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Madagascar

Protect reefs, forests & community development

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Discover Madagascar

Protect this unique ecosystem.

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 community development, marine and forest conservation.


Program Itinerary

This vibrant and diverse program is set amongst stunning tropical islands off the coast of mainland Madagascar. You will base yourself as a Leap team in two different volunteer camps on Nosy Komba and at Ampoana before heading off island hopping on the 50 ft Spirit of Malala. The main focus of this program is community development, education, marine and forest conservation.

The following is a sample itinerary of the full 8 week itinerary BUT please see the various combinations below in dates and prices.

Overview

Islands of Madagascar

Welcome to Island Life

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 boat over to the camp of Ampoana which is an hour's boat journey away.

Ampoana
Ampoana is a new camp built right in the midst of a subsistence community who live on the mainland but best accessed from the island of Nosy Be. This is a stunning setting - think Robinson Crusoe on steriods. The white sandy beach is empty and endless, the water clear, the reef vibrant. This is a huge treat.

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

Nosy Komba and Ampoana

You will live in volunteer camps on the water’s edge of both Nosy Komba and Ampoana. Both camps are rustic but stylish. Think thatched, stilted huts with beds and mozzi nets. Shared cold water showers and western loos.

Food

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

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



Wks 1 - 2

Ampoana Camp School building and teaching

Ampoana School

There is great demand among the island communities for an education but with limited access to funds and accessibility this can be extremely hard. This is particularly the case for the remote community of Ampoana where the nearest schools is an hours boat journey to Nosy Be. Therefore, in partnership with MRCI we are planning to build a school in the village. So far, our volunteers have created 3000 bricks, foundation sets and all is in place to start building the walls. Throughout 2020 we plan to get the school up and running, after which we will supply the teachers. All very exciting.

Teaching

Whilst in the camp you will help teach the little kids with basic English, sums and games. You will see when you are there, they are the coolest, happiest kids who have nothing to play with with apart from chasing the family chickens!
Wk 3

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 remotest 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.

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 4 - 8

Nosy Komba Camp Forest, Handicapped school and diving

Welcome to Turtle Beach Camp.

As a team you will all now move to the bigger camp on Nosy Komba where there can be up to another 40 volunteers so get prepared. While you are here you will split your time between helping with our new handicapped school project, forest conservation or if you are staying for the full 8 weeks then the scuba and marine phases.

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Handicapped school Development

Community Development

We have worked on the islands of Madagascar for several years now following its development and evolvement. Our volunteers have made huge progress with community development and the rewards are felt across the islands.

Most recently we have been approached by a lovely local charity who have identified a handicapped child care crisis on the island of Nosy Be. In a nut shell there is no care for handicapped children anywhere. Children are trapped at home, with no interaction and one parent needed at all times to look after them, limiting their working income.

The Leap has agreed to support this charity with our in-country partners, on a long term basis which is very exciting. Land has been bought and the build of a care centre is about to commence.The plan is that our Leap volunteers will help with the construction of this building and when its complete, with the child care itself.

As a Leap team you will be taken over to Nosy Be each day to help create the new building.

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Forest Conservation Studying local wildife and fauna

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.

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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.

8 week program - this phase will happen in the last 4 weeks.

Program Details & Costs

We have lots of departures throughout the year. However we can be flexible in Madagascar so please get in contact if you need more flexibility.

Programs start on:

2020: 14 May, 3 Sep, 15 Oct

2021: 7 Jan, 18 Feb, 6 Apr, 18 May, 2 Sep, 14 Oct

Costs

8 weeks
2 weeks Ampoana Camp + 1 weeks boat + 1 week handicapped school + 4 weeks scuba
2020: £39252021: £4021

6 weeks
2 weeks Ampoana + 1 week boat + 2 weeks handicapped school + 1 week forest
2020: £29152021: £2991

4 weeks
2 weeks Ampoana + 1 week boat + 1 week handicapped school
2020: £23952021: £2465

Summer program starts on:

2020: 2 Jul

2021: 8 Jul

Costs

6 weeks
2 weeks Ampoana + 1 week boat + 2 weeks handicapped school + 1 week forest
2020: £29152021: £2991

4 weeks
2 weeks Ampoana + 1 week boat + 1 week handicapped school
2020: £23952021: £2465

6 weeks scuba
1 week Ampoana Camp + 1 weeks boat + 4 weeks scuba
2020: £35052021: £3588

Please note: 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 £260. 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 approx. £140 per course registration.

Budget

Flights: £1100 (depending on time of year and availability)

Spending Money: Approx. £60-80 per week

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 our hosts - 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'. Our hosts have put together a program for the Leap which lets our volunteers experience all they are aiming to achieve.

Our host'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...

Misaotra and veloma Madagascar Ellie Harland

10 weeks is no more than the blink of an eye in a lifetime of stories. It’s ephemeral and fleeting. It seems like an eternity that only lasts a minute. One day you’re a fresh-faced newbie arriving, the next you’re part of the furniture and know all the ropes all the while watching countless other volunteers come and go. It’s left me with cuts and bruises, a bag of sweaty clothing and a currency I can’t exchange, but without it I wouldn’t have these bizarre memories and newfound friends.

Don’t underestimate how fast time will fly, or how many people you will meet, take each day as it comes and make the most of it, come with an open mind and no expectations. Be ready to leave a western world, its comforts and its privileges. Here you will see children with no shoes and houses with no toilets, you’ll hike in humid forests and share a bathroom with 20 people, you’ll watch the sun set fire to the sky every evening and swim in the crystal waters, you’ll teach children the alphabet and help the locals build footpaths. Come to be involved and come to make a difference.

