Frequently asked questions - Harnas Wildlife Foundation

At Harnas, we live by the motto “Expect the unexpected!” When you are living and working with such a wide variety of animals on a farm in the Kalahari, you never know what each new day may bring. However, there are many core tasks and activities that need to be done every day to keep our resident animals happy and healthy and to ensure the proper functioning of our sanctuary and ongoing conservation efforts.

Welcome to Harnas Wildlife Foundation’s volunteers experience. We highly value your participation in all our projects and salute you for being proactive.

By working at Harnas Wildlife Foundation, you are granted the opportunity to provide animals with a better life and through this some of them might even get the chance of being released back into their natural habitat. Who knows, maybe you even learn a little about yourself.


What kind of activities will I be doing?

These activities can include:

Food Preparation—this is the major core responsibility of our volunteers and you can expect to spend a significant amount of time working on this task. Food preparation includes all of the preparing of food, feeding and cleaning of enclosures for a volunteer's team’s assigned group of animals. You will chop meat for your meerkats, apples for your baboons, and distribute leftovers for your vervet monkeys. Food preparation brings you close to the animals and it is through this daily interaction that often the strongest bonds are formed.

Baboon walks—these walks provide our young orphan baboon troupes with the opportunity to exercise, explore, clambering up and down trees, play-wrestling in the Namibian bush and “just be baboons”. When they get tired, you will likely find a baboon on your shoulders, hitching a ride until the next novelty catches their attention.

Farm Work—farm work can take many forms, from cleaning out large waterholes to constructing new enclosures, to cleaning up bones and other debris from the large outside enclosures. Though it can be very hard work, it is crucial to the continued wellbeing of the animals that call Harnas a home.

Lifeline Patrol—volunteers on lifeline patrol check the perimeter fences of our Lifeline nature reserve area, ensuring that there are no holes, damaged areas or other concerns, a task that is crucial to the safety of both the surrounding farmlands as well as our animals that have been released into our reserve area.

Research—volunteers can get involved in Harnas Wildlife Foundation’s research initiatives. Those interested in this line of work may have the opportunity for increased involvement during their stay. Volunteers will help radio-track the cheetahs that have been released into our Lifeline reserve area and to study how these originally hand-raised animals are adapting to independent life. You will record their location, behaviour patterns, as well as if/when they make a kill. Harnas’ work on studying the adaptability of hand-raised cheetahs is groundbreaking in that it defies the usual wisdom that hand-raised big cats cannot be released in the wild to hunt for themselves. We hope this research will go on to help further big cat conservation efforts and see more big cats released into the wild. Our research team is also involved in research on wild dogs also called African painted dog. These unique animals are increasingly rare in the wild and we hope our research will contribute to the knowledge needed to preserve these beautiful animals.

Weekend Sports—at Harnas, we work hard and we play hard. On weekends, you will usually find a group of volunteers and coordinators playing some sort of game, whether it is soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, paintball or our own special game, Fetch ball.

Do I get to pet lion cubs?

No. While Harnas takes in orphaned and injured animals and we do have resident (full-grown) lions at our sanctuary, our interest is the welfare of our animals and their continued health and wellbeing. The actions we take are in the interest of our animal residents. Harnas Wildlife Foundation does not support the practice of “lion cub petting” that is perpetuated by many so-called “sanctuaries” located primarily in South Africa (but also in other countries). As such “lion petting” farms are often involved in canned lion hunting. Canned lion hunting is the practice of raising lions to be “hunted” by paying individuals in restricted enclosures. These lions are often drugged beforehand to ensure a successful “hunt.” To help prevent the spread of this practice into Namibia, the Namibian government has instituted laws that prevent the breeding of big cats in captivity. We do not have breeding programs for our lions or other captive cats. Thus, we do not have litters of lion cubs to be petted and played with. We ask volunteers to understand that we are a true animal safe haven and sanctuary, not a tourist attraction! The interactions you have with our animals are designed with their best interest in mind. We do not support the breeding of cubs for revenue-generating purposes.

What kind of animals will I be working with?

