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Na'an ku se: Review (with pictures)

If you could not tell I love to travel and I love nature and wildlife. Therefore, it was a dream to go to what is probably known as the pinnacle of wildlife, Africa. After some research me and my partner settled on Na'an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary, as we believed it to be ethical but also exciting. This was not just to go on a safari to see the “big 5” but to be a volunteer. We wanted to help, get hands on and actually contribute to helping some amazing wildlife. So in mid-September 2022 we flew off via South Africa to Namibia to volunteer at this incredible wildlife sanctuary. I thought I would tell you about my experience, so you know what to expect and to perhaps help you decide if it is a place you would like to visit. I would say this blog post is fairly long and if you are interested in a certain section to skip to it using the sub-headings to get the information you need. Here is my overview, review and experience at Na’an ku se.

A tower of wild giraffes around Na'an ku se
Wild Giraffes around Na'an ku se

Na'an ku sê

Na’an ku se is located in Namibia, which is on the south-west coast of Africa. I won’t go into too much depth of Na’an ku se history, as you can find most of it on their website. However, It was founded by Dr Rudie and Marlice van Vuuren to “conserve Namibia’s wildlife, landscape and unique cultures”. The wildlife sanctuary part started in 2007 to give animals a second chance. They quickly started to get involved with “Rapid Responses” to reduce human-wildlife conflict in the area and went on to adopt the vision of “An Africa where humans and wildlife can live and thrive together.”. This with their mission “To conserve the land, cultures and wildlife of Namibia and rescue species threatened by an ever-shrinking habitat.” made it an ideal place for us to check out.

Na'an ku se Ecotourism Collection Logo
Na'an ku se Logo

I spent my time at the Na’an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary based near Windhoek the capital of Namibia. However they do have several other bases or camps, which you can go to volunteer and experience. From the Lifeline Clinic to help with people to Kanaan in the desert and more. They offer a wide range of different locations and volunteer experiences, which I recommend you check out to select the right one yourself. They seemed quite flexible and if they have spaces it seemed relatively easy to change while you are there if you decide to go to another one of Na’an ku se locations. If you do wait until you are there you will be likely to get up to date current encounters from the other volunteers that might have gone to them.

Na'an ku se Na'an ku se Dessert Retreat logo
Kanaan Logo

The Na’an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary has a number of small and large animals from meerkats to lions, which all require food and care. Namibia is also sparsely populated, so you are among the wilderness, which again is full of wild animals. They are also partnered with the Zannier Reserve, which the members of Na’an ku se help to manage. This is a massive 9,000 hectare wildlife reserve that is home to some amazing animals including Elephants, Giraffes, Rhinos, Lions, Steenbuck, Oryx, Jackals and more. You really get to interact with some incredible animals in all sorts of ways. This mix of animals gave us another push to go for the trip, as it meant we were bound to get some great interactions with these animals.

Zannier Reserve Na'an ku se entrance
Zannier Reserve Na'an ku se

Volunteer options:

Now you can donate and adopt an animal to help them out or you can do what I did, Volunteer. This lets you get hands on and give back, while getting a bit of a holiday. Now there are a variety of options to choose from and you will have to see what they have running when you decide to go and make the right choice for you. Having said this here is a quick overview of some of the options while I was there:

A group of young baboons up a tree
Young Baboons up a tree

Wildlife Volunteer:

This is what I did and I would recommend. You take care of the animals they have at the sanctuary, as well as being involved in the research and monitoring of the animals surrounding the sanctuary and at the Zannier Reserve located nearby. You primarily do this at the Na’an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary located near Windhoek but they have acquired more sites, so you might be able to do your volunteering there with different animals.

Young baboon up a tree at Na'an ku se
Young Baboon

Rhino Rangers:

This is essentially what it sounds like. This volunteering option is designed to give you an idea and help with the protection of the Rhino’s on the reserve. You spend the time shadowing the anti-poaching team learning how they protect the reserve and animals to keep them safe. It is a great experience to get to know how the anti-poaching unit works and you will gain a great amount of respect for the people working there.

A group of Rhinos including a young calf at the Zannier Reserve
Rhinos at the Zannier Reserve

Medical Volunteer:

If you want to get hands on helping the community and the people of Namibia this can be a great choice for you. You will head to the Lifeline Clinic based in Epukiro and become part of the team giving free primary health care to thousands of patients. Help the indigenous people of Namibia and get experience of the life their community faces today.

Na'an ku se Lifeline Clinic
Na'an ku se Lifeline Clinic

Wildlife Rehabilitation and Captive Care Experience:

An educational experience that gives you hands on experience with the wildlife rehabilitation and care of the captive animals. You get to see the amazing animals in Namibia but also get given seminars to grow your knowledge. They do not run it all year around but if you are keen to get relevant rehabilitation and captive care experience this is a great option.

Brown Hyena at Na'an ku se
Brown Hyena at Na'an ku se

Veterinarian Volunteer:

Another educational experience and a great one if it is in your professional field. This is what my partner did, so I have a bit more idea of what goes on. Essentially, similar to the option above you get some hands on veterinary experience, as well as a number of seminars to increase your wildlife veterinarian knowledge. You get to shadow the on-site veterinarian and veterinary nurse and learn how they try to take care of the animals in Na’an ku se care, as well as the wild animals in Namibia. The experience is open to both veterinarians and veterinary nurses, so if you are in this field and want to get hands-on experience with wild and zoological animals it is a great option.

Vert Nurse taking heart rate of a sedated Cheeta
Vet Nurse and Cheetah

This is just a brief overview of the volunteer experiences I am aware of as of writing this and those I saw some people do whilst I was there. I also believe it is possible to do some of the volunteer options at a number of their locations but you will have to confirm with Na’an ku se on that.

Feeding Baby Goat
Feeding Baby Goat

Small Additions:

When I was there they also offered a great number of additions to make your experience extra special. I won’t go into too much detail here but listing them you can; go on a night time drive, sunset tours, Cheetah walks, meet the San people, go to the premium lodge for lunch, go to Windhoek and more. Again I would recommend you check out their website to see what they have going on and talk to Na’an ku se team when you arrive to get yourself on any additional trips. I went on a few and found them all entertaining, well done and enjoyable.

Red and Blue Lizard at the Na'an ku se lodges
Red and Blue Lizard

What is ethical?

The big question, to me at least, is whether it was ethical and I believe it was. The people there certainly seem to care about the animals, the locals and the community as a whole. They show this in their operations of hiring locals, building schools, hospitals and housing for them. Also, in their teachings and actions at the sanctuary. When you go you get an introduction presentation that highlights this with their goal to end human wildlife conflict and educating everyone, including you and how you can help with this. They also give you information and facts about the animals but also the misunderstandings in the culture and how it takes time to change.

The animals seemed healthy and those in captivity have