rocks and I hope to come back again one day…

Big hugs, Peta xxxxx,

                Australia

Taking a closer look

Taking a closer look

9-9th September 2013

As we lie asleep, the protective arms of the Anna tree embrace us, the stars above twinkling like diamond studs along the boughs. A gentle breeze rustling the leaves is the only noise.

Suddenly the cry of the pearl spotted owl interrupts the peace. Dawn is coming. I lie awake snuggled in my sleeping bag, as one by one the stars are snuffed out by the slow light of sunrise. The birds are stirring – bullbulls and starlings chatter and babblers babble – Horatio (Steve) starts cooing to his mate.

A rustle of bags and tiptoes on the staircase is followed by the clattering of pans and snapping of twigs as those on kitchen duty to get the breakfast going. A muttered curse under the breath “bloody pat’s been at the bin again!”

Sunlight seeps along the riverbed, painting the valley with hazy light. The rocks turn ochre, the leaves lime, and the branches golden.  The EHRA crew comes slowly to life, fumbling for hats as tea and coffee is passed around their tree house home.

“Porridge is ready,” a voice calls. And so another day at EHRA base camp begins. Enjoy!

Cat Early (UK)

Ps. Pat is like a porcupine

Half finished wall

Half finished wall

 19th September 2013

“Can you feel the love tonight” – to quote the i-pod? Cheesy enough to sum up this trip? Awesome – in fact “fibre glass”.

Just glad I don’t have to do another patrol week with the terrible trio – Claiirrre, Ozzy sheep type; Maureen, always beautiful despite the muddy-dust and compulsory hair-plaiting; and Liam – trainee….to be up-dated in 4 weeks!  To sum up, it’s been “G.R.O…another….O.O.O…V.Y….spells groovy!” Thanks Chris! P.S – sorry…..I forgot Margarita – or shall I call you Martini – so nice to sleep next to the cleanest person in camp! P.S – English squirrels are not ugly or stupid Nathan.

Thanks again Chris! Tammy!

Group picture

Group picture

Volunteer blog- 26th August – 6th September 2013

Christina Bohle, September 2013(Germany)

If you don’t have much experience with mixing cement, building a wall and working in a team-you will be an expert in these things after the building week J

The first day of my building week started near a little farm. Our task was to repair a broken wall around a water tank. After we took all the stuff out of the car (wheelbarrows, shovels, spades, buckets, gloves and so on…) we were beginning to get sand, collect stones and mix cement. Chris and Matthias gave us the necessary instructions and helped us where they could. I was surprised about the good community spirit and the teamwork. During the morning donkeys, cows and goats came to visit us and drank water near the wall. One farmer told us that a big snake is living in the wall. Unfortunately we didn’t see it. The time during the building week went so fast. At 12h00 we went back in our little camp to have a siesta. We ate something, talked about our activities and enjoyed the desert life. After siesta we worked for another2/3 hours at the wall. When it was evening we prepared food, ate at the fire, drunk a beer (better a warm beer than no beer) and talked Chris’s experience and Mattias life with 15 childrenJ The most important experience in the building week was for me to build a wall with a group in a short time with so much fun and to stay so close to the Damaras and learn a little bit about their culture and habits.

ImageGisela Binder (Germany), September 2013

I am writing this in my second week sitting in my sleeping bag sipping a coffee and watching the sunrise over a beautiful desert landscape. Meals are prepared by two persons from the group, rotating every day. Of course, Chris helps a lot with the actual cooking on open fire as most participants don’t have any experience with this.

Building week was really good, the group very quickly worked hand in hand, moving rocks, mixing cement, repairing a broken wall surrounding a water tank.

When we arrived at the farm, we were surrounded by a whole group of children, who also came back the following day to watch us with great interest. All day, long lines of goats came and went to get water from the troughs on the other side of the water tank.

Yesterday was the first day of tracking week. We left base camp with two jeeps and had our lunch break in a dry river bed. Just after lunch, we found some elephant tracks and dung which was rather dry and mixed with sand, not smelly. Excitement rose as we followed the tracks, and all of a sudden, turning around a bend in the dry river bed, we saw a herd of 3 adult and 3 baby elephants! When they became aware of us, they withdraw into the trees behind them. We climbed a small hill right next to the jeeps and tried to spot them in between the trees. It’s amazing how quietly elephants can move, but we heard some branches cracking every now and then. We waited patiently for about half an hour and were rewarded in so many ways, when first two adults with a baby came out into the open again, drinking from a water whole right in front of the rocks we had climbed, and shortly after, the other elephant with a one-year old baby and a three –year old came out as well. They took water from the hole and squired it out before they drank the fresh water that filled the hole again (Chris explained to us later that they don’t like stagnant water, they are quite fussy about it). It was a fascinating, breathtaking spectacle that nature delivered to us here, as we were watching in awe. I can strongly recommend participation in the EHRA volunteering project as it is a great way to come a little closer to the country, people and animals, and will give you a unique experience. Our guides, Chris and Matthias are very experienced, careful and absolutely professional in how they organized the trip. Thank you so much! :)

