Turtle Conservation Volunteer Program in Madagascar
Excited to be a Turtle Conservation volunteer in Madagascar? International Volunteer HQ’s Turtle Conservation project empowers volunteers to assist with efforts to help grow and protect the population of endangered turtles that nest on the sandy beaches of Madagascar. Volunteers gain experience of turtle care and conservation while providing help to identify, develop and safeguard turtle nesting zones so these spectacular creatures can thrive well into the future.
- Programs start every first and third Monday of the month
- Affordable fees from CA$500 for 1 week
- Includes accommodation, meals, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Help with nesting and research to protect and boost turtle populations
Disover Madagascar’s incredible wildlife and environment
Stay in simple, rustic huts on the beach
This program is ideal for:
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
Turtle populations in Madagascar face a wide range of survival challenges, but human intervention can go a long way in protecting these magical creatures, especially in the vital early stages of their lives. By helping to find and protect turtle nesting zones, volunteers aid an important part of the turtle conservation process. Volunteering with turtles is not only a great way to help the animals, it’s also a unique opportunity to get up close to some of the world’s most beloved creatures.
Depending on the time of year, you will either be based at the main base in Turtle Cove on Nosy Komba or in the village of Ampoagna - situated on a pristine white sand beach lined with coconut and fir trees, on mainland Madagascar, where a safe turtle nesting zone has been identified.
This project is open year-round, though your role as a volunteer will vary based on the time of year:
November to April: Nesting season. You’ll help to collect and record species information, nesting and size-related data for estimating population dynamics and nesting distributions.
May to October: Off-nesting season. You’ll help to establish areas of turtle activity, identifying population size, re-establishing nesting beaches, conducting seagrass surveys, and taking part in turtle watches and beach clean-ups.
Turtle Conservation volunteers may also have the opportunity to help with education programs promoting the protection of Madagascar’s turtles in the community. It’s also possible for you to assist on small construction projects and go on forest hikes in the surrounding area.
You will receive comprehensive training prior to commencing with research and conservation activities. Training includes species identification, equipment usage and data collection protocols, to help prepare for the hands-on work to come. This initial training will also include information on the project goals and how to best assist in achieving these goals. Once training has been completed, you will begin survey work by visiting remote beaches on the surrounding islands.
Why do Turtle Conservation volunteering in Nosy Komba with IVHQ?
When you volunteer with turtles in Madagascar you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Helping boost numbers of endangered turtles
- Contributing to marine conservation efforts
- Developing your communication skills
- Gaining turtle conservation experience
- Immersing yourself in Malagasy culture
- Discovering Madagascar’s underwater world
- A good level of physical fitness and agility is required to join the Madagascar program
- Volunteers aged 16-18 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or friend over the age of 18 to participate in this program
- All volunteers are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 16-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
- All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
- All volunteers must speak fluent English
- While fluency in French or Malagasy is not a prerequisite, we recommend volunteers learn some basic words and phrases as this will help immensely with day-to-day volunteer work and communicating with local people.
Madagascar photo gallery
”The camaraderie in our group as we did our tasks was very nice and I really appreciated the local life on Nosy Komba. The local people were friendly and hospitable, the staff were great, and I would love to do more low tech bare bones vacations. I think it is important to get out of your comfort zone and experience different cultures.”
Read reviews from Turtle Conservation volunteers in Nosy KombaSee more reviews
There’s far more to Madagascar than its famous lemurs. As well as its impressively vast diversity of wildlife, the island nation off the south-eastern coast of Africa has an interesting marriage of French, African and Southeast Asian cultures; breathtaking scenery and dreamy beaches.
It’s also a place where the majority of people don’t have good access to food, healthcare, education or other basic necessities. While there are steps being taken to improve this situation, Madagascar remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Volunteers can be part of the solution by choosing projects that have a meaningful impact on the lives of local people and support communities to help themselves.
The IVHQ Madagascar volunteer abroad program is based on the slopes of Nosy Komba, a small island off the northwest coast of Madagascar and only a few kilometers from the larger island of Nosy Be. The Marine and Turtle Conservation projects mainly take place on Ampoagna, with volunteers also visiting and completing work at the main volunteer base on Nosy Komba.
Arrival and orientation
The program orientation begins on the first and third Monday of every month. Volunteers need to arrive in Nosy Be on the Sunday before orientation, before 2pm.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive in Madagascar. There are two options for flying to the Madagascar program - Fascene Airport (NOS) in Nosy Be is the most convenient for an airport pick-up, however, flights to Nosy Be are limited and often more expensive than flights to Ivato Airport (TNR) in Antananarivo. Some volunteers choose to fly to Antananarivo and take a connecting flight or overnight bus (and boat taxi) to Nosy Be. If you choose this route and are catching the bus the day you arrive, you will be met at the airport in Antananarivo by an associate member of our local team, who will assist you in catching your onward transport. There is a CA$28 surcharge for this service. If you want an easy arrival, we recommend flying to Nosy Be. However, if you are traveling on a budget and do not mind catching the overnight bus from Antananarivo to Nosy Be then flying to Antananarivo may be the preferred option for you.
There is also the option of private overland transport from Antananarivo to Nosy Be. The cost of this depends on how many volunteers are sharing the transport and if you choose the 2-day transfer or the 4-day tour. Please contact your Program Manager for more information on these options.
If flying into Fascene Airport (NOS) in Nosy Be and arriving before 2pm, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation on Nosy Komba. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation. If your flight arrives after 2pm, you will still be met at the airport but will need to stay in Nosy Be for the night to then travel by boat to Nosy Komba the following morning. This night of accommodation will be at your own expense and you will need to book this in advance of your arrival. Your IVHQ Program Manager will be happy to send you recommendations of affordable hotels in Hellville that are within walking distance of many shops and restaurants.
