Namibia offers extraordinary volunteer programs for those interested in becoming caretakers of the environment, wildlife, and the people of Namibia. Home to the oldest desert and tallest sand dunes in the world, this active and environmentally cautious country has endless outdoor volunteer opportunities. The environment and conservation is deeply valued in Namibia; it was even one of the first African countries to incorporate protecting the environment (and its animals!) into their constitution. Make a difference by volunteering in Namibia and experience the mesmerizing landscape and local people!
It is possible to find volunteer work in Namibia all across the country, but cities are not as common for volunteer programs as rural areas. It is important to understand that cities in Namibia are very small, especially in regards to population, so volunteers shouldn’t expect “big city” life in any location.
Windhoek is the capital city of Namibia, making it the largest and most urban area in the country. Windhoek is a city that contains pedestrian friendly streets, German influenced castles, and modern high-rises, which makes the city even more enjoyable and easy to explore. With many places to eat, shop, and sightsee, volunteer opportunities in Windhoek will offer volunteers more of a social life than other cities in Namibia. While you may decide to volunteer abroad in Namibia outside of the capital, it is not uncommon for volunteers to travel to their volunteer placements from living accommodations in Windhoek each day.
Swakopmund. Known as the most adventurous city in Namibia, Swakopmund provides many volunteer opportunities for those with an adventurous spirit. This small German colonial town sits along the Atlantic Ocean, offering a beach experience to the West and desert in all other directions. With the options to sand board the tallest dunes, ride camels in the Namib desert, or go sea kayaking with seals, volunteers will find their free time can be put to good use in a place like Swakopmund.
Gobabis, another small city, provides a number of volunteer placements based on the eastern side of Namibia. Gobabis sits on the Nossob River, a river known for its strong population of elephants; this is fitting as it is common for volunteer opportunities in Gobabis and the surrounding area to involve working with animals, specifically elephants. This city is on the eastern outskirts of the country and is known as the cattle capital of Namibia, providing a unique mixture of rural and urban influences.
Rural Areas. The vast wilderness contains the majority of volunteer opportunities in Namibia. Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world, having just over two million people in a country twice the size of California. This makes it the perfect place to volunteer for those that like to get a little dirty, appreciate nature, and get away from urban life.
Volunteering in Namibia
Since the environment is of the utmost importance in Namibia, many projects and volunteer opportunities in Namibia are focused on environmental preservation. However, there are a range of other ways to volunteer in Namibia too.
Wildlife Conservation. Whether you want to volunteer in the wilderness of the Namib desert or on a private game reserve or even a wildlife sanctuary, Namibia offers it all. Between elephant camps, rhino conservation programs, and wildlife research, the opportunities to work with animals as a volunteer in Namibia are seemingly limitless. On top of all the land animals you can work with, it is also possible to volunteer in marine conservation along the coast.
Teaching. A popular mode of volunteering in Namibia involves teaching subjects ranging from English to mathematics. Teaching in Namibia will allow volunteers to experience the culture, establish close relationships with locals, and empower young students with knowledge. Increasing access to education for those that wouldn’t have access otherwise is one of the best ways to make a difference as a volunteer in Namibia.
Health Care. Those with medical backgrounds can offer medical support to smaller communities within the sub-saharan area of Namibia. Although prior experience is ideal, volunteers willing to learn or help with less-skilled health care tasks are widely accepted. There is always a call to action to improve the health of locals, specifically the Bushman and Herero communities. From volunteering at medical clinics to doing general health checkups in rural villages, all the way to teaching nutrition, there are many ways to encourage healthier lifestyles as a volunteer in Namibia.
International volunteers can conduct volunteer work in Namibia for anywhere from two to 12 weeks, but it is also possible to volunteer for an even longer period. English is the official language of Namibia, but language barriers still exist in rural places where local dialects are more widely spoken. Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, that for most is a second or third language and will be heard throughout the streets. It is not necessary to know how to speak any of these languages, but learning some key words and phrases will show interest in the culture and its people, which is especially important while volunteering in Namibia.
Costs & Affordability
Namibia is a relatively affordable place to volunteer abroad. Since volunteer work in Namibia often takes place in the desert or in other rural areas, daily expenses will be very minimal. However, in the bigger towns and cities in Namibia, prices can be comparable to U.S. prices. While fresh produce and other food items are a little less expensive, the majority of items will be relatively similar. As for volunteer programs in Namibia, a two week program will usually cost around $1,500. While this price doesn’t usually include airfare, it normally includes in-country transportation, living accommodations, and food. Keep in mind that every volunteer program in Namibia will vary in cost and inclusions, so be sure to inquire thoroughly before selecting the placement for you!
Accommodation & Visas
Individuals should expect that volunteering in rural Namibia will involve camping or very simple accommodation options, while living arrangements in urban areas may include basic apartments or shared houses. The odds of having access to running water are obviously lower in rural areas than in bigger cities, but still not a given in any city in Namibia.
A work visa is required to volunteer abroad in Namibia, even though volunteer work will be unpaid. A work visa takes roughly five weeks to process and typically costs around $130. Volunteer program providers typically help volunteers navigate the visa application process. In addition to a work visa, a temporary residence permit is also necessary to volunteer abroad in Namibia for two weeks or more.
Benefits & Challenges
Environmental Ethics. Namibia is a country that offers one-of-a-kind insights into environmental preservation and conservation volunteering in rural areas of Africa. For those interested in experiencing life in the wild through their volunteer work abroad, Namibia is the ideal place to get in touch with nature and learn new ways to protect the environment and various populations of wildlife.
Desolate Desert. Unlike volunteer programs that take place in urban areas, the living arrangements in Namibia can be challenging for some volunteers. While some individuals that volunteer in Namibia will find themselves living in dormitories or apartments, the majority of volunteer programs in Namibia entail sleeping in a tent and living out of a backpack. This can make adapting to a new culture a bit more challenging, but definitely more of an adventure.
Getting Off The Grid. While some might struggle with the living arrangements and rural locations, others will thrive off it. Volunteering in Namibia provides the opportunity to really get off the grid, and immerse yourself in an environment that will feel out of this world at times.
Space-like Scenery. Volunteering in Namibia will allow you to see some of the most distinct scenery the world has to offer. Almost space like, the landscapes of Namibia are truly beautiful and bizarre.