Location: Southern Namibia
Duration: 2-8 weeks
Start Dates: Expeditions run from March-November
Cost: £2,200 GBP for 4 weeks
Includes: food, In-country support , airport pickup, all necessary project equipment and orientation.
Does not include: Flights, visas, insurance and airport taxes.
Gain hands-on conservation fieldwork experience. Assist in pioneering wildlife research. Engage in Authentic community programs
The Oana Nature Reserve is one of the most spectacular areas in the Namibian Deep South, a region of semi-desert broken up by the idyllic Orange River. Extending over 110,000 acres that includes 50km of Orange River frontage, the reserve was established by Ian Craig of Lewa Conservancy in Kenya to provide a safe sanctuary for the critically endangered black rhino and to conserve a unique and specialised ecosystem in an area threatened by commercial farming heartland. The land is an ecotone that hosts both the Nama Karoo and Succulent Karoo biomes and the Namib Desert biome. Only 1% of the Nama Karoo is protected and the Succulent Karoo is one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots on earth. The terrain itself is a chaotic geological fusion of metamorphic and igneous mountain ranges, sandy and gravel plains, seasonal riverbeds and the Orange River that provides a kaleidoscopic landscape of colour and shapes. It is a home to some of the most iconic species of flora and fauna such as the Quiver tree, the African leopard, the Greater Kudu, Brown Hyena, Caracal, Oryx, Honey badger, Aardvark, Giant Kingfisher and the African Black Eagle.
The re-wilding program is split into two main concepts: land management and baseline research. Since the area was extensively farmed and trophy hunted, the first phase of management is to gradually transition the land into its natural ecosystem. Efforts are being concentrated on eliminating all human infrastructure detrimental to wildlife, clearing scrap, removing old livestock fences and extracting alien plant species, reconstructing water points for wildlife and revitalising grassy plains.
- Reserve management – assist in removing invasive trees, interior fences, human infrastructure and scrap.
- When possible assist in reintroductions of ostrich, meerkat, grey rhebok, cheetah, giraffe, red hartebeest and blue wildebeest.
- Construction of sand dams for harvesting rain water https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkq540gsq2M&feature=youtu.be
- Construction of wildlife hides
- Open up areas for migration (removing internal boundary fences)
We are conducting extensive biodiversity surveys on fauna and flora. The Namibian Deep South has received extremely limited scientific research and so we are continuously collecting exciting data, perhaps even identifying new species. This research will give us a clear idea of which species occur, population size and distribution; essential preliminary information when establishing a conservation area prior to wildlife reintroductions and management strategy.
- Assist in carrying out wildlife research projects involving camera trapping, small mammal trapping, horned adder VHF tracking, brown hyena and leopard research, game counts, endemic Hartmann’s mountain zebra, mist netting for birds, burrowing ecosystem engineers, apex predators.
- Leopard and Brown Hyaena habituation
- Leopard monitoring and collaring
- Biodiversity surveying – assist in building knowledge on insects, reptiles, small mammals, birds and riverine wildlife in a highly understudied part of Africa with potential for new species.
Community work is carried out in association with the Oana Community Trust (OCT), our charity that operates independently of the reserve and Oana Namibia. OCT is engaging with the community-owned conservancies of the Namibian Deep South and our model is to work alongside the Nama communities and local authorities in a holistic fashion that looks to improve water, education, medical care, livelihoods, infrastructure, rangelands and wildlife. We believe that promoting wildlife as a valuable resource that can attract tourists and generate an income for the conservancies, we work to ensure there is a trickle-down effect to the crucial areas of improving a standard of living. Beyond these core areas we also strongly feel we can improve the quality of life that is less tangible, one that puts smiles on faces and gives youth a chance to enjoy and express themselves. We do this through the creation of skate parks, outdoor education and through local traditional music.
Why visit Oana and join an expedition?
Oana Nature Reserve is a rare and out-of-this-world opportunity, it is one of the last true wildernesses of Southern Africa in which you are completely able to roam free and explore. An expedition with Oana is the closest you’ll get to going back in time and setting out on a Livingstone style adventure. Oana is untouched by science, unexplored by mankind and waiting to unravel what secrets may lie within. You will live 100% off the grid, be one of the first to map the area, pinpoint which species survive in the harsh semi-arid mountainous desert, which mammals are hiding in the banks of the lush, green 50km of Orange River and what birds are hatching on cliff-edge nests.
