Volunteer in Madagascar
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- 4 meaningful projects including Marine and Forest Conservation
- Projects based on Nosy Komba Island
- Accommodation in dormitory-style beach huts
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
- Affordable program fees
- Breathtaking marine and wildlife encounters
- Between 5 and 20 volunteers start in Madagascar each month
- Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organization in Madagascar to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
- Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Madagascar will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
- Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
- Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
- Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organizations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
- New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travelers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
- Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Madagascar with your new-found friends.
The IVHQ Madagascar volunteer abroad program is situated on the slopes of Nosy Komba, an island 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.
Volunteers on the Marine Conservation project have the opportunity to join a variety of conservation efforts focused on the protection of the marine ecosystem in Madagascar. Volunteers work in collaboration with and on behalf of a number of oceanographic organisations to gather vital raw data through a number of initiatives, including:
- Reef Surveying - monitoring the biodiversity, health and growth of the reef system surrounding Nosy Komba through fish, invertebrate and coral surveys using scuba equipment.
- Turtle Monitoring - establishing an estimated inventory and census of Madagascan turtles. To determine the frequency and population strength of the varying species of turtle that visit the area.
- Nudibranch Research - through surveys using scuba equipment volunteers are able to provide data to determine the species density and biodiversity of nudibranchs in the area as well as associated substrates.
- Beach Cleans - to preserve marine animals that get caught in and/or eat marine litter as well as removing synthetic, damaging material from the ecosystem.
- Community - educate the local community about environment issues, conservation and protection of biodiversity and marine resources such as food.
- Reef Regeneration - through reef regeneration by coral propagation and litter removal volunteers can aim to increase the coral reef size and heath in the area, thus providing more habitat space for reef fish.
Volunteers receive comprehensive training to prepare for carrying out research-based activities at sea. This involves identification training for marine wildlife including; turtles, fish, corals and invertebrates. Volunteers are also taught the methodology of coral baseline surveying, a key skill in marine conservation as a universal approach to monitoring the state of coral reefs. The length of your volunteer program will determine the area in which you will focus your conservation efforts. Volunteers can expect 1 dive per day as well as other activities such as snorkel surveys and dry activities. Volunteers wishing to participate on the Marine Conservation project must have Open Water Dive Certification and Advanced Open Water Dive Certification. The relevant courses should be completed prior to arrival in Madagascar or can be completed in Madagascar for the following prices:
- Open Water : $380
- Advanced Open Water: $280
This is paid to the local team upon arrival in Madagascar. Volunteers receiving certification in Madagascar are also required to complete the PADI theory online before arriving in Madagascar, through PADI elearning. The elearning course costs approximately US$121 for the Open Water Dive Certification, and US$107 for the Advanced Open Water Dive Certification.
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 A3 Dive Slate.
This project has a minimum duration of 4 weeks to allow sufficient time to complete the dive and marine research training required to participate on the project. When you apply for this project, please specify whether you are Open Water Dive certified in your application form or whether you will be taking the Open Water Dive/Advanced Open Water Dive course in Madagascar.
The forest of Nosy Komba is home to many of the iconic wildlife species that Madagascar is renowned for, and offers a unique environment for you to assist in monitoring the endemic wildlife on the island. Unfortunately, many endemic species in Madagascar are threatened, in many cases due to habitat destruction through deforestation and increasing infrastructure. While on the Forest Conservation project you are involved in collecting data which is used to study and monitor the diversity and abundance of species on Nosy Komba. The research carried out enables the identification of changes in forest dynamics, populations and habitat health, and the identification of potential localised threats. The data gathered by volunteers is invaluable in contributing to the protection of the highly threatened Sambirano forests found in Northwest Madagascar. We work with the local communities, as well as national and international organisations, using the data collected by volunteers to aid conservation and management plans for Nosy Komba.
You will be conducting research on the following wildlife using the relevant field survey techniques:
- Lemurs Study- species identification, behavioral monitoring and population assessments carried out at designated observation sites.
- Reptiles and Bird Study - varied techniques of data collection are used such as observational transect surveys, opportunistic surveys, active forest searches and point counts.
You will receive species identification training and learn how to conduct field surveys, set up equipment and collate data. You will be required to learn and pass species tests before you are able to take part in certain surveys. In addition to the research, volunteers conduct forest cleans and regular environment days, educating the local communities on the environment they depend on.
Our main surveying sites are located on Nosy Komba, this is a volcanic island and the paths to and through the forest are not always well trodden. Work on the Forest Conservation project is physically demanding, reaching the survey sites involves climbing over rocks and up steep mountain trails and therefore you will require a high level of physical fitness for this project.
All Forest Conservation volunteers are required to bring the following items to Madagascar, as these are not available for purchase on the island of Nosy Komba:
- Head torch
- Light sleeping bag (for overnight walks)
There is great demand among the island communities on Nosy Komba and Nosy Be to learn English to enhance future job prospects and the ability to communicate with the growing number of tourists in Madagascar, who contribute significantly to the local economy. Despite this enthusiasm towards learning English, opportunities to learn the language are scarce. Volunteers in Madagascar have the opportunity to fuel this interest, taking English grammar and conversational lessons within local schools and communities. Volunteers should expect to be teaching English to children and adults in small village schools on the islands of Nosy Be or Nosy Komba, or to staff members at the Oceanographic Research Institute on Nosy Be. Volunteers assist staff at the institute in establishing a good working knowledge of English, enhancing their ability to communicate ideas and collaborate research findings internationally. Due to demand for English teachers on the islands, volunteers may find themselves working in all locations during their stay. As volunteers work with the support of IVHQ’s local team and placement staff, you do not need to be a qualified or experienced teacher to participate. However, we encourage volunteers to come prepared by completing some relevant training, like a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) course. Visit our Online TEFL course page to learn how to gain an internationally-recognised TEFL certification at a discounted rate. All volunteers should be prepared to hike over rocky terrain to reach some of the nearby villages they will be teaching in, and therefore require a reasonable level of physical fitness.