Harnas is a haven to a wide range of animals, from wild big cats to domestic animals such as cows and horses. Though the depth and extent of your contact will depend on the exact animal and species, the following species call the farm a home: meerkats, mongooses, wild dogs, a brown hyena, cheetahs, leopards, lions, baboons, vervet monkeys, warthogs, vultures, caracals, horses, sheep, cows, domestic cats and dogs. Please understand that we have certain guidelines regarding animal interaction in place to protect both our animals and you, the volunteer. You will work very hands on with many of our animals, including baboons. For your safety however you will not be working directly with leopards and lions, though you will have the opportunity to contribute to their welfare through feeding times.

Where does my money go? What am I paying for and what is included?

The following is included in your program fee: accommodation, three meals per day, drinking water (tap water at Harnas is safe to drink), transport to and from Harnas farm, weekly laundry service, cabin cleaning service, bed linens and towel, visa application fee and aid with visa processing and a donation to Harnas’ conservation efforts. All of the money you pay to Harnas when you book through the Harnas booking office goes directly back into sanctuary's operations. Supporting our animals with the food, care and infrastructure they require is no small task. Simply feeding our large carnivores the meat they require, costs approximately $1600 USD per week. Rest assured that the fees Harnas receives, beyond the cost of volunteer stay, are put to good use. You will see those donations in action once you arrive.

Who volunteers at Harnas Wildlife Foundation?

One of the joys of being a volunteer at Harnas Wildlife Foundation is working side by side with a diverse group of people, who all share a love for animals and a passion to give back. Volunteers come from all over the world—from the USA to Japan, Norway to Brazil—and are a range of ages. Some volunteers join us because they currently study/work or hope to study/work in an animal related field such as conservation research, zoology or veterinary science. However, the majority of our volunteers study/work in other fields such as hospitality, engineering and so much more. Here at Harnas, you will become friends with people you would likely never have met otherwise. Some volunteers come with friends or with their significant other, however the majority of our volunteers are independent travellers. If you love animals and are looking for an adventure in the heart of Namibia, jump in with both feet. We have no doubt you will find friends here to share the experience with.

We welcome volunteers from all walks of life to help us realize our dream of protecting Africa’s wildlife. We understand that our volunteers come from many different backgrounds and lifestyles and we welcome the exciting diversity that this brings. However, we ask that our volunteers adhere to a code of conduct while a part of the Harnas family.

We ask our volunteers to be animal lovers. You will be expected to work hands on with many of our animals, as well as potentially with sick or injured wildlife. A love of animals is a definite must. We also ask you to come with an open mind. Life here is likely to be very different from what you are used to back home, but it is amazing how quickly you get used to life on the farm and do not want to leave! Please respect those you are working with, from fellow volunteers, coordinating staff to other farm staff. Every person has their job, which is crucial to the proper functioning of the farm, so please listen to and be respectful of guidelines and instructions.

Though not an exhaustive list, these descriptions should give a taste of what kind of work (and play) volunteers participate in while at Harnas. We hope you will join us in Namibia and experience the Harnas way of life!

Who will I be working with?

When you arrive at Harnas, you will be struck by the diversity of the Harnas family. Your fellow volunteers will be from all over the world: Norway, Canada, Belgium, South Africa, Germany, the USA, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Brazil, China, and the UK—just to name a few. Their ages will range from 18 to 60 and they will come from a variety of professions. We have had volunteers who are kindergarten teachers, veterinary nurses, students, IT professionals, hotel workers and engineers back home. What you and your fellow volunteers will share is a love for animals and an excitement for this new adventure. Volunteers regularly remark on how surprised they are at the strength of the friendships they make here at Harnas—they are truly friendships to last a lifetime. Beyond your fellow volunteers, you will be working with a team of Volunteer Coordinators who are trained in working with the sanctuary’s animals and will guide your day-to-day activities. Your Coordinators are mostly from South Africa and/or Namibia. Finally, there is a range of other Namibian staff on the farm that you will have varying degrees of contact with. Harnas is a haven not just for animals but also for people and we ask that our volunteers be open to new cultures and willing to work with a wide diversity of peoples.

How do I get a valid Entry Visa for Namibia?

To be able to volunteer in Namibia, you will require a work visa (“employment permit”) issued by the Namibian Home Affairs Office. The Harnas booking office facilitates this application. We provide you with the application form and a list of all requirements. You then submit the completed form to us. Once the visa is issued, we will email you your copy. This is not a visa that must be stamped in your passport; simply print out both pages of the visa (do not forget the attached name list— sometimes these are group visas) and bring them with you. When you arrive in Namibia, present these two pages along with your passport to the customs officer.

