Help care for over 300
animals in Namibia
A unique experience working with wildlife
Namibia Harnas Wildlife Sanctuary
Volunteer at the very first wildlife sanctuary to open its doors in Namibia! The sanctuary is home to over 300 orphaned, injured and conflict animals such as the banded mongooses, meerkats, crocodiles, vervet monkeys and chacma baboons and many magnificent carnivores including cheetahs, lions, leopards, caracals and African wild dogs.
This is your chance to embark on an adventure reminiscent of ‘The Lion King’, where the activities are endless and hands on. The excitement includes animal food preparation, feeding the smaller sanctuary animals, enclosure maintenance, feeding the carnivores, night drives, horse riding, research and the chance to become a junior ranger for the day (and night!).
But wait, that’s not all! Harnas Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the heart of the San communities, one of the oldest cultural tribes in the world. Join them on a traditional walk and marvel at the African night skies while lingering next to a homestead. Be regaled by myths and legends of a bygone era and immerse yourself in a world of traditional wonders.
Background to the wildlife sanctuary
With Namibia being famously known as the Cheetah capital of the world and a wildlife hotspot, the ongoing conflict between humans and animals (especially cheetahs) is becoming worse. As the country's population rises, villages and towns need to grow and more land is needed for farming and other essential activities. In the animal's eyes, humans are encroaching onto their territory with their habitats shrinking on a daily basis.
This conflict is resulting in livestock animals being killed and damage being caused to crops and farmlands, with the locals doing what is required to protect their property and ultimately their livelihood. This unfortunately does result in problematic animals, mainly carnivores, being killed.
With this ongoing battle continuing to this day, the Harnas sanctuary is open to provide a safe haven to injured animals with the aim of releasing as many as possible back into the wild in a controlled manner. Alongside other volunteers, you will provide an essential pair of hands to care for the 300+ animals currently within the care of the sanctuary, as well as assist with ongoing research projects to try and help combat the human-wildlife conflict.
Where will I be volunteering?
Set on a sprawling 10,000 hectare reserve that is teeming with wildlife, volunteers are accommodated at the heart of the sanctuary itself. The sanctuary was stablished in 1978, making it the first sanctuary to open it’s doors to countless orphaned, injured and conflict animals.
Widely thought to be one of the most impactful conservation projects across all of Africa, the Harnas sanctuary is currently home to more than 300 animals that have been rescued - generally as a direct result of human-animal conflict in Namibia.
The programmes in Namibia aim to provide a safe haven for injured, orphaned and conflict animals. Whenever possible, their goal is to release animals back into the wild in a safe and controlled manner, with the project directing all its efforts towards the long-term rehabilitation of animals. To date, the local team have successfully rehabilitated and released over 40 carnivores back into the wild, relocated many problematic animals to safe areas away from farmlands and helped many other species.
Within the sanctuary grounds, the local team also run the Cheeky Cheetah School. The kindergarten wonderland for the children of Harnas, is a place where volunteers can interact with the little ones and be inspired by future generations.
What is my role?
This is your chance to join a life-changing experience in Namibia, as you spend your days helping within a busy wildlife sanctuary and making a real difference to some of Africa's most endangered animals. During your time at Harnas, you may get involved in the following activities -
Food preparation – With so many animals within the care of the sanctuary, there are a lot of mouths to feed everyday! Your daily task involves crafting nutritious meals for the diverse group of animals living within the sanctuary. Whether you're assembling veggie platters for herbivores or whipping up meaty snacks for the carnivores, your role in delivering a well-balanced diet contributes to their robust immunity, ensuring their ongoing well-being and contentment.
Small animal care & feeding – After meticulously preparing their meals, the highly anticipated feeding session commences! From tending to groups of mongoose and meerkats to caring for cats and dogs, you assume the crucial role of ensuring their daily nourishment.
Carnivore feeding - Get ready to witness the carnivores devour their meals right before your very eyes! Following the provisioning of meals by our coordinators making stops along the way to observe and feed the carnivorous residents. The sanctuary boasts a diverse array of predators, including lions, leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs. The chance to feed and observe these under the watchful eyes of our expert activity coordinator these majestic hunters is an unforgettable experience that will stay with you forever.
Night drives - Help protect and learn more about the security drives taking place in the dawn of the day. When most people are asleep, you'll be on watch protecting wildlife and ensuring the safety of our animals. Be sure to discover some of the rarer and nocturnal creatures beneath the moon's gentle glow! Aardvarks, brown hyenas, porcupines and small-spotted genets are among the species that come to life after sundown, and this night security drive offers you a chance to catch a glimpse of these animals in their element.
Baboon Walk - One of the most popular activities is the baboon walk. This forms part of their enrichment and offers the baboons the chance to explore their natural environment whilst hitching a ride on your shoulders or maybe even grooming you - a treat for everyone!
