“EHRA aims to find long-term sustainable solutions to the ever-growing problem of facilitating the peaceful co-habitation between the subsistence farmers, community members and the desert adapted elephants.” ~ excerpt from site
Guest Writer: Janet Gilmour is an animal lover and runs Janet the Pet Nanny.
Back in 2011, I was at a Bridal show and entered into a draw to win a wedding. To my surprise and amazement, my name was called and I won!! The majority of our wedding expenses were covered. When guests began asking what we wanted or if we had a registry, it really made me think. I felt that we were blessed to not have the stress of paying for a wedding and we had so much stuff at home already. I had always wanted to visit Africa and decided that we had the chance to do something meaningful and give back. Two years later my husband Greg and I began our honeymoon trip with EHRA…..
Logically I knew what we had signed up for. The experience itself was unlike anything I could have ever imagined. I have never lacked for words in my entire life and this trip left me speechless.
Here is a synopsis of our EHRA experience:
Food: no, no one makes you eat bugs. I never lacked for food or went hungry. The dinners were so elaborate and tasted so good we decided to try the recipes out when we got home. Stock up on any of your favourite drinks or snacks before heading out because believe me you will miss having all the options you are used to.
Drinks: enjoy as many cold drinks as you can before you start. The BIGGEST thing I missed wasn’t a shower but drinking anything cold. Bring re-hydration tablets and make sure to always be drinking water.
The landscape: Standing on the side of the mountain and looking out into the Namibian landscape really makes you aware of your place in the world. On numerous occasions my husband and I both voiced how being there was akin to being on another planet. The Namibian landscape changes from desert to dunes to marshes to mountains before you can even have a chance to take it all in.
Toiletries/Hygiene: not being able to shower is not as big a deal as you may think it will be. Bring hair elastics and clips as your hair will get so dusty you won’t be able to do much else with it. Try to bring soap with micro beads or exfoliating beads to get the dirt out when you do get to shower. I found it hard to get the dirt off. I also was the dirtiest person in the group every day so you may not have the same problem
Bring a wide brim hat and wrap around sunglasses. It will help with the sun and keep the bugs from annoying you.
SPF 60 sunscreen is a must!!
The People: getting to stay and work with 15 total strangers is an experience in of itself. Getting to know new people from different parts of the world was great. Comparing lifestyles and talking about our regular lives back home was interesting. I got to learn that chips are crisps and fries are chips. Getting to meet the native people and children of Namibia was eye opening. To be welcomed into their homes and to learn about how they live was humbling to say the least. Feel free to ask questions about their lives and ask to take pictures. The children love having their pictures taken and the awe and wonder of seeing themselves in the camera screen is indescribable. If you can, take a Polaroid camera and then you can give them the pictures you have taken of them.
Build week: mix cement. Go on a rock run. Build the wall. Lunch. Siesta. Sand run. Repeat. That pretty much sums up build week. There is an art to getting the perfect consistency of cement. You will never be able to match the lifting and building skills of Mattaius. Don’t even try or delude yourself into to thinking you can. Building is not a competition. It is about setting new limits on your own abilities.
Last but not least Patrol week: Nothing can prepare you for when you come face to face with a single or herd of Elephants. Bring lots and lots and lots of batteries. Make sure to get out from behind the camera and binoculars as much as you can. Take in the wonder of these beautiful creatures as it will be over before you know it.
Thank you EHRA for the most unforgettable, life changing honeymoon!!!!
To learn more or find out how you can volunteer visit www.desertelephant.org
*all photos credited to Janet Gilmour