Be aware that Namibian work visas can take up to six weeks from date of application to date of issue. If you submit your application to us later than 6 weeks before your arrival date, we cannot guarantee your visa will be issued in time. If you have questions or concerns about the visa timeline, please contact us at volunteers@harnas.org. Please, also note that Namibia only issues work visas for three-month periods. While extensions may be possible, these cannot be guaranteed and are still subject to the six-week processing time. If you are traveling in Namibia after your stay at Harnas, please make sure your work visa is valid for the entire duration of your stay in the country.

How do I get to Harnas?

The Harnas Go Programs start on a Friday and end on a Thursday. The Exclusive Project starts on a Monday and ends on a Monday.

If you are flying into Namibia, please arrange for a flight to Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek. As our transport leaves between 9-11h on Friday morning, we ask volunteers to arrive in Windhoek on the Thursday.

The airport is about 30-45 minutes away from Windhoek city. Should your flight arrive on the same day as that of our bus leaving for Harnas and your flight is delayed, we cannot wait for any one at the airport and transfer to Harnas will be for your own account

The transfer from Windhoek City to Harnas takes approximately 3-4 hours and is included in the program fee.

The Harnas shuttle bus will pick you up at your accommodation establishment between 9-11h. Please remain at your accommodation establishment. Please ensure that we have received the necessary information about your pick-up spot at least 2 weeks prior to your arrival in Namibia.

At the end of the program, you will arrive back in Windhoek at around lunchtime. Our shuttle bus will drop you off at your arranged accommodation establishment. Please ensure we have all your pre and post accommodation details.

If a volunteers wishes to stay on in Namibia after the Harnas experience, accommodation and transport will be his/her own responsibility.

Where will I be staying at Harnas?

All of our volunteers, except for our Go Exclusive volunteers, will be housed in our Volunteer Village. This is an area, about a 10-minute walk (700 metres) from the main farm area, set aside solely for the volunteers’ use. There are several wooden cabins, communal showers, toilet facilities, and a bar/eating area where you will have all your meals. There is also a small swimming pool. You will share a cabin with up to three other volunteers of the same gender. Bed linens are provided as well as a towel. You will have a shelving unit for your clothes and other stuff. Toilet and showering facilities are located in the middle of the cabin area. There are 12 individual shower stalls and several toilet stalls. The volunteer village is located right next to a waterhole and there is something magical about watching kudu, wildebeest, eland and springbok—as well as the occasional giraffe or zebra—grazing or taking a drink on your way to breakfast as the sun rises over the grassland.

The village is run on solar power and each room has solar panel lights. Since there are no electric sockets at the village, we do offer a separate room at the main farm, where volunteers can charge their cell phones, laptops and cameras.

What about my dirty laundry?

Volunteers can make use of Harnas' laundry service. Each cabin will have a specific day on which they can bring in their dirty laundry. You must however wash your own underwear and socks. Please use designated washbasins and washing lines only. Do not forget to bring washing powder.

What kind of meals will I get? Can Harnas accommodate dietary requirements?

You will receive three meals a day. Meals are generally basic but tasty and filling. Common dishes for lunch and dinner include burgers, goulash, pasta with meat sauces, rice, sauce and potatoes. Breakfast can be porridge, cereal, eggs or pancakes. Namibia is a meat-eating country and this will you will notice as many of your meals will contain meat. However, we can accommodate vegetarians, as well as other dietary requirements. We have experience catering for lactose-free and gluten-free diets, as well as for other intolerances. Please be aware though that Harnas is located in a relatively remote part of Namibia. If you have extensive dietary requirements, please coordinate with Harnas in advance to ensure that we are prepared for your arrival and we are aware of exactly what your require. We cannot just pop out to the store here!

Is there a safe place where I can store my valuables?

There is a safe in the office where you can store your valuables. Upon arrival you will receive an envelope with your name on and where you can put your valuables such as passport, credit cards and cash in. These will be put in our safe until your departure day.


What do I do for money while I am at Harnas?

