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Turtle Conservation Volunteer Program in Madagascar

Turtle populations all over the world face survival challenges, and human intervention is able to go a long way in protecting these magical creatures, especially in the vital early stages of their lives. By helping to identify, develop and safeguard 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-loved creatures.

You’ll spend your time split between Turtle Cove base camp on Nosy Komba island, and the mainland village of Ampoagna, 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. Nesting season is from November to April, where you’ll be helping to collect and record species information, nesting and size-related data for estimating population dynamics and nesting distributions. In the off nesting season, from May to October, you’ll be helping 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 volunteering in Madagascar with IVHQ

Turtle volunteers 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 construction projects and go on forest hikes in and around Ampoagna.

You’ll receive comprehensive training at the Ampoagna Turtle Beach Camp at the start of your project. Training includes species identification, equipment use and data collection protocols. Training also includes information on the project goals and your role in achieving them. After your training, you’ll begin survey work on remote island beaches. You’ll spend your final few days back at Turtle Cove base camp on Nosy Komba completing data entries and debriefing.

During your time at Ampoagna, you’ll be accommodated in a basic beach bungalow with solar powered lighting, flushing toilets and cold water showers. When you’re on Nosy Komba island, you’ll be living at the main volunteer camp with volunteers from other projects.

The Turtle Conservation project has a surcharge of $75 per week for additional transport, materials and supervision required during the project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.

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Project Highlights
What you need to know
  • Affordable fees from $580 for 2 weeks
  • Help to protect and boost local turtle populations around Madagascar

  • Seasonal tasks that include helping with turtle nesting, research and educating locals about conservation

  • Suited to active, animal loving volunteers that don’t mind being outside their comfort zone

  • Additional $75 per week surcharge for additional transport, materials and supervision

  • Volunteering for up to 5 hours per day

Destination Highlights
Madagascar at a glance
  • Based on and around the Madagascan islands of Nosy Komba and Nosy Be

  • Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support

  • Accommodation in locally built huts

  • Between 20 and 40 volunteers start in Madagascar each month

The IVHQ Madagascar ​volunteer ​abroad program is situated on the slopes of Nosy Komba, an ​i​​sland off the Northwest coast of Madagascar, a few kilometers from the larger island of Nosy Be. Volunteers arrive in Nosy Be and are transported to the volunteer base on Nosy Komba by boat. Volunteer orientation and general administration is carried out by our​ local team on Nosy Komba. Projects are located on and around the islands of Nosy Komba and Nosy Be. This program requires volunteers to be physically fit as the location of the accommodation and placements require volunteers to hike up difficult terrain​ ​including​;​ boulders, hills and stairs.

Volunteers can begin the IVHQ Madagascar volunteer program on the first and third Monday of every month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 2 weeks to 12 weeks. The first day of the volunteer program is orientation, after which volunteers begin training/work at their placement. The Island Outreach project only begins on the first Monday of each month for a 2 week duration only.

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 1pm.

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 $20 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. If you would like to fly directly to Nosy Be, Air Austral flies direct from some European airports and South African Airways flies direct from Johannesburg.

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 1pm, 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 1pm, you will still be met by the local team 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 1pm on the day before your program orientation.

Orientation is hosted by our Madagascar team at the volunteer accommodation on 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 – Introduction to Madagascar, Culture and Customs, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities, Introduction to Project and Placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing.

On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted 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.

A typical schedule is as follows:

6.00 - 7.00 AM Breakfast at the volunteer house prepared by the local in-house chef.

7.00 - 8.00 AM Volunteers travel to their placements either by boat or by walking. Start time and daily workload depends on the project that the individual volunteer is participating on.

12.00 PM Volunteers break for lunch. Volunteers either travel back to the volunteer house 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.

Please note, this schedule will vary depending on the particular project the volunteer is participating on. The above schedule also does not apply to Island Outreach volunteers.

Volunteers are accommodated in locally built huts on Nosy Komba and can expect to share a hut with up to five other volunteers of the same sex. Bedrooms are comprised of bunk beds and there are basic cold shower and flush toilet facilities on-site. Volunteers are expected to contribute to ensuring the bathrooms and huts are kept clean and tidy. Lockable storage boxes for volunteers are available in the main house, however volunteers should also bring a padlock to secure personal items in their luggage when not in use. Volunteers are required to bring their own towels and bedding (sheet, pillow, pillow case, mosquito net and thin sleeping bag/top sheet). It is hot in Madagascar and most people only require a sheet to sleep under, although in the cooler months (June to August), a blanket or sleeping bag may be required. Power for lights is supplied from solar panels and there is a backup generator for staff use 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. We recommend volunteers bring solar chargers to charge their devices, if possible. The accommodation is fairly isolated and only accessible by boat or a 30-minute walk across boulders and uneven terrain to the nearest village for WiFi and charging.

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.

