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Wildlife Conservation Retreat - Kanaan Desert

Unrivalled Spectacular Scenery with Wildlife – Namibia at its Best!


The successful management of any wildlife area is a complex and difficult task with many facets and different interests. The scale of operations can be daunting and requires many eyes and hands to get the necessary work done. Kanaan is the newest addition to the foundation network and a true desert gemstone. 

Previously utilised as a film, photography and holiday destination they have a goal to establish an unfenced wildlife reserve which provides refuge for a range of endangered species and one which is based on scientific and sustainable management practices. (Filming here includes Amazing Race Australia Vs NZ, Amazing Race China, Going Wild with the Joneses to name a few)

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Kanaan is part of the Namib Sand Sea (World Heritage Site) and holds amazing photographic opportunities for photography buffs and iphone snappers alike, including Namibia’s iconic red sand dunes, vast open grass plains dotted with camel thorn trees as well as abundant antelope, towering mountain ranges and many other scenic features. 

Kanaan welcomes volunteers who want to be actively involved in almost any of the duties which management needs, and those that want to experience the desert first-hand. During your visit, help the local team record wildlife information that contributes to the long-term management of the area. The main flag ship species are cheetah, brown hyaena, spotted hyaena, leopard and a range of desert-adapted wildlife species. This project is starting from scratch, so volunteers can really make an impact.

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Activities at Kanaan

Volunteers will become first-hand involved in conservation through the research and monitoring of free-ranging carnivores.

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The simple basis for any professional management of a wildlife area is a good, accurate map. Maps, for example, are necessary to evaluate plant and animal population data and guide future decisions. The volunteers will join the researchers and use a GPS unit to map anything from important wildlife observations to habitat features as well as infrastructures such as roads, waterholes, fences etc. Once collected, the positional information will continually be processed in to up-to-date reserve maps which are used by management and for publication of scientific results. Mapping means quality time in this fantastic environment whilst collecting information on a variety of features and resources. Alot of the mapping will be undertaken on foot to understand the relevance of data at the landscape scale. Encounters with different species of wildlife are guaranteed.

Capture Mark Release

To understand how wildlife utilise the reserve and how they interact in a challenging and demanding environment requires indirect monitoring techniques such as GPS satellite tracking. Especially for very secretive species like the leopard and brown hyaena, GPS collars are a good way of gathering important information. The volunteers will help researchers identify areas of regular carnivore activity (dens, riverbeds or marking trees for example), place cage traps there and then check cages. When species of interest are captured, the animals will be immobilised on-site and fitted with suitable GPS or VHF trackers for continued monitoring. After release, the work continues at the computer following the satellite information from study animals and putting them in a scientific context.

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Radio Telemetry Tracking

Collaring animals with GPS trackers to follow their day-to-day movements is only one piece of the puzzle though.Remote satellite tracking does not tell us much about the breeding success, prey selection, health status or other important ecological parameters of a study animal. 

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Direct observations are necessary to evaluate these suitably and therefore the team will go into the field regularly to track collared individuals of any species and make direct assessments. The animals are found by way of radio telemetry which means locating the radio transmitter in each collar with an antenna and receiver. Days in the field can be long and warm, and a certain amount of walking is often required following the radio signal of transmitters–but the rewards of finding wildlife in the desert and collecting meaningful information at the same time are unrivalled.


Game Count

Herbivores of all sizes are an integral part of African ecosystems. In the vast Namib Desert it will be critical to understand local ungulate population dynamics and migrations to ensure sufficient water supply. At the same time, ungulate populations need to be assessed against the available vegetation to avoid damage to the ecosystem, for example from overgrazing. 

The volunteers will participate in regular game counts to assist these monitoring efforts. Kanaan has historically been home to large herds of migratory and desert-adapted oryx (gemsbok) and springbok, but also contains less known species such as the greater kudu or klipspringer. Ostrich populations will also be counted. 

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During the initial resource assessment phase, a large number of game counts will be conducted to establish the baseline estimate for each species in the area. Later on, game counts will continue to assess population trends against this baseline. Questions to answer include, for example, how do wildlife utilise this semi-arid landscape on a seasonal basis and how does this correlate with predator populations?

Camera Trapping

During the early resource identification stage as well as during the continuous monitoring of wildlife populations we also rely on “additional eyes” in the form of motion-triggered camera traps. Because the cameras record data 24/7 and every day of the year, they often “observe” wildlife that humans overlook. 

As well as that, the cameras are non- selective and therefore capture information on all wildlife that pass in front of them, be they carnivores, herbivores, birds or others. This helps the researchers assess which species are present, and where they are most active, especially for animals that are usually very cryptic or entirely nocturnal. The cameras are non-invasive and sometimes record interesting behavioural data that we would otherwise have no access to. 

