Interested in volunteering in Namibia? Hear about all of the activities I got up to whilst there and what day to day life is as a volunteer!
I spent 6 weeks volunteering in Namibia starting from May 2022. Right from the start Chris from the TMR team was very helpful with the many questions I had, I was quite nervous as I have never travelled on my own before and especially for such a long amount of time! Chris was able to answer all my questions, help me with all the necessary information they needed and put my mind at ease. The checklist they sent out is really good, definitely stick to it, and it had some key things I wouldn’t have thought of. I ended up choosing this project more so as it’s one of very few where you can actually work with African Wild Dogs, so I couldn’t turn it down.
"Overall, I truly had the most amazing time at the farm, I wish I could have stayed there even longer. Let this be the push you need… DO IT! You wont regret it."
Once I arrived in Namibia the driver was there waiting for us, couldn’t have been easier. The journey from Windhoek airport to the farm was approximately 30-45minutes long. I arrived with 3 other people on Monday. All the staff spoke good English so communication was never an issue. Once there the local team were brilliant, they gave us a tour of the farm and sent us information via whatsapp on the weekly timetable and important information. We were then taken to our rooms.
The accommodation was actually a lot better than I was expecting, it reminded me of ‘glamping’. You get a proper bed with a quilt and pillow and they provide you with a bath towel. All of which they will change and wash for you as you request in the morning meetings, you can also request a room tidy and new toilet paper etc. There was a mirror on the back of the door and you had an open wardrobe for clothes. Depending upon which room/tent you are in depends upon where your bathroom is, mine was connected by a door just outside. I had a shower, toilet and sink. The shower was powerful and when it was sunny it was really nice outside. But I do have to say, if you go in their winter months be warned the hot water doesn’t always last that long and you will want to shower later on in the day like 4-5pm. As this allows the solar panels to warm up the water and it will stay warmer for longer, but still the hot water tends to last for about 5 minutes, so you learn to shower and wash your hair quickly. In my room there were multiple plug sockets, both Namibian style and European with the 2 prongs but I do know that some of the other rooms only had the Namibian sockets so an adapter is necessary. Another key point to know is that if you go in winter, or anytime from mid May onwards take a good quality WINTER sleeping bag as it gets VERY cold at night, I had quite a few nights where the temperature was -6℃. The staff at the farm can provide you with an extra comforter to help keep you warm should you need it.
Within a couple of days of arriving you will have a welcome presentation, where you learn all about the programme and what they stand for, what they’ve done and what they do. You also receive a set of uniform which includes a pair of zip off trousers and a volunteer t-shirt, you can buy more from the coffee shop should you want a spare set. They do currently have free wifi that you can access from the ‘Lapa’ area which is where you eat your meals and a lot of people spend their free time. You can purchase a local sim card from their coffee shop or bar if you want, but the wifi allows you to access whatsapp. Although when there’s a lot of people there the internet can sometimes be weaker so you can’t always make internet calls or video chats. At the farm you can take your washing to the laundry room and it gets cleaned for you and you can collect it within a couple of days. You get 3 meals a day, all of which are really good. For the entire time I was there, there was always something I could eat and enjoy. All the water on site is safe to drink, including all tap water from the sinks! The coffee shop and bar open at set times everyday apart from Sunday, from these you can buy drinks and snacks for in between meals and there is an ATM on site where you can get money out to spend at these.
The range of activities can vary from week to week, it depends upon the amount of volunteers who are at the farm. I would strongly recommend a minimum of 3 weeks, ideally 4-6weeks if you want to do everything and if you are thinking about visiting the other sites like Kanaan, Timbila or Neuras. This is something you can arrange when you get to the farm. If you decide you want to go visit one of the other sites, maybe after speaking to some of the volunteers who come back from there, you can arrange this with the team at the farm. There is a small additional fee but it is not too great as they transfer the cost you paid to them for your time at the farm on to the other sites, so it’s not that expensive at all. Each of these work on a Saturday to Saturday basis so you spend a week at the other sites or more if you prefer. You can also choose to help out at the primary school which is on site, you can do this for a single morning, afternoon or the whole day it is up to you. When at the school, you help out in the different classes/grades with whatever the teacher needs. I was reading stories, testing the kids on the colours, words, the older kids got a spelling test and I helped create maths games to make the learning enjoyable for the children.