If you are traveling in Madagascar prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to be picked up in Nosy Be before 2pm on the day before your program orientation. You will be taken to Nosy Komba by boat.
Orientation is hosted by our Madagascar team at the volunteer Ampoagna Turtle Beach Camp or at the main base in Nosy Komba. Orientation begins on the morning of your chosen start date and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Madagascar – an introduction to Madagascar, culture and customs, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities and an introduction to project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers.
Volunteer schedule example
You will be taken to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with. Volunteers work for approximately 5 to 8 hours per day.
Volunteers work for approximately 5 to 8 hours per day, but start times and daily workloads depend on the project. A typical schedule is as follows:
|6:00 - 7:00 AM||Breakfast at the volunteer camp prepared by the local in-house chef.|
|7:00 - 8:00 AM||Volunteers travel to their placements either by boat or by walking.|
|12:00 PM||Volunteers break for lunch. Volunteers either travel back to the volunteer camp or eat a packed lunch at their placement, prepared by the in-house chef.|
|1:30 PM||Volunteer work continues for the afternoon.|
|4:00 PM||Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to study/plan for the following day’s activities.|
|6:00 PM||Dinner at the volunteer camp prepared by the in-house chef.|
There is no shortage of things to do on Nosy Komba, Nosy Be or Ampoagna so volunteers can fill their free time with adventurous activities, or simply take in the ‘mora mora’ or ‘slowly, slowly’ Malagasy way of life.
Nosy Komba itself is a popular tourist spot for buying local crafts from the winding markets and beachfront stalls. There are also opportunities to join local village guides to encounter friendly lemurs and see other Malagasy wildlife and plants.
The neighboring island of Nosy Be can be reached in 30 to 45 minutes by boat taxi and is a popular destination for volunteers during the weekend. Taxis are available on the island and can be taken to most areas including the sacred lakes, beaches and waterfalls of Nosy Be.
Volunteers staying for longer durations, or who wish to travel before or after their program, can visit areas further afield on the mainland of Madagascar. The most popular destination is Diego Suarez in the North. En route from Nosy Be to Diego Suarez, volunteers can visit the Ankarana and Mont d’Ambre National Parks. In Diego Suarez, there are plenty of adventure-sports activities on offer, such as kite boarding or quad biking on dunes, or snorkeling in the Emerald Sea. Horse riding and deep sea fishing trips can also be arranged from Nosy Be. Volunteers can also visit the Avenue of the Baobabs, in the Menabe region of western Madagascar, where beautiful ancient trees line both sides of the road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina.
Looking for more ideas of things to do in Madagascar? Check out our Madagascar Travel & Tours page!
Accommodation and WiFi
For Turtle Conservation volunteers based in Ampoagna, you’ll be accommodated in a basic beach bungalow with solar powered lighting, flushing toilets and cold water showers. You’ll need to bring your own light sleeping bag, sleeping roll mat, pillow, pillowcase, mosquito net and bath/beach towels.
Power for lights is supplied from solar panels and there is a backup generator for staff that may run 1 - 2 hours per week. Volunteers are encouraged to minimize the amount of electronic equipment they bring as the camp only has limited power points available to charge devices. As there is no other electricity at camp we recommend volunteers bring solar chargers for their devices, if possible.
WiFi is accessible in the local village and you can also purchase a local SIM card with data for an unlocked mobile phone when you arrive in Madagascar.
Volunteers are served three meals per day, prepared in the traditional Madagascan style by an on-site Malagasy cook.
Meals are basic, but nutritious and tasty. Breakfast ranges from pancakes to eggs or bread with condiments. Lunch is rice or pasta based, and dinner is rice based. Both lunch and dinner will usually be either chicken, zebu (beef) or fish, all with vegetables, beans and sauce.
Volunteers on the Turtle Conservation project in Ampoagna can purchase snacks from a small shop in the village.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|1 week||CA$500 Equivalent to CA$72/day|
|2 weeks||CA$858 Equivalent to CA$61/day|
|3 weeks||CA$1144 Equivalent to CA$54/day|
|4 weeks||CA$1430 Equivalent to CA$51/day|
|5 weeks||CA$1716 Equivalent to CA$49/day|
|6 weeks||CA$2002 Equivalent to CA$48/day|
|8 weeks||CA$2574 Equivalent to CA$46/day|
|10 weeks||CA$3146 Equivalent to CA$45/day|
|12 weeks||CA$3718 Equivalent to CA$44/day|
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Discounts on language lessons
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of CA$427 in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in CAD.
- A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
- Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check and return to the airport when your program finishes.
- Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Madagascar generally find US$50-100 per week to be sufficient for expenses.
Check what's required to visit Madagascar
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Safety and support
IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.
- All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
- All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
- All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Protecting against COVID-19:
Volunteers tested for COVID-19 upon arrival
Health & safety information provided during orientation
Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation
Greater physical distance between volunteers
Essential country information
|Languages||Malagasy and French|
|Currency||Malagasy Ariary (ARA)|
Weather and climate
The climate of Madagascar varies due to the topographic differences and trade winds from the Indian ocean. Typically the climate is tropical along the coast, temperate inland and arid in the south. There is a wet, warm season from November to April with most rainfall covering the eastern coast. There is a cooler, dry season from May to October. Temperatures fall between an average of 18°C (64°F) to 30°C (86°F) throughout the year, with the lowest temperature dropping to 12°C (54°F) and highest reaching 36°C (96°F).