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
- Program fees from $500 for 2 weeks
- 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 abroad program is situated on the slopes of Nosy Komba Island on the edge of a tropical rain forest, which is located 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 partner organization 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 organizations 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, as well as in the Lokobe Nature Reserve 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 and log book.
Please note, 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 and whether you will be taking the Open Water Dive/Advanced Open Water Dive course in Madagascar.
The dense tropical forest of Nosy Komba is home to many of the iconic wildlife species that Madagascar is renowned for and offers a unique environment for volunteers to assist in monitoring the native forest and endemic wildlife on the island. Unfortunately, many endemic species in Madagascar are threatened, predominantly due to habitat destruction. Volunteers on the Forest Conservation project are involved in data collection which allows for the study and monitoring of 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 localized threats. The data gathered by volunteers is invaluable in contributing to the protection of the highly threatened Sambirano forests found in Northwest Madagascar. Volunteers may assess the biodiversity of one the following wildlife using the relevant field survey techniques:
- Lemurs Study- species identification, behavior monitoring and population assessments.
- Reptiles and Bird Study - varied techniques of data collection are used such as observational surveys, opportunistic surveys, active searches and pitfall traps (to be set in place) and active forest searches.
Forest Conservation volunteers will receive species identification training and learn how to conduct field surveys, set up equipment, collate data and analyze findings. Work on the Forest Conservation project is physically demanding, reaching the survey sites involves climbing over rocks and up steep mountain trails, in a challenging climate, and volunteers are therefore required to have a high level of physical fitness.
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-recognized 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. Volunteers on the Community Development project 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 volunteers should expect to work on different projects in different locations during their time in Madagascar. Tasks can include activities such as building ablution blocks, painting rooms, repairing desks and other general repair jobs. Community Development volunteers are also able to participate in the Teaching projects 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. Please note, the Community Development project has an additional fee of US$35 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.
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.
First Day: 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.
Weekdays: Volunteers work for approximately 5 to 8 hours per day depending on the extra training required (particularly on the Marine Conservation and Forest Conservation projects). A typical schedule is as follows:
7.00 AM Breakfast at the volunteer house prepared by the local in-house chef.
7.30 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.
12.30 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.
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 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 six other volunteers of the same sex. Huts are comprised of single bunk beds and there are shower and toilet facilities on-site. The huts are open air so volunteers are encouraged to bring a padlock to secure personal items in their luggage when not in use. Volunteers are required to bring their own towels and bedding (pillow, sheet, 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 is delivered to the volunteer accommodation by an on-site generator and the generator will run for 1-2 hours per day to charge electrical equipment. Volunteers are encouraged to minimize the amount of electronic equipment they bring as the camp only has limited power points available to charge devices and volunteers are not able to charge laptops on the generator. We recommend volunteers bring solar chargers to charge their devices. The accommodation is fairly isolated and only accessible by boat or a 30 minute walk across boulders and uneven terrain to the nearest village. WiFi is not available at the accommodation but is accessible in the local village.
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.
“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 “mola mola” 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 15 to 25 minutes by boat taxi and is a popular destination for volunteers during the weekend. Hiring scooters or quad bikes for the day is a popular way to explore the sacred lakes, beaches and waterfalls of Nosy Be. Taxis are also available on the island and can be taken to most areas. 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 with our local staff.
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.