With global populations quickly depleting, rhino and elephants on the brink of extinction; renowned Conservationist Ian Craig, whom is Prince William and Sir David Attenborough’s right hand man when it comes to wildlife conservation, made the heroic decision to intervene and secured the 45,000 hectares which is now Oana conservancy with the single aim of ensuring the survival of Africa’s remaining mega-fauna. The aim of the volunteering program is to carry out baseline research on the conservancy and re-wild the land from livestock/hunting reserve back into its natural ecosystem. The volunteer program is fundamental in transitioning the land from a reserve into a National Park within 15 years – this is the ultimate aim. All the conservation projects are carried out by volunteers and funded by volunteers. Without you there would be no funding for land management, (fixing water points for wildlife, taking down inner boundary fences, removing alien species, the reintroduction of wildlife etc.) your role is crucial and you will see how your time makes a huge difference. Each expedition focuses on key projects, therefore there are no gimmicky activities; you will work on what actually needs to get done.
Conservation is not always glamorous but you will come away feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. We are at the early phase of re-wilding, you will be involved in baseline surveys of fauna and flora: setting up traps & identification, plant pressing and logging, camera trap leopard survey through habitat types, fixed-point camera study of habitat desertification, soil study. Once all the data is collected and we understand our ecosystem a lot better, then we can start considering reintroductions so that we do not upset the ecosystem. You will be a part of real conservation and every person joining an expedition will make his/her mark and leave knowing they made a difference to the future of the critically endangered wildlife of Namibia. If you have specific skills or interests please do voice this beforehand so we can tailor and set up projects specific to you.
With conservation comes community, we like to give back where we can. We have teamed up with the Ministry of Forestry and from March 2017 volunteers will be involved in setting up Warmbad’s (our local village) first ever community vegetable garden. Food security is a big problem in our area. The land is harsh and crops fail, it has not rained properly in 3 years and the community is struggling. We are going to teach drip irrigation and other efficient permaculture techniques so the locals can start producing their own food.
Now comes the fun part…
Expeditions are led by scientists (the fun kind) Andrea and Ed, who met at Durrell Institute of Conservation Ecology in Kent during their MSc. Once they graduated they got straight into the action and moved to Northern Tanzania to work in community conservation. Andrea worked in education and outreach making wildlife education films for children living in rural areas and Ed set up a bee-keeping business for the Maasai women as a women empowerment project. After a year in Tanzania – Ian Craig, having worked with Ed before in Kenya, offered them the opportunity and now here they are leading what could be your next trip abroad! Ed and Andrea are not just your project leaders, they do their utmost to create a family during each expedition, they will guide you, be your mentor and most importantly be your friends. It’s tough being out in the bush, away from home and living off the grid. Conservation is hard work, but Ed and Andrea’s love for the natural world and passion for protecting it will get you pumped and you will not want to leave when the time comes.
‘A wee glimpse’
Highlights are 3-day fly camp missions to the Orange River. Ed and Andrea will get you up early at base camp, tuck into a hearty breakfast prepared by the camp chef, and lead you on an epic 2-hour walk through canyons, river beds, dry waterfalls and finally arriving at the oasis of a river in the middle of the surrounding rocky peaks. You will be hot and sweaty and so glad to arrive, strip straight into your swimwear and splash about all day in the river. There are no crocs, no hippos and no scary things so you can spend all day wallowing like hippos, reading a book, fishing or simply cracking open a nice, cold beer. You will camp out in mosquito dome tents on the sandy beaches on the river bank, start a barbie and taste all sorts of exotic wild game meat, roast marshmallows and share memories you’ll cherish forever. Once in your tent, switch off your torch and watch the carpet of stars in the sky and shooting stars fall towards you – a sight which will blow you away.
Travel & Accom.
You will be accommodated in a bedouin style tented camp which has 24 hour security.
Three delicious hearty meals are provided every day as well as plenty of snacks in between meals.
Please note that there is limited wi-fi at base camp; however, you will also have some access to Warmbad town where wifi access can be found.
- Minimum age 18.
- Passion and enthusiasm to get to know the country and lots of energy and creativity.
- No previous skills are necessary, however, you will need to speak English at a conversational level.
- Minimum 2-weeks commitment
- Necessary vaccinations.
- Necessary flight.
- Full travel & medical insurance. Full assistance will be provided in getting everything you will need ready if you choose our Premium Support.
|$ USD||£ GBP*|
* Currency conversions are approximate.
** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee.
*** Places are confirmed with a 20% deposit.
Project Fee includes accommodation, food, in-country staff and 24hr emergency support, transportation from Upington airport to the base camp, all necessary project equipment and an orientation upon arrival
What’s not included:
Flights, visas costs, travel health insurance, international and domestic airport taxes, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. Full assistance will be provided if you opt for our Premium Support.
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Note: Map coordinates are approximate