While you are at Harnas, you will not use cash or credit cards for your day-to-day purchases (i.e. to make purchases at the lapa/bar). Instead, we will open an account for you! The reason for this is to prevent cash and other valuables potentially getting lost in the shuffle of day-to-day activities (or stolen by a sneaky baboon!). When the time comes to leave Harnas, you can pay off your final bill using either a credit card or cash. Harnas farm has an ATM machine on-site, so there is no need to obtain large amounts of cash in Windhoek or Gobabis on your way in. As a matter of fact, we discourage volunteers to carry too much cash. While it is always savvy to carry a certain amount of money for emergency purposes with you while traveling, there is little or no benefit of arriving at the Harnas farm with excess cash. If you need cash while on the farm for some reason or desire some for post Harnas travels, you can use our ATM or obtain money from an ATM in Gobabis on the drive out.


What should I pack?

Please be aware that Namibia’s summer months are very warm, whereas the winter months are generally hot during the day and can get very, very cold at night (below freezing!). If you are traveling to Namibia during the months of May to August, please make sure you bring warm clothes for evenings and mornings.

Please also remember that while working, you may get dirty and you will be working in close contact with animals. Please bring clothes that are ready to work just as hard as you are!

Finally, while you will be working with international volunteers on a farm that is used to foreign visitors, please avoid wearing extra-short shorts or overly revealing tops out of respect for local customs and social habits.




Necessary to pack:

·Passport

·Visa

·Proof of travel insurance

·Proof of payment to Harnas

·Cash or access to cash for personal use before and after your stay at Harnas

·Small backpack for daily use

·Light weight bush clothes

·Shorts

·T-shirts

·Sweaters

·Long trousers

·Raincoat (only if visiting from Sept to April)

·Fleece or warm jacket

·One pair of heavier long pants for cooler evenings

·Comfortable, durable shoes for bush walks and heavier work

·Sandals or flip flops

·Sunscreen (high factor)

·Insect repellent

.Mosquito net

·Water bottle

·Personal toiletries and any necessary medications

·Flashlight

·Power adaptor: 220/240 volts. Outlets are of the round 3 pin - 15 amp type. See photo

·Alarm clock

Optional to pack:

.Pocket knife

.Sleeping bag—we provide sleeping bags for sleep-outs with the animals, however if you would prefer to bring your own or if you are coming during the winter months and would like some extra warmth at night, please feel free to bring your own.

.Swimwear—there is a pool in the Volunteer Village

.Notebook and pen

.Camera and charger (you will take lots of photos!!)

.A book (for personal enjoyment or to read to our blind vervet monkey Audrey!)


Should I get any vaccinations?

Recommended vaccinations:

.Hepatitis A

.Tetanus

.Typhoid

.Polio

We also recommend that you be vaccinated against rabies, as it is a common precaution for those working closely with animals. The chance of contracting rabies while on Harnas is very low; however for your best interest and safety, we recommend it as a wise precaution. Harnas is known to be malaria free, and malaria medication is not needed. However, if you plan to travel after your time with us through other parts of Namibia or other parts of Africa, where malaria still occurs, please check with your local travel clinic about malaria prophylaxis

Vaccinations requirements change, so please check with a specialized travel clinic for up to date information.

What medical facilities are there near Harnas?

Harnas Wildlife Foundation has an on-site clinic stocked with first-aid supplies, as well as other basic necessities such as antibiotics etc. We recently installed a defibrillator and a nebulizer. Volunteer Coordinators and other staff are trained in First Aid and CPR. There is a hospital with full facilities just one hour away. There are also physicians available in town for less urgent concerns. Should a volunteer require a visit to the doctor for any reason, Harnas can coordinate transport for that volunteer into town to obtain care.


Things to remember?

Did you inform us where to pick you up in Windhoek?

Double-check your visa that it is valid for the total duration of your stay in Namibia.

Remain at your hotel [reception] until we collect you.

Harnas provides a place to stay at during your visit, but we are not responsible for your hygiene and dietary wants. Please remember to pack your own toiletries and even though basic items are available at our staff shop, we do not have a supermarket.

What if I want to stay longer?

Great! Many volunteers choose to extend when they realize how fast the Harnas experience flies by. It is very easy to extend your stay while you are on-site—and you will even get a discount! Just fill out our extension form, check whether your work visa is valid for the duration you wish to extend to, adjust travel arrangements and if space available, you are set to stay. Please be aware that if you need to apply for a work visa extension, such extensions can take up to six weeks to process.






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