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Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world with a landmass as large as Spain and Portugal combined. It is considered one of the world’s most ecologically rich countries because of its incredibly diverse landscape and numerous species of flora and fauna not found anywhere else on the planet. This is mainly due to the island’s isolation from the African continent for millions of years.
Located in the northwest corner of Ambalahonko, the project takes place in the peaceful village which is home to only 40 households. Having just recently welcomed the project team into their community, the continuing and growing relationship will see volunteers and staff enjoy occasional Saturday night parties with the local residents and observe church and ceremonial gatherings. Plus, volunteers will have the opportunity to learn the native language and how to cook traditional cuisine.
The local weather: From May to October, temperatures typically range from 25-30°C during the day and 20-25°C at night, which can feel a bit chilly once you’ve acclimatized. The wet season is November to April and during this time the climate is very hot and humid.
This project’s aims are to evaluate the biodiversity in this area and compare different habitat types. You will be compiling a species inventory which will involve carrying out surveys of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in the surrounding forests. Additionally, you will be mapping vegetation, levels of human disturbance and resource usage. You will learn surveying techniques and have a chance to contribute to the local community through education outreach days.
During the initial weeks of the project you will learn basic ecological principles and methods, how to gather data and become oriented with the camp area. This period will include both theoretical and practical work including a series of informative lectures, tests, opportunities to practice identifying species and instruction on research techniques. Once all volunteers have become familiar with data collection and the scientific reasoning, they will have the opportunity to design new projects.
Following training, your focus will be on surveys of plant and animal communities. This will include:
The work schedule will usually consist of a trip into the forest in the morning and the afternoon, with Saturdays off. There will be many early mornings and late nights in order to sample a variety of species and avoid working in the heat of the day. The work load will be divided up amongst the group for variety.
During the project you will hike each day, along with other volunteers and staff, from the main campsite on the beach to remote locations in the forest to conduct your field work. You will directly contribute to important research, aiming to inform the local government about how to manage the remaining forests and conserve their invaluable natural assets.
It’s not all work, though! After a hard day in the forest you can always relax on the beach, snorkel in the crystal clear waters or play football with the local villagers.
Internet: You will be in the field for the entirety of your expedition so please advise parents and friends that it will be very unlikely that you will be in touch regularly. You can have access emails if you choose to go to town on your day off (Saturday). This access will be fairly irregular as it won’t necessarily be possible to go every weekend.
Laundry: Laundry can be washed by hand on-site.
Accommodations: The field camps consist of a collection of tents and shelters. In your camp the shower may consist of a river-pool, a jug, bucket of water or washing in the sea. You will be cooking over an open fire, so prepare yourself for the simple, low-footprint lifestyle! When you are trekking away from the base camp, accommodations could be a mosquito net pitched in a remote clearing. Get ready to truly experience basic living, including residing without electricity, beds or toilets. You will be sleeping on a roll mat with a sleeping bag. The overall camp has everything you need and the beautiful setting makes it an incredible atmosphere.
Food: The food will be fairly simplistic – rice and beans with some vegetables. Part of your role in the camp will be to help with the cooking. Drinking and washing water comes from a tap in the village and is filtered for safe drinking.
Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:
Madagascar has spectacular natural beauty; it is home to thousands of plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. If you have time before or after your project, there are many travel opportunities, both near and far from Nosy Be. Some suggestions include:
The camp is great fun and in your spare time you’ll have opportunities to swim in waterfalls and play sports against the determined local teams. You can socialize, sit around the campfire, enjoy a traditional themed Saturday night party, play board games or join in a quiz night. After a long hard day of trekking and working in the field you may wish to relax with a drink, sway in the camp hammock or chat with your new friends under a tropical sky lit by millions of twinkling stars
A range of adventure and cultural activities like visits to remote villages and dive trips are also available. You can talk to the local staff teams to arrange these explorations with local providers and tour operators.
Scuba diving courses may be available (subject to availability of spaces and time constraints).