Turtle Conservation volunteers will be accommodated in basic beach bungalows with solar power lighting, flush toilets and cold water showers. You are required to bring your own light sleeping bag, sleeping roll mat or hammock, pillow, pillowcase, mosquito net and bath/beach towels.

Volunteers on the Island Outreach project should expect rustic camping in tents along the 10 day journey, although the boat is fitted with flush toilets and showers. You are required to bring your own light sleeping bag, sleeping roll mat, pillow, pillowcase and bath/beach towels. For volunteers on the Island Outreach project there will also be no WiFi during the trip, however there is cellular reception for a large part.

Volunteers are served three meals per day, prepared in the traditional Madagascan style by an on-site Malagasy cook. 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 is served with either beans, chicken, zebu (beef) or fish, all with vegetables and sauce. Supplies in Madagascar are limited and meals will change seasonally depending on the ingredients available on Nosy Be. Volunteers working on a placement which requires them to be away from camp during lunch time can organize a packed lunch, through the local team, the night before. Please note that the local team is not able to cater for special dietary requirements​ or requests​, you should not expect to eat as you normally do at home and there is the need to be flexible or prepared to supplement the food provided. If supplementing food, volunteers must note that the kitchen is not available for volunteer use as it is a traditional kitchen. Volunteers can store non-perishable items at camp or can eat out at local restaurants.

Volunteers on the Island Outreach project will also be served three meals per day prepared in the traditional Madagascan style by the onboard chef. Depending on the location, volunteers will eat most of their meals onboard or in some cases at local diners.

“I absolutely loved Madagascar. I loved just getting to know all the volunteers, hosts, staff, and locals. Having lemurs and chameleons crawling on me was an awesome experience as well. The accommodations are really nice and it is beautiful. The experiences I had were once in a lifetime experiences, and I met so many awesome people and made really great friends that I stay in contact with. I was very sad to leave. I plan to volunteer with IVHQ again in different countries.” - Gabriel Mastromano (Marine Conservation Volunteer in Madagascar)

Read more reviews from IVHQ volunteers in Madagascar here

Madagascar

Length of Program Program Fee $USD
2 weeks $580
3 weeks $760
4 weeks $940
5 weeks $1,120
6 weeks $1,300
8 weeks $1,660
10 weeks $2,020
12 weeks $2,380
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee (from US$299) on top of the Program Fee (partially refundable until 60 days before your program start date*). A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • To see prices in your local currency, use this currency converter.
  • The Community Development project has a surcharge of US$50 per week for additional supervision and materials used on this project. The Turtle Conservation project has a surcharge of US$75 per week for additional transportation, supervision and materials used on this project. The Island Outreach has a one off payment of US$650.
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply
What extra costs will I have?
  • Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, souvenirs, in-country trips or tours.
  • Transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program
  • Spending money - Volunteers in Madagascar generally find US$50-100 to be sufficient for basic weekly expenses

Madagascar: Marine Conservation Project

Length of Program Program Fee $USD
4 weeks $1,460
5 weeks $1,670
6 weeks $1,880
8 weeks $2,300
10 weeks $2,720
12 weeks $3,140
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee (from US$299) on top of the Program Fee (partially refundable until 60 days before your program start date*). A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • To see prices in your local currency, use this currency converter.
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply
What extra costs will I have?
  • Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, souvenirs, in-country trips or tours.
  • Transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program
  • Spending money - Volunteers in Madagascar generally find US$40 to be sufficient for weekly expenses
Registration Fee
What it covers
  • Most affordable program fees
  • Expert support from a program specialist
  • Full MyIVHQ account access
  • Online volunteer training
  • Comprehensive preparation tools
  • IVHQ alumni rewards
Program Fee
What it covers
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Airport pick-up
  • Program orientation
  • Volunteer placement
  • Accommodation
  • Meals

There is no shortage of things to do on Nosy Komba or Nosy Be, so volunteers can fill their free time with adventurous activities, or simply take in the slower “mora mora” 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 meet other Malagasy wildlife and plants. The neighboring island of Nosy Be can be reached in 30 to 40 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 excursion in the Emerald Sea. Horse riding and deep sea fishing trips can also be arranged from Nosy Be.

See our Madagascar Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Madagascar!

Capital Antananarivo
Population 22.29 million
Languages Malagasy and French
Currency Malagasy Ariary (ARA)
Time zone UTC+03:00

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).

Volunteers need to be 18 years or over, with a great level of fitness and agility to participate on this program. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers alternative volunteer opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to to learn more.

All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ. Additional requirements apply for Marine Conservation volunteers, please read the project description.

Fluency in French or Malagasy is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Madagascar volunteer program, however we recommend that volunteers learn some basic French and Malagasy prior to departure, as this will help immensely with day-to-day volunteer work (particularly on the Teaching project) and communicating with local people. After registering to volunteer in Madagascar, volunteers are provided with a list of helpful French and Malagasy vocabulary and phrases to assist with learning before departing for Madagascar.

Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the registration fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!