In the heart of Namibia, close to Windhoek, you’ll find a pony paradise and breeding stud for beautiful and diverse Appaloosa horses. Created by Leon and Annika, this place truly is magnificent for horse and nature lovers. With over 60 horses, dogs, cats, alpacas, donkeys, geese, cows, ducks and little miniature ponies, there will always be an animal up for a cuddle! The stretched out farm creates the ultimate pony paradise in the big camp, with a river flowing through it during part of the rainy season in Namibia. In this blog post you’ll read all about my experience on Sandwerf farm and as a Joseph’s Dream volunteer. Below you will also read more about travel in Namibia, where else to go in Namibia and much more!
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The volunteer program at Joseph’s Dream is truly something else. With reasonable work hours you have more than enough time during lunch and after work for fun activities. During my stay the day started with a lovely breakfast at 7.30am, work from 8am to 1pm, a lunch break until 2.30pm, and a few hours of work in the afternoon until 5.30pm. You truly get to experience how the breeding stud works by helping the great team of grooms with feeding and walking the horses in and out every morning and afternoon. Lunch and dinner are also provided and served at the main kitchen house, and it is fabulous! Stallin, the chef, never missed a beat and we loved every meal he cooked for us. With a beer, wine or cider from the honesty bar, the sun sets on another beautiful day on Sandwerf farm.
Also read: volunteering with horses in Zimbabwe
The accommodation for volunteers is to say the least dreamy! They provide volunteers with stunning villas, inside there is a shared living room and two private ensuite rooms. The living room has beautiful glass sliding doors and a lounge set. They also have a little coffee and tea (and hot chocolate!) station, a fridge and a porch with magnificent views. On the porch, Leon has designed wine pools, which are 2 person pools with seats inside - perfect for relaxing with a glass of wine while the sun sets on Sandwerf farm. The ensuite rooms have large and comfortable beds, a big closet, desk and ensuite bathroom. Even though you likely will not spend a lot of your time in your room but mostly outside, these rooms are a treat to come back to after a long day of being with the horses. Wifi is available at the main kitchen house where meals are also served and mostly works. Do remember this is Namibia and it might be a bit spotty sometimes! Which is the perfect excuse to wander the farm instead of looking at your screen for a while. If you work or study online you can get a sim card with data in Windhoek to make sure you can always go online.
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Most of your day will be spent with the horses, getting lessons in groundwork and training. You will be given natural horsemanship lessons, so if natural horsemanship is your thing, this volunteer program will be your paradise! After feeding and walking the horses out in the morning, the lessons will start. You can watch others and learn from their lessons, or you can take the mini ponies out for a walk, hang out with the foals or do your own groundwork with your project horse (if you have approval from the trainer). Lessons include groundwork, backing, riding in the round pen or arena and sometimes you’ll be able to take the horses out on an outride with one of the grooms! Sometimes volunteers will help clean the pens or trim hooves but you won’t have to muck out any stables. At the end of the workday you help walk the horses in again and do the feeding. After that, it’s time to relax for a while until it’s time for dinner and sundowners! The horses at Joseph’s Dream are incredible to work with, they are gentle souls, very smart and pick up new information very quickly. You’ll be able to learn lots about horse training, not only from the trainer but most importantly from the horses.
The costs of the program are 595EU per week up to 3 weeks, from 3 weeks to 3 months it’s 550EU per week. This includes everything mentioned above - meals, accommodation (including daily cleaning and washing services!), your training and lessons and wifi. Flights, insurance, drinks, visa and vaccinations are for your own account.
Also read: volunteering with horses in Canada
First some quick info on the visa for Namibia. Visas can be obtained at the airport or land border. As of now, you will need a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old to enter Namibia. Make sure to get a tourist visa, you will be visiting the country for holidays and not for work. If you are interested in working in Namibia you’ll need a work visa but there is quite a long procedure for this. The tourist visa is free of charge. You’ll also need to fill in the health questionnaires which you can either do beforehand or you can fill them in on the airplane where they will be handed out to you. When you’re all done make sure to check the visa stamp in your passport to see if they put in the right date. Now, you’re all set to go stay at Sandwerf!
On the farm you have time off on Saturday afternoon and you get the whole Sunday off. There are lots of incredible things to see and do around Namibia. A group of other volunteers and I decided to visit Spitzkoppe. It’s easy to rent a car in Windhoek, and only a 3 hour drive from Windhoek to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We spent one night here, talked around the fire and the next morning we spent exploring Spitzkoppe itself. You can drive around the reserve and stop at all the amazing rock formations, or you can hike through it. Hohenstein Lodge is a fantastic place to stay the night close to Spitzkoppe.
Also read: how to volunteer with horses abroad
Another must see in Namibia are the incredible safaris. Dry season is the best time to go as the animals are easy to spot as they gather around the watering holes. You’ll need a few days to properly do a safari in Namibia. Click here to read more about a 6 day camping safari in the Namib desert and Etosha. Here you can read more about a 10 day camping safari in Northern Namibia. And last but not least, click here to find out more about a 5 day camping safari in the Namib desert and along the coast.
If you're planning on exploring Windhoek itself too and have some money to spend, I recommend staying at the sustainable travel destination Olive Grove guesthouse. If you have less of a budget and are looking for a place with a real safari-feel to it, I recommend the incredible Urban Camp.
When you have free time on Sandwerf, make sure to also explore the farm itself. It’s a large property and the surrounding nature is absolutely stunning. It’s worth it spending one of your weekends at the farm to take in all the nature. You can walk around the big camp where the herd of horses is, explore and read a book while the horses are grazing in the background. If you are interested in getting some photos with a horse from Joseph’s Dream, your project horse, make sure to chat to Annika. She does incredible photoshoots with volunteers and their project horses and truly is able to capture the bonds between human and animal. Thank you so much Annika and Leon for a fantastic two weeks at your place.
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