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Sea Turtle Marine Conservation Volunteer Program in Madagascar

Madagascar is home to an amazing ecosystem that is a stunning mixture of its African and tropical influences. However, like many coastal areas in the world, the effects of people and climate change mean it needs intervention to remain at its best. This is a great chance to help with conservation efforts, learning and using scuba diving skills to get hands-on experience.

Marine Conservation volunteering in Madagascar with IVHQ

Marine Conservation volunteers in Madagascar can help to protect the natural plant and animal life by assisting different oceanographic organisations in a range of initiatives, including:

  • Reef Surveying - helping to monitor the biodiversity, health and growth of the reef system around Nosy Komba through fish, invertebrates and coral surveys.
  • Turtle Monitoring - establishing an estimated inventory and census of Madagascan turtles to help assess the success of conservation efforts.
  • Nudibranch Research - conducting underwater surveys to determine the population and biodiversity of nudibranchs and other molluscs.
  • Beach Cleans - removing damaging litter that can cause issues for local marine animals.
  • Community - educating the local community about environmental issues such as conservation and the protection of biodiversity and marine resources
  • Reef Regeneration - helping coral reefs to grow and become healthier, providing more habitat space for reef fish.

All volunteers receive comprehensive training to prepare for carrying out research-based activities at sea. This involves identification training for marine wildlife such as turtles, fish, corals and invertebrates. You’ll also be taught about coral baseline surveying, a key skill in marine conservation and the accepted approach to monitoring the state of coral reefs.

You can expect four dives per week, with one day spent on other activities such as snorkel surveys and dry activities. You’ll need to be a competent swimmer and have Open Water Dive Certification and Advanced Open Water Dive Certification. These courses can either be completed before you arrive in Madagascar, or you can do them when you arrive for the following prices:

  • Open Water: US$440 (approximately £365)
  • Advanced Open Water: US$320 (approximately £265)

This can be paid to the local team when you arrive in Madagascar. If you’re receiving your certification in Madagascar, you’ll also need to complete the PADI online theory course before your arrive.

All Marine Conservation volunteers are required to bring the following items to Madagascar, as these are not available for purchase on the island of Nosy Komba: a snorkel and mask (with tempered glass), fins (open heel with booties are more comfortable for frequent use), wetsuit (long or short, 3mm minimum), surface marker buoy (DSMB), reel (a small finger reel is fine), waterproof watch (resistant to 200 meters), dive compass, log book, mouthpiece (to be used with regulators), and an A4/A5 Dive Slate.

​This project has a minimum duration of four weeks to allow sufficient time to complete the training required to make a meaningful impact on the project. When you apply for this project, please specify whether you have diving certifications, ​or whether you will be taking the Open Water Dive/Advanced Open Water Dive course in Madagascar.

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Project Highlights
What you need to know
  • Affordable fees from $1,520 for 4 weeks
  • Volunteer with local organisations helping to conserve the marine environment

  • Learn and use your scuba diving skills

  • Assist with a range of research, monitoring and cleaning up tasks

  • Suitable for active volunteers who are competent swimmers

  • Minimum duration of 4 weeks

  • 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 are required to fly into Fascene Airport (NOS) or Ivato Airport (TNR), which is a 11 to 12 hour flight from most major airports in Britain. 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 US$20 (approximately £17) surcharge for this service. If you want an easy arrival, we recommend flying to Nosy Be. However, if you are travelling 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 travelling 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 socialising.

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 minimise 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 organise 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.

Read verified reviews from British IVHQ volunteers in Madagascar:

“The program was brilliant and fulfilled all expectations I had before going there. I feel like my time was appreciated and I gained continual feedback from the students (of all ages). My 8 week experience was simply amazing, I made so many great friends during my time there, not to mention to friendship I made with the staff on camp - Nosy Komba is a special place filled with special people. The Madagascar program is so amazing and all the local staff put 100% into the running of it and are some of the most inspiring and brilliant people I have ever met.” - Kelly Wilson, United Kingdom (Teaching Volunteer in Madagascar)

“Volunteering in Madagascar is a wonderful experience! I learned so much about this exotic country and its wildlife. The forest conservation program was well run and I saw fascinating animals I’d only ever seen before on TV. Hiking high up into the forest to find and watch lemurs was particularly memorable. There is also lots of time on the weekends to explore Nosy Komba or the neighbouring island of Nosy Be and take part in traditional activities. The local team were always friendly and helpful and made this a wonderful experience.” - Tristan Herbert, United Kingdom (Forest Conservation Volunteer in Madagascar)

“I think that one of the best things about my IVHQ experience was the fact that I was able to get out of my comfort zone and meet so many people from around the world, whilst doing something I am passionate about. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to do something extraordinary!” - Eliza Lindsay, United Kingdom (Marine Conservation Volunteer in Madagascar)

Discover more reviews from IVHQ Madagscar volunteers here

Madagascar

Length of Program Program Fee $USD
2 weeks $600
3 weeks $800
4 weeks $1,000
5 weeks $1,200
6 weeks $1,400
8 weeks $1,800
10 weeks $2,200
12 weeks $2,600
  • 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 $1,520
5 weeks $1,750
6 weeks $1,980
8 weeks $2,440
10 weeks $2,900
12 weeks $3,360
  • 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 neighbouring 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
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Pay the registration fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
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