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Madagascar

Conservation + Teaching + Island Hopping

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Discover Madagascar

Move it move it in this marine wonderland.

Lemurs, baobabs, rainforest, beaches, desert, trekking and diving are all to be found on the world’s fourth largest island. The remarkable flora and fauna is matched by epic diverse landscapes - you can see rainforest in the morning, and desert by tea. Topping that, there is over 5000km of coastline, 450km of barrier reef and 250 islands, so pack your snorkel to marvel at coral ‘cathedrals’, shipwrecks, rays, whales and reef sharks.

With waves of migrants arriving from various corners of the Indian Ocean, the island is a rich cultural melting pot of people - each bringing their own customs and beliefs, filling the island with historic sites.

Venture out to the islands of north-west Madagascar to take part in marine, forest and animal conservation with an injection of community teaching - all with a view to protecting this unique ecosystem.


Program Itinerary

This vibrant and diverse program is set amongst stunning tropical islands off the coast of mainland Madagascar. You will base yourself in the volunteer camp on Nosy Komba and from here spring board into a mix of projects before heading off on the Spirit of Malala. All projects are run concurrently so it is easy to change focus on a week by week basis.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Overview

Nosy Be & Nosy Komba

Nosy Be

Nosy Be is the largest Island just off the north-west shore of mainland Madagascar. It is a little slice of paradise with idyllic beaches, clear waters all centered around the buzzing town of Hell-Ville.

Inland you’ll find lush rolling hills covered in the sweet smelling ylang ylang plantations, rum distilleries and a single-gauge railway; think the Caribbean but better…

You will fly into Nosy Be and have time to catch your breath before catching a local boat over to the smaller island of Nosy Komba.

Nosy Komba

Nosy Komba is a small volcanic island lying midway between Nosy Be and mainland Madagascar. The volcanic hills, covered in bright green rainforest, fold dramatically down into the water creating white sandy coves.

The island’s main settlement is the beach side village of Ampangorinana, strung out with winding lanes lined with embroidered tablecloths, woven baskets and woodcarvings.

Accommodation

Turtle Cove Research Centre

Your base will be at the Turtle Cove Research Centre found on the water’s edge of Nosy Komba. The centre is based around a huge communal thatched structure where everyone hangs out together, surrounded by a big dining room, kitchen, 9 thatched sleeping huts (3 bunks per hut) with shared shower/loo close by, all nestled amongst big rocks and palm trees creating a magical volunteer village.

Food

3 meals a day, prepared in the traditional Madagascan style.

Expect: Rice, beans and vegetables with chicken, seafood or beef.



Wks 1 - 2

Forests of Nosy Komba Conservation

Forest Conservation

The forest on Nosy Komba is home to wild black lemurs and 300-recorded unique species known to Madagascar, many of which are now on the UN threatened list, predominantly due to habitat destruction. Early in the morning you’ll head up into the forest to track, study, observe and monitor their social and behavioural characteristics, whilst enjoying being up close and personal to these iconic creatures.

Typical projects include:

Behavioural studies of the Black Lemur: to look at the differences between a wild and habituated group.

Reptile Survey: to estimate population densities and to gather data that is comparable across the range of habitats and changing seasons.

Night walks: to reveal a completely different assemblage of species including the leaf tailed geckos.

Bird survey: to study the seasonal occupancy of the endemic bird species present on Nosy Komba.

Wks 3 - 4

Schools of Nosy Komba & Nosy Be Teaching English

Teaching Conversational English

There is great demand among the island communities on Nosy Komba and Nosy Be to learn English so as to enhance their future job prospects and have the ability to communicate with the growing number of tourists.

Despite this enthusiasm, opportunities to learn the language from native speakers have been scarce, until now.

There are currently 10 different classes, across several villages, to teach both kids and adults (beginners and more advanced) conversational English, using interactive and fun techniques.

Adult classes are usually an hour long and have between 5 and 10 students per lesson whilst teenage classes are much larger with 25 to 45 students per class, ranging in age from 10 to 15 years.

Child classes are half an hour and have between 10 and 30 pupils aged between 4 and 10 years. Classes vary in their level of English with some beginner classes and some for more advanced students.

Wks 5 - 6

Island Hopping Adventure Sailing

Spirit of Malala

You’ll hop on board the Spirit of Malala, a 50ft dive/fishing boat which will allow you to visit a few of Madagascar’s remote islands and bays. Highlights include:

Nosy Iranja: comprised of two islets linked together by a stunning kilometre-long sandbar at low tide.

Bararahamay River: verdant hills behind white beaches, known for their boat builders and wild honey.

Nosy Mamoko: very remote and traditional and home to100-year old tortoises.

Russian Bay: full of mystery and intrigue. The bay’s name dates back to 1905 when a Russian warship anchored there and refused to return home as life was just so good.

The Radama island archipelago: a stunning group of 4 islands where you’ll find transparent water, squeaky white beaches fringed with coconut trees peppered with small fishing villages.

Plastic Oceans Project: You’ll be setting up a movie night in each village along the way to help to explain to local populations what impact plastic pollution is having on the oceans.