ImageRobin Demytteneare, September 2013

I’m sitting in a dried out riverbed, fending off a swarm of flies as I try to write this. After working and trekking for days in the hot desert sun with very limited shower possibilities, I don’t blame them for being so attracted to us. About 5 minutes ago, our lunch break was interrupted by a curious bull elephant stopping by to check us out. As we swiftly walked to the trucks, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we are. For the umpteenth time today, I stand still at the fact that we were lucky enough to witness a group of elephants in their natural environment; feeding, drinking, playing and growling. We are here while, as Chris has reminded us multiple times, our friends and families are most likely sitting on a school bench or behind an office desk. This morning we were observing a herd on the sun-warmed rocks of a koppie overlooking the riverbed. As I listened to breaking branches and the uprooting of entire trees, I thought of the sheer power that these mammals possess. I thought back to a conversation I had with a local man in broken English and Afrikaans during building week. While he may have been slightly exaggerating about the viciousness and rampages of the elephants, the bent over windmill and broken gate hinges spoke for themselves. It did not take me long to realize that EHRA isn’t just building a couple of walls, but it’s protecting the locals and elephants from one another, ensuring that these giants of the desert and Damaraland people can live together harmoniously.

If you are hesitant about going on this project, don’t be. Do it and, at the risk of sounding cliché, you may embark on a life changing experience.

Image Georgie Wood, UK, September 2013

I have no idea what day it is and I roughly know what time it is, because the sun is high and hot. And this just suits me fine. This whole trip hasn’t just been about the elephants and connecting with people around me, it’s been about reconnecting with nature. The simple and pure way you get to live whilst with EHRA fills your soul. I feel so rich and warm for the time here. I recommend this trip for animal lovers, adventure seekers and for those who don’t know what they are looking for, because you will find it here.

ImageJutta Rymarczyk, Germany

I can’t add much to what people have already been putting down here. Still, knowing it’s a repetition; these two weeks belong to the most touching experience in my life. During patrol week, off course, it’s the animals and the amazing landscape; during build week it was knowing that our wall will contribute to harmony between farmers and elephants. However, it was also the children of the village, also-in contrast to the adults!-helped us a bit, e.g. shoveling sand onto the jeep is hard work. Also, I was glad to have some small boys with me, little things to play soccer. Shouting goal and beaming all over their faces, they made my day. I’d be great if they could continue with what EHRA is doing here, one day.

Thanks to EHRA and to the best guides ever, Chris and Mattias

ImageSeptember 2013, Rachel Kirk, UK

Sleeping mild both weeks is fantastic. Buy a warm blanket in Swakop to keep you warm whilst you stargaze from bed! I’ve been here 2 weeks and going home shortly, but have had little idea what day, date or time it is since we set off from Swakopmund. A true antidote to the hectic – style of “normal” life. Build week makes a great change to deskwork! And you soon get used to being covered in cement and sand with no way to really get clean! It’s also a fab way to get to know your workmates, and have a laugh together. In patrol week, the sense of open space is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The first sight of an elephant, truly in the wild is exhilarating and the chance to stand up on rocks, out in the desert just watching the herd is so peaceful and quieting.  Completely different from a ‘safari’ experience, and a million times better.

What’s useful to know? You can wash clothes at camp after build week, buying the powder between you in Swakop, warm beer is better than no beer, bring fewer things than you think, cooking is shared on a ‘duty’-2 people each day, bring snacks, don’t bother with dry shampoo – it doesn’t work in the desert and you won’t care anyway…..and finally, if you are thinking of booking, then do it, you will really love it.

Rachel – watching the fire at camp on patrol week with a beer (actually a cold one!)

Image

Volunteer blog – 29th July – 9th August 2013

Group picWeek 1 29/07/2013

Build week tips: Use the juice to add to water, I drank more that way. You can never take enough wipes or sanitizer. Blanket plus sleeping bag, otherwise just bring your energy enthusiasm to have the most amazing time ever.

An Elephant

An Elephant

Week2 05/08/2013

Patrol week tips: Definitely sunscreen and snacks to enjoy the long siestas, reflection time. Good camera and binoculars. Warm evening clothes and again, lots of fun and fantastic experience.

Best bits: Stars while sleeping, being woken with coffee, delicious evening  meals, comfy bed rolls, view from the toilet at top camp, Chris’s easy come, easy go attitude, Mattias’ laugh, satisfaction at completing the wall, exhilaration at seeing the elephants roaming free and so gently, but respecting their nature and keeping a respectful distance and calm, quite presence. A last word – the people you meet, get to know and learn from. It was an awesome experience. Just lovely Liz xxxx

Lunch relaxing

Lunch relaxing

These two weeks were amazing. The best that have ever happened to me. It doesn’t matter where you are from, what you’re doing…everybody accepts you the way you are. Not only did I meet great people and friends, but I also found myself and it made me forget pain. Thanks for showing me how easy life can be without anything, but at least a happy life. Thanks for the amazing project! I will never forget this trip and the experiences!

“Thank you” is not the right words for what I feel…..I don’t have any words for it! I will miss every single second!

Josi

Sandrun

Sandrun