Be a volunteer for the Forest Conservation Program in Madagascar with Volunteering Solutions, which is meant for all those adventurous souls who are keen on exploring the island of Madagascar while contributing effectively towards preserving the richness & beauty of Mother Nature. Being a volunteer for this project, you will get the opportunity to understand the local environment and help monitor the spectacular array of wildlife found in Nosy Komba.
To assess the biodiversity, we use a variety of field survey techniques including Species ID, behavioral monitoring and comparisons, population assessments, pitfall traps, transect surveys, and active forest searches both during the day and at night, as well as visual and vocal identification of birds, and potential for mist-netting, etc. For invertebrates on Nosy Komba, we aim to create an inventory of butterfly and moth species.
Forest volunteers receive training on species identification, conducting field surveys, equipment set up and data collection. You'll be guided by professional conservations, during this volunteer trip. Thus, it'll be an incredible opportunity for you to learn through experiences.
Currently, there are 4 most prominent focus areas, which are as follows:
Black Lemur Ecology – We study 3 groups of lemurs, all located in the closed-canopy forest, near to villages and human presence. We focus on the lemur’s relations with their habitat, home range, and group size. We also hope to estimate the lemur’s tolerance against habitat fragmentation and disturbance. In addition to this, we conduct behavioral comparisons between wild and habituated populations at the local lemur park.
Reptile Survey – We use two different methods, each focusing on different niches. In transect surveys, volunteers walk along set 250m transects using visual search to identify all reptiles and amphibians. During plot searches, volunteers actively search through a pre-defined plot looking for more cryptic species. In addition to the intensive transect and plot searches, we sometimes use pitfall traps to study ground-dwelling reptiles and amphibians. Most surveys happen during the day however we carry out weekly night walks for nocturnal species using the same methods.
Bird Survey – We conduct bird population surveys on the coast, in plantations, and in the forest. Point counts are conducted where birds are identified both visually and vocally. This survey allows us to study the seasonal occupancy, habitat preferences and provide updated data on the endemic bird species present on Nosy Komba.
Agroforest – The implementation of an agroforest in Nosy Komba is the first of its kind. With villages requiring to clear forest vegetation to grow crops, we are pioneering the concept of growing cash crops. These are crops such as coffee, vanilla and chilly. The crops will be grown without the need to destroy or interfere with valuable ecosystems. We combined this initiative with a sanitation program for the local village.
Volunteers will be working as a group under the supervision of the local staff. If this is your first time doing conservation work, don't worry! Our country coordinator will be there to guide you and provide you with adequate help and knowledge so that you can work with ease and have satisfactory volunteering experience.
If you plan to volunteer in Madagascar, you need to be at least 18 years old. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if you are accompanied by your parents. Volunteers should be highly energetic; have a positive attitude to make a change; possess a certain level of fitness, since the island life is not as easy as it might seem! For participating in the Forest Conservation Program, a good level of physical fitness is required to reach the survey sites which involve climbing over rocks and up steep mountain trails.
Volunteer Roles & Responsibilities
Being a volunteer for this project, your main roles would be:
- Study the diversity and abundance of species to identify changes in forest dynamics, populations, habitat health and identify potential localized threats
- Assess the biodiversity in this little-studied area and compare different habitat types as well as the effects of human disturbance
- Carry out extensive surveys of the local mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians that exist in the surrounding forests
Volunteer Work Schedule
Volunteers usually arrive on Sunday and the program will start from Monday.
08:30 Orientation Presentation
10:00 Health and Safety Presentation
11:00 Complete and sign forms and paperwork
14:00 Walk to the neighboring village of Ampang for a tour led by staff
17:00 Return to camp (walk or by boat at a cost of 2,000 MGA/person)
18:45 Daily Board Briefing
Tuesday: First official day on project! Generally, you will be doing hands-on activities integrated with staff and other more experienced volunteers. Staff will go over activities and times after dinner on Monday so you know where to go.
Each program has morning and afternoon activities. After dinner each day, we have a briefing to go over activities for the following day.
Note: Schedule will vary depending on the project, tides, etc.