Much of Madagascar is in desperate need of new and improved infrastructure to enable schools and communities to function more effectively. On the Community Development project you are involved in initiatives directly benefiting the local communities on Nosy Be and Nosy Komba. These initiatives can involve general maintenance work within the small village schools where our Teaching volunteers work. As well as working within the schools, new community projects arise all the time, so you should expect to work on different projects in different locations during your time in Madagascar. Tasks can include building ablution blocks, painting rooms, repairing desks and other general repair jobs. This work can be physically demanding at times as supplies often need to be loaded on and off boats. While on the Community Development project you are also able to participate in the Teaching project in the villages to interact with locals and gain ideas for new initiatives. Placement will depend on the skills individual volunteers have to offer, the amount of volunteers on the project and also the initiatives that are in progress at the time of placement. The Community Development project has an additional fee of US$50 per week for materials used during the project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.
The Madagascar Island Outreach offers volunteers a chance to participate in a 10-day island tour, enjoying what Madagascar and its beautiful islands offer, while also assisting in a variety of volunteer tasks. The trip takes place aboard a 50ft research vessel with nights spent in rustic overnight camps, visiting several of Madagascar’s remote islands and villages. A key focus of the trip is scientific research through forest walks and snorkel surveys to identify changes in habitats and species populations. As many of the island communities have very limited and basic resources, you can expect to also be involved in beach and reef clean-ups, education support, community health support and small construction tasks. These activities all contribute to the ongoing efforts of our Marine Conservation, Forest Conservation, Teaching and Community Development projects in Madagascar. Additionally, you will have some free time along the journey to explore the tropical islands, snorkel in the turquoise waters or enjoy a fun game of beach soccer with the village children.
The Island Outreach begins with orientation on the first Monday of each month and the boat departs on Tuesday. It’s important to be flexible around the order of stops during the trip and to expect volunteer tasks to vary according to the research being undertaken at the time as well as the various community needs. The Island Outreach has a one off payment of US$600.
Below is an outline of what you’ll experience during the 10-day trip:
|CNRO||A visit to CNRO, the Oceanographic Research Institute of Madagascar, in Nosy Be. You will receive a short introduction to marine conservation by one of the institutes leading Malagasy marine researchers followed by a tour of the marine museum. The museum has a large collection of specimens covering all aspects of Madagascan marine life and its evolution.|
|Nosy Mamoko Island||This island is at the southwest end of Ampasindava Bay. The small, unspoiled forest ends in sandy white beaches with excellent opportunities for swimming and snorkelling in the bay to explore the delicate coral reefs. This traditional island still has a Queen as head of their population, a troop of lemurs living among the villagers and a 100-year-old tortoise. This is a location for overnight camping.|
|Russian Bay||Spectacular marine life in the bay offers superb snorkelling and diving. Whales and whale sharks are common in the bay from October to December and there is an abundance of lemurs, birdlife and reptiles in the tropical forest. This is a location for overnight camping.|
|Ankazoberavina Marine Reserve||Ankazoberavina meaning “island with big-leaved trees” certainly lives up to its name. The forest of large trees and mangroves is home to some species of lemur, flying foxes and chameleons. The snorkelling is outstanding with spectacular coral formations teeming with tropical fish and resident turtles.|
|Nosy Antsoha||This little-known island is so small that it is used solely as a lemur rehabilitation centre and safe-house, and is currently home to six lemur species. This private island has a tropical rainforest and is one of four large lumps of silver basalt that make up “Les Quatres Freres” (The Four Brothers).|
|Nosy Iranja||The Nosy Iranja Archipelago consists of two islets linked by a sandbar at low tide. The clear waters offer excellent snorkelling and swimming.|
|Nosy Iranja Be||The larger islet of Nosy Iranja Archipelago and home to an abandoned lighthouse designed by Gustav Eiffel - best known for designing the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. There is also a small village of fishermen on the island.|
|Nosy Iranja Kely||The smaller islet of Nosy Iranja Archipelago with large sandy beaches that are important breeding sites for both the Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtle. Due to its lush vegetation, it is also home to a large diversity of birdlife and coconut crabs.|
|Baramahamay River||Lush hills behind sunny, white beaches are the main features of Baramahamay River. While visiting this remote area you may even spot the extremely rare Madagascan fish eagle feeding off fish in the river. The villages are renowned for their blacksmiths, boat builders and honey. There is a small primary school in the village that volunteers assist in. This is a location for overnight camping.|
|Nosy Tanikely||Nosy Tanikely is a hit with both bird enthusiasts and snorkelers. The crystal-clear waters are perfect for viewing the amazing variety of marine life. At low tide, it’s possible to walk all the way around the island and while doing so you may spot lemurs, flying foxes and white-tailed tropic birds.|
The program orientation begins on the first and third Monday of every month and volunteers need to arrive in Nosy Be on the Sunday before orientation, ideally before 3pm.
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. Therefore, 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, please note there is a US$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, flying to Antananarivo may be the preferred option for you. If you are would like to fly directly from Antananarivo 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 Claire, your Program Manager, for more information on these options.
If flying into the Fascene Airport (NOS) in Nosy Be and arrive before 3pm, 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 you are traveling in Madagascar prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to be picked up in Nosy Be before 3pm 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.
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.
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.
“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)
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!
|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).
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over, with a great level of fitness and agility to participate. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ’s local team on arrival in Madagascar. Additional requirements apply for Marine Conservation volunteers, please read the project description below.
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.