As a volunteer with the desert elephants in Damaraland/Namibia

As a volunteer with the desert elephants in Damaraland/NamibiaElephant- Adventure in Namibia: As a volunteer in the stony desert of Damaraland, I helped to build a safety wall that protects a small farm’s water reserves against the last wild elephants.

We – four volunteers and three Namibians – carried stones every day, mixed cement, slept on the floor in the dirt and sweated like savages (it was more than 40 degrees and there was hardly any shade…), poured seven liters of water into ourselves every day (I felt like an elephant myself…), without network reception and a shower, rediscovered the deliciousness of a cold coke, cooked on the campfire and experienced a brilliant starry sky at night. Not to mention the bush toilet, from which you had a phenomenal view of the endless expanse…

As a volunteer with the desert elephants in Damaraland/NamibiaWhat inspired me was the naturalness with which everyone pitched in and gave their best, whether it was me, at 58 years the oldest or the youngest, Lukas, who was just 17 years old: Everything was handemade!

As a volunteer with the desert elephants in Damaraland/NamibiaThe stones were collected by hand and piled up at the construction site, the cement was mixed in wheelbarrows using biceps-power – this was the most brutal work, by the way – and then the wall was erected in teamwork. One handed cement, another stacked the stones on top of each other. Sometimes I felt like I was doing real slave labor. Then I remembered that there really were people who had to do something like this as slaves – and not just for a week, like us, but for a lifetime.

You will be rewarded every day with the radiant, completely genuine smile of Namibians who live completely in the moment, simply enjoy everything they do, are grateful and make you see life in the same uncomplicated and fundamentally positive way they do.

As a volunteer with the desert elephants in Damaraland/NamibiaAh, and when at the end of a week like this you stand in front of the wall that you created with your own hands and a colorful team of volunteers – it gives you a real feeling of happiness. What’s more, these walls are truly built to last. In this way, you actually leave a piece of yourself on site that is meaningful, that protects people like elephants, and that gives real satisfaction!

I have often been asked how I came up with the idea of working for EHRA as a volunteer. Well, there were several reasons: On the one hand, years ago I met a lot of volunteers in South Africa and also in Nairobi who were involved in charity projects. They all had a completely different contentness than the usual backpackers or tourists. They seemed completely satisfied, for they had completely different experiences to report; after all, they had come into contact with the country and the people in such a completely different way. That inspired me.

And then, there was the consideration of how I could be in nature without booking one of the usual safaris. Please, don’t get me wrong! I visited the Serengeti back in a time when there were very few vehicles around a lion and you had some animals to yourself. That was a long time ago and I suspect that you don’t find that anywhere in national parks today. But I wanted to keep that memory. So I had to find something that is “off the beaten track”.

And so it became EHRA and the elephant project – and I haven’t regretted it for one day!

As a volunteer with the desert elephants in Damaraland/NamibiaThat is, because after the drudgery came the reward: We were allowed to go on patrol with the rangers for a week to track the wild elephants. And that was exactly to my taste: these consummate professionals know exactly where to look, they know the animals by name and their habits. So we saw a herd of 17 animals (alone – no other vehicle) splashing around at a waterhole, and were enlightened about the social conditions of these incredible animals: Who is in charge (matriachat :-)), how to read and interpret their tracks, how to determine the age of the animals, how to recognize an elephant pregnancy, and and and.

As a volunteer with the desert elephants in Damaraland/NamibiaThe highlight was of course the two baby elephants, one only one month old. The name can be chosen by the one who sees the animal for the first time. That’s how the little elephant lady is called Mimi now 🙂

Mimi was to too cute to be true! She was just learning to use her trunk, and was superexciting about that. She was constantly stepping on it or groping next to it – just wonderful to watch. And how curious she was – she even tried to run towards our car, which of course the mom wanted to prevent…

I can only recommend everyone to spend a little time learning about the habits of the wild animals before going into the bush. Our patrols were about nothing more than making sure that the animals keep their ferocity as much and as long as possible, what means: not to get used to humans. Unfortunately, out there we do a lot of things wrong… We drive too close to them, park in their way, provoke with loud noises or bright colors… all things that disturb and change the natural behavior of the animals. So naturally you shouldn’t be surprised if they raid farms and plunder the water supplies. And that ultimately leads to them being shot down. Not a nice game. We can achieve a lot here with knowledge, respect, renunciation of super cool close-ups with the mobile phone (or you just take your heavy camera equipment with you…) and awareness, as by the way everywhere in nature…

As a volunteer with the desert elephants in Damaraland/NamibiaAs you can see, I’m completely thrilled! And if you – yes YOU – feel the desire to REALLY experience elephants in their natural habitat once in your life, I strongly recommend the project of EHRA!

I can already promise: You won’t regret it if you are looking for something true and original in Namibia!

Links: Ehra

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