05:00-07:00 Breakfast on camp
06:00-08:00 Start of morning activities on the project
12:00 Lunch on camp
14:00 Start of afternoon activities on the project
16:00-17:00 Volunteer activities for the day usually conclude
18:00 Dinner on camp
18:45 Board Briefing to go over activities for the following day
Volunteers should arrive on Nosy Be Fascene Airport for pick-up on Sunday before their start date. They will be met at the airport or boat port (if arriving overland) and transferred to the volunteer camp on Nosy Komba. The boat ride from Nosy Be to Nosy Komba takes about 45 minutes with the last boat of the day departing around 15:00. If volunteers not arrive in time for the last boat to camp, our staff will assist in getting them to their hotel (we can provide hotel recommendations). The following day they will be met at a pre-determined time and place and transferred to the camp. If there is time before the last boat departs for Nosy Komba, our staff will give them a tour of the town of Hellville where they can purchase snacks, a local SIM card, draw money at an ATM, etc. It is important to note that in addition to time constraints with boat departures and tides, shops and stores all close for siesta between noon and 14:30/15:00 each day.
For your departure: You are responsible to arrange and pay for your own transport back to the airport, however, we are happy to help you book your transport as needed.
We have 2 accommodation facilities in Madagascar. The first one, Turtle Cove, is built into the steep slopes of Nosy Komba, which is a multi-level compound overlooking the spectacular coral reef below. Climb stone stairs up from an idyllic beach to the main house situated above the dive deck and take in the stunning view of the ocean extending far across all the way to Lokobe Forest Reserve on Nosy Be. The main house accommodates senior staff members and serves as a meeting place and hangout for volunteers during the day. Large decks line the front of the main house complete with hammocks, bean bags, and benches.
Volunteers can expect to share a hut with four to six other volunteers and will need to bring their own bedding and towels. The huts have several bathroom facilities equipped with running water, flush toilets and cold water showers. There is also a work area for volunteers as well as lockable storage boxes available for each hut to store small valuables. Volunteers should also bring a padlock to secure personal items in their luggage when not in use.
The second camp is located on mainland Madagascar in the small remote village of Ampohana. Volunteers are accommodated in communal A-Frame bungalow fitted with double bunk beds. Our camps are eco-friendly with solar-powered lighting throughout. There are no charging facilities for electronic devices; volunteers are encouraged to bring a solar panel and battery pack to keep their devices charged. Charging ports are available in the neighboring village of Ampang, about a half-hour hike from camp.
We do have an onsite generator for staff use located at our main camp, though volunteers are welcome to charge small devices (no laptops) from this if there is space. Bear in mind that in an effort to go green, the use of the generator is minimal, sometimes only once per week or less.
It'll be great fun to live this life away from the network, where you'll get ample time to bond with your fellow mates, share your stories and plan out how to make a difference.
Three meals per day are provided seven days per week. Each meal is prepared by our on-site cooks using traditional Malagasy cooking methods using fresh, locally grown, seasonally available produce. Most meals have a rice base with beans and vegetables on the side (or over rice).
Fruits and vegetables served will change depending on the season and availability of local produce. Some meals will include fish/seafood, beef (zebu), or chicken. Meat, when part of a meal, is typically prepared with a sauce, cut into small pieces, and served over rice. In addition to bananas, breakfast usually consists of either baguettes and jam, eggs or crepes.
There is a vegetarian option for all meals. Due to logistics and the limitations of our remote location, we cannot provide a vegan option. Vegans can help themselves to the vegetable-based foods prepared, but will also need to supplement their diet with foods purchased off camp. If you have special dietary requirements, please let us know. We will do or best to provide accordingly, however you should not expect to eat as you normally do at home.
Know that you are volunteering in a remote region of a developing country and flexibility is necessary.
During your Free Time
A few popular weekend activities/places to visit are listed below.
- Lokobe Forest Reserve
- Discovery SCUBA Dive
- SCUBA Dive Training
- Explore different areas of Nosy Komba with a local guide and learn about medicinal plants, the endemic wildlife and more
- Tanikely Natural Reserve
- Visit Nosy Iranja or Nosy Sakatia (swimming and snorkeling)
- Whale Shark Watching (seasonal)
- Visit the Sacred Tree or Sacred Waterfall on Nosy Be
- Hike up Mount Passot on Nosy Be
- Visit Lemur Land park on Nosy Be, or the Lemur Park on Ampang Village on Nosy Komba
- Ankarana National Park
- Amber Mountain National Park
- Visit plantations on the mainland in the city of Ambanja
- Visit the city of Diego Suarez including the Emerald Sea, the Three Bays, Tsingy Rouge rock formation and more
Please Note: -An application fee of $199 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of £179 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of $299 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of €199 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment)
What are you Paying for?