Volunteers will help set cameras in the field (for example at water points, cheetah marking trees, caves etc.), maintain them (refresh batteries and memory cards ) but also go through the abundance of images to assess and structure the data recorded. For example, the cameras will be used to identify coat patterns of large carnivores to document the number of individuals, breeding success and also space use.


Cheetah Feed

Kanaan Desert Retreat is home to four rescued cheetahs from the Sanctuary who are now the lucky residents of a 7 hectare enclosure on the red dunes of Kanaan. 

Volunteers will be involved in the food preparation, feeding and care - taking of these cheetahs as well as frequent enclosure cleanings on a regular basis during their stay at Kanaan. Caring for these four cheetahs has become a vital aspect of the program at Kanaan, as is dedicated to providing the best possible life for these former victims of human- wildlife conflict. Seeing these cheetahs up close with Kanaan’s stunning desert scenery as a backdrop is a truly inspiring opportunity that is not to be missed!

Carnivore feeding cheetah Kanaan Desert Retreat-Naankuse-Volunteer-Wildlife-Sanctuary-IWH.jpg

Maintenance and Security

Work on a wildlife farm does not end with science and research though. For the ecosystem to function adequately several maintenance activities are compulsory, especially in very dry areas like Kanaan. Dealing with endangered species, it will be important to conduct regular anti - poaching patrols and other security activities. In addition, water holes need regular maintenance and have to be controlled for damage. Volunteers will be exposed to and participate in the operational aspects of the farm, and you should be prepared to get your hands dirty from time to time and contribute to maintenance as your capabilities allow.

Other Activities

One of the must-do activities in the Namib Desert is the sun-downer drive. Enjoy the tranquillity and breath-taking scenery of the Namib when the sun sets and paints the desert in unimaginable colours. There will also be night drives or sleep-outs as part of our security protocol, but also to observe some of the nocturnal desert wildlife. Volunteers may also take part in waterhole observations because wildlife in the Namib are forced to drink regularly and therefore can be seen at permanent water sources. 

The Namib night sky with its ever-prominent Milky Way is another highlight not to be missed. There are no street or city lights nearby to outshine the stars. 


You will be staying in the beautifully renovated Kanaan farmhouse with shared rooms and bathroom. Depending upon the season, tented accommodations may also become available. The guesthouse has electricity, but you'll need to bring your own South African socket convertors/adapters to charge electric appliances. However, there’s no cell phone reception in the area.

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There are only up to 6 volunteers at any one time, which means you are therefore guaranteed an intimate small group experience with lots of hands on opportunities.

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Most meals will be provided at the house. Beverages, alcoholic drinks and snacks need to be purchased before arriving at Kanaan. The house provides a homely family atmosphere in the Namib Desert.


Volunteers at Kanaan will receive 3 balanced meals per day. Meals include a standard breakfast with cereals and toast. Coffee and tea are available. Lunches will be provided at the guest farm or in packed form for groups active in the field. Dinners typically are warm meals with meat (chicken,red meat or fish), different vegetables and pasta, rice, potato or salad. Once per week, you'll get to experience a traditional Namibian braai (BBQ) dinner. Please note that due to the remote location of Kanaan, some fresh produce may only be available seasonally. Vegetarian options can be catered for upon request. 

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Important information for everyone

  • Project is available in 1 week blocks
  • Maximum 6 spots each week so book well in advance
  • Volunteers should be ready to work in any weather conditions, including cold winters and long hours in the sun (please check prevailing weather conditions at your time of travel). 
  • The local tap water is safe to drink. 
  • Although Kanaan is not located in a Malaria zone, people must consider prophylaxis if they intend to travel to other areas in Africa and suitable insect repellents should also be brought. 
  • All volunteers should ensure adequate health insurance cover which IWH Travel can assist with to ensure you're covered for this volunteer project in Namibia 
  • Please check that relevant immunisations are up-to-date. 
  • Except for emergencies, volunteers have no access to the internet on Kanaan. 
  • Local currency can be obtained at the international airport upon arrival. 
  • Laundry services will be available on selected days.

What's Included

  • Transfers to and from Windhoek Airport in Namibia to the project (on Mondays and Thursdays only)
  • Three meals a day
  • Accommodation throughout your time at the project
  • Assistance finding the right flights and Travel Insurance for your trip so you arrive at the right place on the right day without any dramas - we work closely with IWH Travel and the project to get you there without any hassle and picked up from the airport at the correct time. 
  • Help and advice on choosing the right project to suit your skills, passions and budget. It may or may not be this one. 
  • Your time at the project
  • Assistance on getting a visa
  • We will put you in touch with others on the project at the same time as you, and where possible get you on the same flights. 
  • You'll be invited to join our Africa Volunteer Adventures Facebook Group so you can talk to others who have been or are booked to go too. Plus access to our NZ team for questions whenever you think of them. 

What else you need to budget for

  • Visa
  • Flights
  • Travel Insurance 

If you'd like to chat to us about this project please complete the form below. We will text you to arrange a suitable time to help you find out what you need to know about this project. 



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