At the farm the activities range a lot, some of my favourites were baboon walking where you take out all the juvenile baboons (there were 11 when i was there) you walk a short amount of time to a nice area where the baboons can forage, climb trees and play. They often end up climbing all over you and they are adorable! You also get to bottle feed the 2 baby baboons, which is really cute. I didn’t expect to love them as much as I did after being at the farm.
Then there is the K9 training where you assist the anti-poaching unit with training the Belgian Malinois and Dutch shepherds on a variety of activities including: obedience, agility, scent location, tracking, trailing and attack simulations.
There's small animal feed where you go around and feed the animals at the farm including the different meerkats, mongoose, rabbits, polecat and vervet monkeys. Food prep is preparing the food for the before mentioned animals for the following day, this includes both the vegetable and meat. We also go and feed the large baboons which are housed a very short drive away from the main farm, for this you throw the vegetables, fruit and milepap over the enclosure fence to the animals.
When feeding the carnivores you go out with your coordinator to the lions, leopards, brown hyena, cheetahs, caracals and wild dogs, here the coordinators give you information about the animals and their stories as well as facts about the species and you throw the meat over the fence to them. You get some great pictures of this!
Then there is horse riding where you go out in the morning to collect the horses as they are free roaming across the farmland, you bring them in, groom the horses and go on a ride in the bush on the farm's land. Anyone from a beginner to an experienced rider can do this. The horses are well trained and experienced, they just follow each other on the ride. You have the opportunity to trot and sometimes gallop but only if you feel confident enough to do this. You always have one of the experienced coordinators with you on the ride and you get incredibly close to the animals on the ride including the giraffe, zebra, springbok and stenbok.
One of the truly brilliant activities was the Rhino Rangers Lite experience. In the afternoon you go out to the Zanier reserve with one of the rangers, which is across the road from the farm and within it has the 3 free roaming elephants, 19 white rhino, 3 lioness’s, numerous cheetah, leopard, brown hyena, jackals, kudu, oryx, springbok, duiker etc. You spend the early afternoon on a safari-like activity tracking down the animals, then for the afternoon you go to your campsite on the reserve, where you stay in tents but do have camp beds. You have your evening meal, then at the night time you go out for a night time drive to set an anti-poaching presence with the lamp. Whilst doing this you will often see many different animals but it does get chilly on the back of the car! Then in the morning you go out again tracking the animals, and will often get out of the car and follow the Rhino’s tracks with your ranger. You get incredibly close to them doing this! You also do other activities like camp/ enclosure cleaning, research, enrichment, nature walk, project work and game counts.
Whilst you don’t have loads of free time at the farm your evenings are your own and Sundays are a far more relaxed day where you only do the small animal feeding in the morning and afternoon, leaving the rest of the day to yourself. Because of this there are 2 optional extras you can choose from, both of which are an extra expense but again very inexpensive for what you do. You can do the lodge lunch which is basically a buffet style meal at the lodge which is located a 10-15minute drive from the farm but still on the land, here you have access to their pool and decking area and the meal of course. Whilst the food at the farm is nice the food at the lodge is outstanding and you can really fill up there, you also get dessert! Then you can spend your time relaxing by the pool. The other option is the sunday town trip, where you get taken to the craft market where you can buy great souvenirs and presents, then you go to the grove mall. Here you can buy pretty much anything, it is like a typical mall from home. For both of the trips you have a driver who takes you and picks you up so you never have to sort out those arrangements yourself. When it comes to spending money it really will depend upon if you are going to be buying a lot of snacks, drinks, alcohol etc from the bar/coffee shop, if you will be doing the extras on a sunday or even if you chose to go to one of the other sites. £50-£150 a week max should be more than enough.
Overall, I truly had the most amazing time at the farm, I wish I could have stayed there even longer. The staff were amazing, knowledgeable and dedicated to what they do. The mission is ‘conservation through innovation’ and they work so hard towards this, whilst there you feel a part of the team and it is an wonderous feeling. I 100% recommend this project and if you are even considering it, let this be the push you need… DO IT! You wont regret it.