- 24 hrs Assistance and support from staff
- Comprehensive Pre- Departure Information
- Sleeping accommodation on camp for the program duration
- Three meals per day, seven days per week on camp
- Supervision and training by staff
- Airport pick-up in Nosy Be
- Transportation to program sites
- Travel & Medical Insurance (Available at an extra cost)
- Certificate Of Completion (Upon Request)
What's NOT included?
- Visa costs
- Personal items
- Travel and health insurance
- Airport drop-off
Health and Safety
The CDC recommended the following vaccinations for travelers visiting Madagascar: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia, and influenza.
Well, we believe you need no reason to be a part of something incredibly meaningful, such as volunteering in Madagascar. However, in case you are still wondering why you should be a part of this journey, here are a few reasons that would possibly convince you to join us.
It'll be a golden opportunity for you to take a closer look at nature and understand how the flora & fauna of this island has evolved over time, disconnecting from the rest of the world.
You'll get to work with professionals and gain some valuable surveying skills.
In case you join the Marine Conservation Program, you'll get a PADI certificate that'll benefit you in the days ahead as well.
You'll get to meet some amazing people from different parts of the world, and experience an amazing exchange of skills and thoughts.
If you are keen to learn and experience something new, then there can be nothing better than this!
FAQ's Application and Program Details
As we have limited spots available in our programs and we serve on a first come first basis, it is strongly recommended to apply for the program and reserve your spot in the program well in advance. You can book your spot in the program by filling an online form and pay the application fee.
Once you complete your application, your individual 'My Account' will be active in which you will receive your placement confirmation after which you can pay the program fees. You can pay the program fees later as well in installments, but 45 days before the program starts.
After you complete your application, your personalized ‘My Account’ will be active. You will need to upload your CV/Resume along with your photo in the same. Our backend team and the placement site takes around 10-12 days to review your application. After we review your CV and documents, your booking is confirmed and booking confirmation is updated in your ‘My Account’.
- You must be respectful towards the people living on the island
- You must be tolerant towards others and respect the differences
- You must welcome teamwork but also be able to work alone
- You must be at least 18 years old
- You have to be a proactive person, we welcome volunteers with initiative and creativity
- You must have at least an Intermediate level of English
Yes, you are welcome to take part in the Programs in Madagascar as part of a group. We welcome families, friends, high school students, college/university and corporate groups to volunteer in Madagascar programs together.
Yes, most definitely you can as we believe every participant brings something new to the project. If you do not have previous experience, we offer you the opportunity to have a great start with us. We make international volunteering easy – not only are our Volunteer Abroad opportunities rooted in offering you extensive support, but they are also very affordable.
Yes, we will provide you with the Certificate after successful completion of your program. The certificate is provided on request.
The in-country coordinator will guide & assist you reach the program location, on the first day of the program.
Flights and Visa
Volunteers may fly directly into Nosy Be Fascene International Airport (airport code NOS), or into the capital city, Antananarivo (Tana for short; airport code TNR). If you fly into Tana, you can take a domestic flight from Tana to Nosy Be, or travel overland via Taxi Brousse or private car to Nosy Be. We can help arrange your overland transport if needed.
All visitors require visas and a one to two-month single entry visa may be obtained on arrival at the airport. This may be extended to in-country to a maximum of three months. We do recommend you check with the Consulate General as visa requirements can change at any time. A passport valid for 6 months after the date of return is required. Please ensure you have at least two blank pages available in your passport before the commencement of travel.
Connect with Past Volunteers
We encourage volunteers to get in touch with former Volunteering Solutions participants and also other program participants joining our projects. You are recommended to join the Volunteering Solutions Facebook Page or Facebook Group to communicate with other participants.
To read alumni interviews from past participants, visit the Meet a Volunteer page on our website.