People are always emailing me asking how to get more hands on experience in conservation or how to simply ‘do more’ than make a donation (ie. get your hands dirty!). One great option that I always recommend as an excellent first timer’s to Africa volunteering experience is Harnas in Namibia. It’s a pretty special place where you can get up close and personal with all sorts of wild animals, including cheetahs, lions and baboons, and help them on their long journey of rehabilitation before being set free. Not all of the animals that are taken in can be returned to the wild, and the team at Harnas does its best to look after those that can’t. There’s also wild animals roaming around the property.
Why Namibia? Well, Namibia is ‘Africa for beginners’ and Windhoek, the capital city is often referred to as the Tokyo of Africa, so it’s a great place to start your African adventures. It’s safe, clean and easy by African standards. As an Aussie you can get yourself up to Windhoek via Johannesburg for about $2000 (combining the super cheap V Australia flight going Melbourne at the moment to Joburg with a return flight with Air Namibia, SAA or BA to Windhoek). Plus, Namibia’s unreal, so I reckon it’s worth going the extra mile if for no other reason than to see the fabulous Etosha National Park and the Namib Desert dunes. Seeing an oryx perched regally on an orange sand dune at sunset is nothing short of breathtaking.
Now the good news is that Harnas is currently offering a special deal til the end of the year where you can hang out in this amazing part of the world for about AU$570/week. I know it seems weird that you have to pay to volunteer, and it certainly wasn’t that organised when I was volunteering in Zim back in the late ’90s, but the truth is it’s the way things work these days as these operations have to support you while you’re there as well as keep their programs going, and that costs money. You can feel good about the fact that you’re not only contributing to conserving animals through your own sweat and tears but also making a donation to help them too.
If you’ve been to Harnas or are planning to go, leave me a comment here as I (and my friends!) would love to know what you think of it! Most people who volunteer in Africa are desperate to return, captured as I was by the adventure, excitement and incredible animals, and from what I’ve heard a week or two at Harnas will change your life. So take advantage of this great deal if you have some time up your sleeve! www.harnas.org