Accommodation

You will sleep in pop up tents, which will be set up on the beach, waking up to the sound of crashing waves.

Food

3 meals a day - cooked on the boat.

Wks 6 - 10

Lokobe Marine National Park Marine conservation + Padi training

Marine Conservation

In conjunction with the Oceanographic Research Institute of Madagascar, we have been tasked to assist with the collation of reef data to help assess the biodiversity and growth of the reef system around the Lokobe Nature Reserve. Projects involve; identifying species and populations of fish, invertebrates and coral; reef baseline surveys; beach cleanups and protecting the beloved sea turtle.

PADI Dive Training

To participate in the marine conservation you need to be scuba trained to advanced level, which can be obtained whilst in Madagascar.

We aim for you to dive 4 days a week for 4 weeks. All dives, apart from the PADI training, are marine conservation related.

If diving’s not your thing, don’t worry. Instead you’ll go snorkeling on the reef, take part in beach and reef clean ups, work with turtles or help on local community projects.

Program Details & Costs

We have four main departures in January, April, July and September where you can go for up to 10 weeks to experience all the different phases described above. However we can be super flexible in Madagascar and have shorter departures in February, May, July and October to accommodate those on a tighter time frame or budget. Have a look at the most popular options listed below and get in contact if you need more flexibility.

Depart Jan, Feb, Apr, May, Sep & Oct

2018: 3 Sep, 15 Oct

2019: 3 Jan, 14 Feb, 4 Apr, 16 May, 5 Sep, 17 Oct

Costs

10 Weeks
2 weeks forest + 2 weeks teaching + 4 weeks scuba + 2 weeks boat
2018: £37032019: £3733

6 Weeks
2 weeks forest + 2 weeks teaching + 2 weeks boat
2018: £25452019: £2575

6 Weeks (Scuba)
4 weeks scuba + 2 weeks boat
2018: £27452019: £2775

4 Weeks
2 weeks forest/teaching + 2 weeks boat
2018: £20352019: £2065

Depart July

2018: 2 Jul

2019: 2 Jul

Costs

6 Weeks
2 weeks forest + 2 weeks teaching + 2 weeks boat
2018: £25452019: £2575

6 Weeks (Scuba)
4 weeks scuba + 2 weeks boat
2018: £27452019: £2775

4 Weeks
2 weeks forest/teaching + 2 weeks boat
2018: £20352019: £2065

Extra PADI Costs

If your program includes 4 weeks of scuba then one PADI scuba diving course - beginner, advanced or refresher is included in the cost. To participate in the conservation dives you will need to be trained up to PADI advanced level.

If, like many Leapers, you have no diving experience, you’ll first complete a five-day Open Water Level 1 training course, at our Turtle Bay facility, with our on-site diving instructor, before taking a further three-day advanced course for an additional fee of £200. If you’ve already completed Level 1 or the advanced course elsewhere, then you’ll take the advanced course either for the first time or as a refresher at no additional cost.

In addition for each course you’ll need to also register online for the padi training packs which will cost £110 per course registration.

Dates Don't Suit?

Don't worry - we can work around this, just get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Social Life

Guaranteed. The camp accommodates up to 40 volunteers, who come from all over the world, so it's busy and fun.

Variety & Flexibilty

Community, conservation and building projects run concurrently so you can chop and change on a weekly basis.

Fixed Base

Apart from the boat phase, you will be based at the Turtle Cove Camp - so you have that home from home feeling.

Beach Life

Paradise - a Robinson Crusoe experience. Tropical island living.

Monday to Friday

Expect to be busy with your projects 5 days per week for about 5 hours a day.

Weekends

The weekends are yours to do with as you please. You’re welcome to stay and chill at Turtle Cove or head off to Nosy Be if you crave a change of scene.

Backpacker favourites:

  • Visit the Nosy Komba lemurs and markets.
  • Explore Tanikely Marine Park and Lokobe National Park.
  • Horse ride along the beach.
  • Make a wish at the Sacred Tree.
  • Cool down under the Nosy Be waterfall.
  • Dance the night away in Ambatoloaka, Nosy Be.

We are really lucky here to have partnered up with the Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute (MRCI) - a government approved organisation undertaking environmental research, community development and educational programs on the islands of north-west Madagascar.

David Bird and his team are hugely respected and loved by the official authorities right down to the community kids, as their work is effective and delivered by fun, young volunteers who inspire and contribute.

David has built a volunteer base called Turtle Cove, on the island of Nosy Komba where all the volunteers live and spring board out to their projects. Over the years this has grown and is locally referred to as the 'volunteer village'. MRCI have put together a program for the Leap which lets our volunteers experience all they are aiming to achieve.

MRCI's mission is to:

Research and conserve the terrestrial and marine environments in and around Madagascar.
Provide the Department of Education with research data.
Assist the Department of Education in educating local fishermen on the importance of marine conservation.
Support and facilitate, where possible, other conservation and research initiatives.
Provide a suitable environment for volunteers to enable them to achieve their conservation and research objectives.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Leapers have been up to...

