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Madagascar - Diving and Marine Research

You're invited to join a team that protects marine ecosystems by going out on scuba and snorkeling surveys that will supply vital information to the government and to international conservation agencies. Madagascar has some of the best dive sites in the world, so come enjoy the crystal clear waters while protecting the environment!



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectNosy Be Island, Madagascar
Project LengthMin 3 weeks - Max 12 weeks
Arrival AirportNosy Be Airport
Volunteer WorkDiving, mapping corals, studying fish behavior, surveying mangroves and more
Age16 - 50

What's Included

AccommodationShared huts or tents
Food3 meals a day
Orientation KitAll necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival
SupportLocal in-country team and 24hr emergency support
Airport TransfersAirport pickup upon arrival
Pre-Departure Kit Full project details will be sent following registration
Insurance Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage

What's Not Included

Flights, visa (if required), personal expenses
* Required diving courses (if not already certified upon arrival): PADI Open Water (2 weeks) US$412, PADI Advanced Open Water (4 weeks+) US$380, PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water combined course US$675


Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, with an area as large as both Spain and Portugal combined. Madagascar is considered one of the most ecologically rich countries with an incredibly diverse landscape, including rainforest and grasslands. Because of the island's isolation, many species of flora and fauna there cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

The project is located on the island of Nosy Be, in the village of Ambalahonko, which is in the northwest region of Madagascar. Ambalahonko is a peaceful village with about 40 households. 

Madagascar's wet season is from November to April and the climate, during this time, is very hot and humid. From May to October, temperatures are typically 20-25°C at night and 25-30°C during the day.


About the Project

Madagascar's increasing population is having a destructive impact on the island's ecology, especially the marine ecology. The local government is now working with international conservation groups, including this project team, to stop this destruction and save the island's invaluable biodiversity. 

This research and conservation project aims to provide the local communities, stakeholders, and government bodies with the information they need to design and implement management plans for the future protection of this pristine marine ecosystem.


Volunteer Work and Contribution

During this project, you will be conducting scuba and snorkel surveys in which you will map coral, identify reef fish and invertebrates, study the behavior of fish, and possibly see whale sharks. Additional project activities include surveying mangroves, a vital buffer against storm surges caused by cyclones, and an important part of the coastal ecosystem.

For the first couple of days on the project, you will be settling into camp and familiarizing yourself with the running of a remote field research station. For the following three weeks, you'll go through the necessary training to receive your qualfication in conducting marine surveys, a vital part of the project. During this time, you may also receive refresher dive training courses if needed.

Below is a basic list of research techniques you will be utilizing while on this project: 

  1. Habitat mapping: Providing a comprehensive underwater map of the bay. This involves noting where we find sea grass, coral, sand, rock and other substances. This is conducted by small-boat reconnaissance, snorkeling and scuba diving.
  2. Mangrove mapping: Examining the diversity in different mangrove stands.
  3. Fisheries studies: Working with fishermen at fish landing sites to assess catch levels and composition. 
  4. Cetaceans: Looking out for whales and dolphins, making notes of incidental sightings.
  5. Coral disease: Looking into the abundance and occurrence of coral diseases among the reefs to see if certain areas are more effected due to different environmental factors.

Important Note: You must have both a PADI Open Water Certification and a PADI Advanced Open Water Certification in order to take part in this project. If you are not certified, you can complete the training courses for both/either of these certifications prior to beginning your volunteer placement for an additional fee. Please speak to your placement coordinator about costs.

For an additional cost, experienced divers may receive the PADI Emergency First Response, PADI Rescue Diver, and/or PADI Divemaster qualifications

A minimum duration of 6 weeks is highly recommended  (especially if you have no prior diving experience). Those staying 4 weeks or less will be trained in identification and methods, but usually full surveying does not commence until week 4 or 5.  If you are able to join the project for only 3 weeks, your involvement in the surveys and conservation work will be limited.


Living Arrangements

Accommodations: During your placement, you will live in one of the wooden buildings at the research base camp. Do not expect to find any luxuries such as electricity, beds or toilets. You will be sleeping on your roll mat in a sleeping bag. 

Food: Three meals a day are provided. Food will be fairly basic – lots of rice and beans with some vegetables. Part of your role on camp will be to help with the cooking. Drinking and washing water comes from a tap in the village and is filtered and safe for drinking.

Laundry: No laundry facilities are available. 

Internet: Limited or no internet access is available.


Travel Highlights

Madagascar has spectacular natural beauty. If you have time before or after your project, there are many things you can do and places you can visit. Here are a few ideas: 
  • Ranomafana National Park
  • Masoala National Park
  • Avenue of the Baobabs
  • Isalo National Park

Minimum Requirements

  • Minimum age 16
  • Good level of English
  • Immunizations (please consult your local travel clinic)
  • Good physical fitness
  • PADI Open Water certified and PADI Advanced Open Water certified


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