I have learned a lot from my time in Madagascar such as a tuk tuk beeping its horn at you is offering you a lift and the bucket you may find next to a toilet is used to collect water to help flush it, I’ve learned I float really well and I like pineapple and that the Fanta here is full of sugar. I’ve learned how to mix cement and sand to make concrete, how to scuba dive and how to hold a brief Malagasy conversation. We have all learned something valuable in our time, even if it’s just a bit of Northern Slang for all those who have never made it up as far as Durham.

I could not have wished for a better group of people to spend 10, 6 and 4 weeks with in Madagascar. I hope everyone enjoys their next adventure. Misaotra and veloma.

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

April 2019

Madagascar

What to expect: April 2019 Leapers

Madagascar

July 2018. Credit Lucy Harley

"The Leap is doing a great job"

The organisation and the briefing on the entire trip was great by "the leap". I felt very well prepared and ready to start my adventure. The people in the office are very friendly and always ready to answer your questions or problems. They take care all over the trip of you and they make everything to give you the perfect time in a beautiful new world.

- Johann Plato

" Madagascar leap program SUPERB"

Experience of a lifetime, met people I would never have met and now consider them as my closest friends, gave me a more humble and appreciative view of life and provided me with memories that I can never replace and will never forget.

Highly RECOMMEND!!! (Make sure u like rice and beans and chickens in your room).

- Georgia Burgess

"What an amazing time "

After just arriving back from our boat trip i wanted to mention what an amazing time we experienced during outreach and the dedication and support of the leaders was more than any of us could have asked for.

We really couldn’t have asked for a better itinerary and we are so grateful for the unwavering enthusiasm and encouragment from both Will and Renne our leaders. The food was incredible and the leaders were always willing to make sure all our needs were met, we genuinely couldn’t have asked for a better time.

- Thea Cottrell

"Thank you so much for giving my son life long friends and experiences"

My son has just got back from an amazing trip to Madagascar. The Leap were great in keeping in contact with emails, blogs and can call and get a speedy reply if you need to contact them, thank you so much for giving my son life long friends and experiences.
Many thanks to Milly from The Leap who was amazing.

- Nikki Field

"​I highly recommend first time travellers to use the Leap"

The trip to Madagascar is incredible as you get to experience such a diverse, beautiful island. The locals are super friendly and life on camp is great as you start to feel like a family. As the leap is one of three volunteering schemes on the same camp it’s easy to make lots of friends. Scuba diving was the most amazing experience.

Teaching was very very rewarding and made it easier to make friends with the local community. As I was ill whilst out there I can honestly say that The Leap was definitely worth the price as I was cared for very well and had someone come to hospital with me and translate everything as well as being very kind and caring. Overall, Madagascar was an amazing trip and I will definitely go back.

- Lucy Newman

"Don't even bother continuing to look for your Overseas Experience - this is the one you want"

If you love being outdoors, being with surrounded by like minded adventurers, and going on worldview changing experiences then THIS is the trip to go on!

There's nothing NOT to love about The Leap's Madagascar program and MRCI - the Malagasy organization you'll be volunteering for. When you arrive on Nosy Be, one of MRCI's charismatic staff members will meet you at the airport and take you across the small island to the port, where you'll hop on an incredibly scenic boat ride to your basecamp on Nosy Komba: Turtle Cove. The boat will drop you off at the beach where you'll get your first glimpse of paradise on Earth. As you walk up into the camp, which is built and blended into the rocky hillside, you'll be greeted by other (inevitably glowing and happy) volunteers who can help show you the ropes.

The worst part of this trip is that eventually, you have to leave. If it was up to me I'd still be enjoying the endless 80° weather and honing my fish identifying skills right now. So don't even bother continuing to look for your Overseas Experience - this is the one you want.

- Isaac

"The leap is an awesome company who takes care of every aspect of your trip to make sure you can enjoy it to the fullest"

This trip was honestly amazing and I would highly recommend anyone to take the opportunity to do it.

I met amazing staff and locals over the 6 weeks and also amazing people who I still stay in contact with and I can’t wait to see during the rest of my travels.

The outreach was definitely a highlight as you get to explore more islands and do different activities. The locals are amazing and the sense of community and the appreciation for volunteers makes it so worth doing. I did forest conservation because I love animals and hiking but with the leap your programme is flexible and if you prefer to teach you can switch over as well which you don’t get with other company’s.

What you should know is GO THROUGH THE LEAP!

- Brooke

"​Madagascar was a dream"

The country is absolutely stunning and the people are so friendly. The marine and forest conservation aspects were fantastic and I learnt so much from the amazing diversity of nature out there. Teaching however, even though I thought it would be my least favourite aspect of the trip, was so inspiring and just so much fun.

When you're trying to teach a class of 60 the body parts using 'head shoulders knees and toes' it can get rather manic, but seeing the kids grasp it and ask for more when the bell rings (not running from class like we do back here) really makes you feel like you're making a difference! Wouldn't chance the experience for anything!

- Amelia

"The most incredible experience"

This 10 week programme was truly the most incredible experience, where I have made amazing friends and immersed myself in getting to know a whole new place and culture.

The camp itself has members of all different volunteer programmes, allowing you to develop incredible relationships with people from all over the world in such a unique environment. I did a month of marine conservation and a month of teaching. The marine conservation was beautiful, and being able to get an advanced open water PADI in marine protected areas of Madagascar was very special.

As for the teaching, this was something which was so special to me, it allowed me to become so connected with the community, and I created bonds with people that I will truly never forget. Seeing students progress over time was so rewarding and allowed me to develop such close relationships. The staff members are super relaxed and it really feels like your own community! Honestly the best experience!!!

- Izzy Proud

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