The vast landscape of Namibia is one of stark beauty and stillness, where you can travel for miles without passing another soul and see nothing but sand dunes. However, the desert landscape belies the fact that Namibia is home to the world’s largest population of cheetah, free-roaming black rhino and desert-adapted elephants.
One of the best ways to get to grips with the astounding, and sometimes overwhelmingly remote wilderness, is to join a volunteer programme. Most are centred around the protection of endangered wildlife and supporting rural villagers, attempting to earn a living out of the county’s harsh and barren environment. Here are some of the more popular options.
Carnivore Conservation and Research Project
Namibia is home to over one-third of the world’s entire cheetah population, but due to the fact that many live outside of protected areas, their numbers are falling and cheetah are now listed as an endangered species. The Carnivore Conservation and Research Project observes and monitors these animals and other wildlife in their natural habitat, with the aim of collecting invaluable research used to help sustain and regenerate threatened species. Volunteers can actively contribute to wildlife conservation by assisting in data collection, project site maintenance and hands-on interaction with animals.
Mondesa Youth Opportunities Trust
Mondesa Youth Opportunities Trust is an after-school enrichment programme located in the township of Mondesa in Namibia, and offers promising learners from disadvantaged backgrounds extra classes in Math, English, Life Skills, Computers and more. Volunteers can assist in academic and extra-curricular activities which aim to empower children from impoverished environments to become valuable members of society, through well-designed programmes grounded in excellence, passion and commitment. The students range from Grade 4 to Grade 8 learners and all classes and activities are taught in English.
The Great Projects Desert Elephant
Assist in the protection of Namibia’s unique desert elephants by volunteering for this worthwhile project that seeks to conserve the desert elephants and ensure safety and security for the communities who live with the local herds. Volunteer duties include elephant-tracking and monitoring in the Namibian wilderness, the construction of walls to protect valuable water sources, and the education of the local community. The programme warns that the first week could be physically taxing, but the rewards are worth the effort, as volunteers are given the unique opportunity to embark on a truly intimate elephant experience that exceeds any wildlife safari encounter.
Oana Flora and Fauna
The Oana Flora and Fauna volunteer programme combines wildlife conservation with community work and adventure activities, as participants carry out everything from game counts on horseback to biodiversity surveys and building observation hides. This amazing offer sees volunteers assisting in the conservation of Namibian wildlife and enjoying an unforgettable adventure at the same time, by trying out thrilling white water rafting adventures and exhilarating mountain bike rides. It’s not all about hard work though, and there is also time for lazy afternoons on the beach and roasting marshmallows over an open fire.
Hands-on Wildlife Rehabilitation and Animal Care
Receive a hands-on, practical introduction to the care and conservation of Namibian wildlife with a volunteer stint at the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Animal Care centre. Any energetic and adventurous person between the ages of 18 and 45 is invited to apply to the programme, that lists volunteer duties including the daily care of mammals, birds and primates as well as the release of rehabilitated animals back into the wild. Everything from injured dogs and tortoises to lions and jackals are cared for at this centre, providing a sanctuary for animals that would not otherwise survive in the wild. Volunteer activities range from food preparation, animal feeding and the cleaning of enclosures to animal interaction, game counts and fence patrols.
Namibia Teaching and Wildlife with Frontier
This programme gives volunteers the rare opportunity of making a difference to both Namibian children and African wildlife by combining teaching with wildlife conservation. Up to four days a week are spent assisting a teacher at a local San school. Participants are encouraged to use their own creative ideas, skills and initiative to develop the school and improve the children’s education. When not teaching, volunteers help with the care and feeding of orphaned and injured animals at a sanctuary. Wildlife varies from meerkats and baboons to lions and cheetahs and the infant baboons in particular require special attention. Volunteers act as surrogates to orphaned babies by bottle-feeding them and even sleeping with them overnight.
Naankuse Namibia Predator Research Project
Helpers that sign up to this volunteer project have the opportunity to work alongside qualified wildlife researchers at three different sites in Namibia. The primary aim of the foundation is to protect and conserve the vulnerable land, cultures, and wildlife of Namibia, as well as rescue species threatened by an ever-shrinking habitat. Volunteer activities include capture-mark release studies, actively mitigating human-wildlife conflict, researching cheetah populations, and ongoing camera trapping and wildlife surveying. Key species studied are cheetah, leopard, and hyena and the programme is ideal for those wanting to become intimately involved in wildlife conservation initiatives in Namibia.
Noah’s Ark Wildlife Centre
The Noah’s Ark Wildlife Centre is a family-run care and rehabilitation programme where volunteers can care for and handle African wildlife. It houses orphaned, neglected, abused and abandoned wild animals and also seeks to educate and enlighten local farmers who often resort to shooting and trapping wild animals in order to prevent livestock loss. The centre works closely with the local San community and assistants get the chance for some real hands-on experience with Namibia’s wildlife. Along with caring for the injured and abandoned wildlife, volunteers are also expected to carry out maintenance on the reserve, assist local field guides and learn how to carry out project tours.
Ongula Volunteering Project
The Ongula Volunteering Project is always on the lookout for passionate and motivated volunteers to teach, support and assist children and young adults in paving a better future for themselves. The project supports the local community through educational programmes such as English proficiency, math, and computer literacy and is based alongside an active homestead in the middle of the Ongula community. Volunteers should therefore be willing to experience the Ovambo culture and a rural lifestyle while meeting amazing people and making lifelong friends.
Anti-Poaching Tracking Ranger Programme
This special unit of volunteers from all around the world is dedicated to the protection and prevention of rhino-, elephant- and lion-poaching as well as creating global awareness of the negative effects of poaching. The project is based at the Amani Development Centre in central Namibia and introduces participants to a breathtaking vastness that is typical of the country’s stark and arid, yet riveting savanna setting. Volunteers are given specialised, practical and theoretical training that includes air-to-ground formations, information on poaching methods, sweeping formations, map-reading, as well as GPS and basic survival skills. After completing the four-week course, volunteers are put to work on nearby farms. Ultimately, the project aims to allocate well-equipped protection specialists not just in Namibia, but also to the rest of the world.
Amani Development Centre, Namibia, +264 81 241 5450