Lois Vander Waerdt review 1 Sep 2016
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Seeing the elephants up close and personal nearly every day.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Be prepared to work hard.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
The project is a good one -- building enclosures for water tanks to provide water for livestock. Otherwise the elephants drink the livestock water and the locals shoot the elephants.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
Yesterday, we completed an evaluation form from the organisation in which I provided detailed information about the administrative problems in the way this project is run. This is a summary. EHRA, apparently, was founded by a person named Johannes. We didn't know that he even existed until we passed his truck on the road and someone mentioned who he was. He or his wife, Rachel, should have done the initial briefing, using that time to inform, engage and excite us about the project. Instead the very inexperienced Build Week guide was in charge and the briefing was useless. Johannes is missing opportunities for increasing the number of volunteers and for adding financially to EHRA's budget. He has no idea about the financial abilities of those on the project -- if we thought it was run well, we might have made a substantial financial contribution to the work.
In addition, the food was dreadful! Here are 14 people doing hard, physical labor and the food is both insufficient in quantity and bad! We had porridge all but 3 mornings for breakfast. I survived on Wheatabins with a little cinnamon and sugar, because I can't stand porridge, finally reverting to my own stash of Snickers bars when I couldn't stand it any more. (Eating chocolate before noon is sort of like drinking alcohol before 4:00) One of the evening meals was good, two were decent, but the others were not good. We've had more than 6 weeks of camping experience in Africa over the last 18 years and have had fabulous food cooked over campfires (which was the case on our latest adventure), so we know it's possible. EHRA needs to hire a cook to plan and cook attractive, nutritious, and delicious meals, even if it means charging people more money. I have no problem with "duty teams" (participants doing the cooking and clean up), but during Build Week (where the guide was checked out most of the time), the duty teams were basically left to their own devices to follow various recipes, most of which should tossed into the nearest trash bin. Volunteers have paid money and are giving of their time. They should be fed properly.
All of this said, the guide during Patrol Week was excellent. He engaged with everyone, made sure the cooking was done promptly and correctly (which didn't help some of the recipes!). There is a notebook with photos of individual elephants and information about them and their families. Frankly, I expected it to be more comprehensive and more up to date. I thought that was part of what we'd be doing during Patrol Week. Patrol Week basically was like a regular safari except that we were only looking for elephants.
Read the operator's response here:
Thank you for your review and the points you have raised. I have spoken with Rachel and have been told the following:
Regarding the briefing Rachel had very bad flu at the time and so was unable to meet everyone and do the briefing as she does normally like to do. The build week guide is a FGASA guide who has worked with them for 3 months and they believe him to be very hardworking and capable.
She will take your points regarding food on board and look to improve this. They do spend a lot of money on the food the reason is that if people have spent all day working really hard, there is nothing better than looking forward to dinner and having a great meal. The way that the duty system works is good and it is meant to foster that feeling of being a community. Looking after other people and taking care over cooking everyone a lovely meal is a nice thing to do for each other and it helps to create a caring environment. During your time there, there were mixed reviews of the food with some enjoying it and others saying simpler recipes and more variety would be better, so this will now be looked at.
Thank you again for your review and the points raised and we hope you enjoyed your time on the project.