Madagascar - Conservation Week Tamzin Howard

The first week of volunteering work was all so new and exciting. Unfortunately, there was just not enough time in the week, nor enough energy for me, to try out all the activities. However, I could wake up in the morning knowing that I was going to be kept busy.

The path to Amang village, as expected on Nosy Komba, was practically non-existent. Half of the walk involved scrambling over rocks, the other half along the beach.

Ilo village restaurant and Chez Yolande were the places most of us headed for. That is, as soon as we had finished inspecting the markets on the way; wooden sculptures, local art pieces, food and clothes were in high demand. We chose those restaurants because of the access to the Internet and the charging facilities. The food at Ilo’s was great, famous for its pizzas. Although the prices were fair for Madagascar, they provided you with old western comfort foods.

At camp after supper we were sorted into our activity groups, however these weren’t necessarily fixed and the camp leaders would have been happy for any of us to change if we wanted to. I was put into my first forest group, and introduced to the head of bird walks, Lucy and head of reptile walks, Caitlin. Both made the transition into working camp life a breeze...

First morning of volunteer work, the lemur walk was cancelled as Jimmy was ill. So, all the lemur walkers joined the reptile walk. At first the walk felt a bit overwhelming, however, the next morning at 6:30am we were to go on a walk up to the Church which was a lot longer. After these walks, every other walk was much easier. We discussed later in the week the possibility of sleeping at the church, the food was meant to be very good. There were a quite a few keen leapers who wanted to go, but those who were leaving the soonest got priority.

The most relaxed walk so far was the bird walk because instead of constantly looking at the floor, you could give yourself a breather by sitting and listening and looking for different types of bird. I’d love to take part in these more and learn to recognise the bird from their call.

Overall, the week’s been full, with plenty of down time too. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Helville at the weekend.

Sun, sea and mosquitos Katie Dunn

So we’re now safely back on dry land, despite various threats of tropical cyclones or being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Well to be exact, there’s only the one of us being eaten alive, and apparently his blood is so tasty he acts as a repellent for the rest of us. Sorry Winston…

We all loved the boat so much. The sea breeze, the chilled atmosphere, visiting true pirate islands where we could sword fight each other – it was fantastic. For me there were several highlights.

Firstly, visiting a lemur park on a remote island, where the lemurs would jump up onto your shoulders and eat bananas out of your hands. There were three different species of the lemur in one place at the same time, which is rare. We also found a giant tortoise on a different island who we fed lots of bananas too.

Secondly, Winston and I just happened to be swimming off the boat when a pod of wild dolphins appeared and swam right under us. They moved through pretty quickly, but we still managed to see them underwater and they were beautiful.

Another highlight would be the beach party we had for one our instructor’s birthday. We had a big bonfire and music, and a local Malagasy man came out to dance with us by the fire.

Nosy Iranja was a perfect island where some of the Pirates of the Carribean movies were filmed. Pure white sand and aquamarine sea. Three of the leapers saw 6 turtles while out snorkelling. There were lovely local markets on the island too, and a little bar with cold drinks – the consensus is it was everyone’s favourite place.

Finally, just being on the boat with the wonderful crew and our instructors Justin and Alice was brilliant. We slept out on deck each night looking up at the stars and enjoying the cool night breeze – we actually needed blankets on the boat! The food was fantastic due to our brilliant chef Mark, and we all got really close and learned lots about each other.

Now, returned to camp, we miss the boat, but are ready to get stuck in to the forest conservation and teaching.

Scuba diving and feeding lemurs in Madagascar Katherine Tracy

Hello, to everyone back home! We have just finished our second full week in Madagascar. This week I think we all really have settled in. The homesick feeling isn’t there anymore and everyone is starting feel more comfortable with one another. We started our Padi Open Water course this week and every single one of us are doing a fantastic job. Kyle, our dive instructor, has told us on many occasions that we are one of the first and only groups that haven’t had any problems with learning the skills and being able to complete them. So, I think we are all giving ourselves a nice pat on the back.

Diving is challenging, as there are so many things you have to think about and make sure you are doing it correctly. Thankfully Kyle is a wonderful instructor and is making it as easy as possible for us all to understand. Next week is when we start going over the reef and putting all the skills we’ve learned to work.

On Sunday, a group of us went into Ampang, a village not far from Turtle Cove. We went to the lemur park and it did not disappoint. The lemurs are extremely curious and they love food, so we brought a bunch of bananas. If you hold the banana out, they will climb right onto your shoulders and eat it out of your hand.

Thankfully, during the week we do get some downtime where we can just sit around, relax, and mingle with the other volunteers. The days are long and I find myself going to bed around 8pm some nights, but it feels like it’s 2am. We wake up early and are busy all day, so it’s a very easy pattern to get into. All in all, it’s been another amazing week here in Madagascar and I’m confident to say that it will only keep getting better each week.

Watch our videos

Madagascar

A sneak peak into home in Madagascar

Madagascar

September 2017. Credit to Noah Alpers

Madagascar

July 2017. Credit to Imo Redpath

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