Project work / maintenance - To provide the animals with a high quality of life, project work plays a crucial role in maintaining the sanctuary's efficiency and ensuring a safe, comfortable habitat for them. These tasks encompass various responsibilities such as excavating and maintaining water holes, constructing playgrounds for baboons, repairing fences and roads, and pruning overgrown vegetation. You might also find yourself cleaning animal enclosures, so be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get hands-on with the work!
Research - Activities like game counts, camera traps, and vegetation surveys are all part of the research program at Harnas. Observe a diverse range of animals, and record and sort important information that is vital for our data analysis. The sanctuary hosts a captivating research program with this initiative providing a unique opportunity for volunteers to actively participate in vital wildlife conservation efforts.
San Bushman experience - Don't miss the chance to visit the San in their traditional village, where you can immerse yourself in their ancient customs and traditions first hand. During your visit, the San will graciously demonstrate the medicinal use of plants, showcase snare-making and trap-setting techniques, recount their hunting practices, and enchant you with captivating stories, songs and dances.
Junior rangers - Gain a glimpse into the daily lives of the dedicated rangers and anti-poaching teams as you get to experience first hand the essential tasks they undertake. As part of this, you will get to witness and take part in the training sessions with their skilled K9 unit (dogs).
Camp outs – Embark on an unforgettable adventure by spending a night out in the field alongside the local team’s experienced rangers. Join them for a captivating night patrol, where you will spend your night in canvas tents surrounded by wildlife. This unique opportunity will allow you to listen to the intriguing sounds of the nocturnal wilderness, see more elusive nocturnal animals and gain a deeper connection to the natural world around you.
Lifeline clinic - You will have the opportunity to see first-hand the positive impact your contributions have on the San community by visiting the lifeline clinic. The centre not only provides medical care, but also education and food each day. Everyone will receive a tour and see all of the facilities, including the treatment and maternity rooms before meeting the children and serving lunch.
Other activities - Whilst volunteering at Harnas, you may also be able to go horse riding, help out in the Cheeky Cheetah School and more!
What will a typical day look like?
Working with wildlife within a busy sanctuary will mean no two days are the same! If you’re looking for an action packed week that is full of varied activities, where you spend your time out with the animals, then this is the project for you!
You will typically be volunteering Monday to Friday from 8:15am to 7pm, with a long lunch break during the midday sun. There will be lighter volunteering activities over the course of the weekend along with fun team building exercises and braai nights.
Please see below an example day volunteering at the sanctuary –
7am – Enjoy your preferred breakfast selection, whether it’s cereal, toast or some fresh fruit to kickstart your day.
8:15am – Everyone will gather for the morning meeting, whereby the co-ordinators will provide you with details about the day ahead.
8:30am – It’s time to kick off your first activity, with your daily experience being varied as the week progresses.
1pm – As the midday sun is overhead, we will head back to the project site for some lunch. This is your chance to relax and unwind and maybe go for a swim!
3:15pm – Everyone will gather once again for the afternoon meeting.
3:30pm – Your afternoon volunteering activities will start, with so many tasks and animals to look after, you’re in for a treat.
7pm – After a hard day of work, it’s time to sit down and enjoy a freshly prepared dinner with the rest of the group. Everyone will normally gather at the lapa (eating area) to sit around the fire, grab a drink and share stories.
Take a refreshing pause from your volunteer duties and join in on the Saturday afternoon fun activity. Immerse yourself in a range of enjoyable outdoor activities, including nature hikes and games, all taking place amidst the stunning beauty of this natural paradise. After a fun filled day, it’s time for an evening tradition where you can savour a hearty, traditional Namibian meal with the braai night.
On Sundays, there are a few volunteering activities such as food preparation and animal feeding and then the rest of the day is leisure time.
Where will I be staying?
Set on a sprawling reserve teeming with wildlife, volunteers are accommodated at the heart of the sanctuary itself. You will be surrounded by all of the animals, where you will fall asleep to the lions roaring and wake up to the birds tweeting. This offers an ideal opportunity to rejuvenate amidst the stunning natural splendour of the Namibian wilderness.
The heart of the sanctuary is the lapa, where everyone congregates throughout the day for meals and to relax. Here you can also indulge in some leisurely relaxation by enjoying a revitalising swim in the alluring pool, set amidst the unspoiled reserve.
To cap off your day, our well-appointed bar awaits with an extensive selection of beverages, offering the perfect setting to unwind with a refreshing sundowner, all set against the backdrop of Namibia's breathtaking scenery.
You will be staying within cosy wooden cabins that are equipped with four single beds and access to a shared bathroom.
Other things to consider
Multiple programmes - Whilst in Namibia you may have the opportunity to help on numerous other programmes that the local team run in conjunction with the Harnas Wildlife Sanctuary. This can include helping within the other wildlife sanctuary, collecting research on the Timibila Reserve, heading to the desert in Kanaan and more. If this is something you are looking to do, we would recommend arranging this before you travel as spaces may be limited when you arrive.
Accommodation upgrade - If you're looking to spend a night, weekend or longer living in luxury in the heart of the African bush, then you are able to upgrade to a beautiful on-site private cottage. Please get in touch for further details.