This volunteer opportunity is especially dedicated to the deep forest conservation, together with the environmental education about the importance to preserve the ‘Earth’s lungs’. Are you in love with beautiful songs of the tropical birds and other attractive tropical forest animals, like black lemurs and other iconic creatures of Madagascar? Do you love to research and crawl through the most abundant, alive and fresh forest? If yes, this volunteer adventure is the right one for you! Forest Conservation Volunteer Program involves long-term monitoring of the forest and its endemic wildlife on Nosy Komba. Volunteers help in observing and noting the diversity and abundance of species, identify changes in forest dynamics, populations, habitat health and identify potential localized threats. To assess biodiversity this forest project includes a variety of field survey techniques including: Species ID, behavioral monitoring and comparisons, population assessments, pitfall traps, transect surveys and active forest searches both during the day and at night, as well as visual and vocal identification of birds, and potential for mist netting. For invertebrates on Nosy Komba, we aim to create an inventory of butterfly and moth species. So much to learn and to help for you, as a volunteer.
The research organization you would volunteer for is undertaking environmental research, community development and education and is approved by the Government. With the help of volunteers and numerous international partners the organization actively contributes to the conservation of the unique flora and fauna of Madagascar. Volunteers have a crucial role in a fiscal sustainability of this important forest conservation project. So you are very welcome to join.
Why volunteer to preserve the forest biodiversity?
Volunteering on the forest conservation project is a rare opportunity to experience one of the world’s most unique ecosystems and encounter the iconic creatures for which Madagascar is famed. We currently have three ongoing long-term projects on black lemur ecology, Reptile surveys and bird surveys, however personal projects and university studies are welcomed. Forest conservation volunteers will receive training on species identification, conducting field surveys, equipment set up and data collation.
Northwest Madagascar, Nosy Ambariovato Island
2 – 12 weeks
Airport of Arrival:
Nosy Be (NOS) via Antanarivo / Tana (TNR)
Data collection and forest conservation activities: bird, lemurs, reptile observation
18 and above
# of Volunteers:
between 10 – 20 International volunteers (e.g. USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, Austria, UK)
You can pay also in USD. After applying you will receive an email. Then please follow the guidelines about the price conversion.
What is included?
Forest volunteers receive training on species identification, conducting field surveys, methodology.
Volunteers have an included AP transfer to the project site.
Shared bungalows, with 4-6 other voluteners
All inclusive, three meals per day, seven days per week on camp. Tasteful Madagascan food.
Volunteers must provide their own comprehensive travel and health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage.
Vaccinations are not required.
Supervision and training by staff; scientific Survey Materials (GPS, hygrometer and similar).
Overnight hike to a church village high up near the peak of Nosy Komba.
24h informative emergency and local in-country support is available for the forest volunteers.
Airport transfer at the end of the project. Help is provided in organizing it.
Health and travel insurance.
Get a chat about this volunteer adventure with birds and lemurs
- Minimum age: 18
- Language: English
- Enthusiastic and a team player
- No vaccines are needed
- Background check is needed
The country is very beautiful and attractive however, like everywhere, precautions must be taken with your personal belongings.
Madagascar Forest Volunteer: A Unique Vacation
“Being part of the forest conservation project on Nosy Komba has allowed me to experience and appreciate some of Madagascar’s tremendous biodiversity. It is incredible – despite its relatively small size, the country holds 5% of the world’s species. What amazes me the most though, is the way Evolution has carved life forms in bizarre and marvellous shapes and colours – unlike anywhere else on Earth – designing them to perfectly blend in with their surroundings.
However, being here for as long as I have, it was inevitable that I would witness one of the country’s major problems – environmental degradation. As one of the world’s poorest countries, its people’s survival depends upon natural resource use. They are forced to live off the land, destroying primary forest for plantations, cutting down trees to make pirogues, which is justified through a need to fish. Native species are being aggressively hunted and collected by people, desperately seeking to provide for their families.
We can’t really blame the Malagasy for what they do, what we can do instead, is go to Madagascar, either as volunteers or tourists, not to see it before it is too late, but to invest in its preservation, even by simply enjoying a one of a kind vacation.
There is no doubt that once in Madagascar, anyone is bound to fall in love with it. I definitely did, and not only because of its ‘million shades of green’, but the Malagasy too – their beauty, their hospitality, and most of all, their ability to enjoy life despite all.
Madagascar, island Nosy Ambariovato
Forest conservation volunteer project is based in Northwest Madagascar on the small island of Nosy Komba (‘Lemur Island’) also known as Nosy Ambariovato (‘Island surrounded by rocks’). Situated between mainland Madagascar and the large island of Nosy Be, this volcanic island offers a unique peace and tranquility as there are no roads or cars.
The Madagascar Volunteer research centre is built into the steep slopes of Nosy Komba as a multi-level compound overlooking the spectacular coral reef. The forest volunteer project facilities are nestled between a beautiful tropical forest and a pristine beach overlooking Nosy Be and the world famous Lokobe Forest Reserve. Just meters away, volunteers can experience incredible coconut tree fringed beaches with home coral reef, now declared as a Marine Protected Area by the Department of Environment in conjunction with our volunteering organization, the local community and the Department of Fisheries.
Volunteer for the forest, bird, lemur & reptile biodiversity of Madagascar combines a scientific research and community education. But it brings volunteers also into the field of biological research techniques, biodiversity data collection and the valuable hands-on experience. The biodiversity research work aims to further local and international knowledge on the health of the tropical forest but also island ecosystems of Nosy Komba. With the help of volunteers the project concentrates on the animals found in forested and agricultural areas. The forest volunteers will also work with local communities to reduce pollution, encourage sustainable land use and inspire an interest in the natural environment. Volunteers can expect to get their hands a little dirty with tasks such as rubbish clean up, seed collection, planting and transect setup. But that’s exciting, right? We don’t get each day dirty hands of writing on the computer. So it’s special volunteering as well.
You can visit our IG account Volunteer EcoTravel for more ideas on our conservation projects.
Embrace the ‘mora-mora’ way of life…
The schedule will vary widely depending on boats, tides, actual arrival time, etc… The following is an example only. Follow the instructions of in-country staff for actual times and stay flexible. Daily life in Madagascar revolves around family, boats and tides. Embrace the ‘mora-mora’ way of life and don’t get into a hurry. Just try to relax and enjoy the beautiful volunteering journey.
ARRIVAL DAY: You will be met at the airport (or port) on Nosy Be by the project driver or a project staff member.
If you arrive before Sunday, you will be dropped off at your hotel after a tour of Hellville. On Sunday, you will meet a staff member at a predetermined time and place for transfer to the volunteer camp on Nosy Komba.
As is nice as it should be for each Sunday – to have it relaxed, also here the volunteers will start their tour of Hellville (if not already done);
In the afternoon volunteers will have a boat to camp on Nosy Komba accompanied by a staff member;
This will be followed by a Camp tour upon arrival, time to unpack, settle in and meet your forest volunteer mates;
The day closes with the dinner and a volunteer briefing for the following day.
Volunteer forest project leads will, after the breakfast, give you the orientation presentation.
Still – as you will work as a forest volunteer – health and safety presentation will follow;
Volunteers will also need to complete and sign forms /paperwork;
After the lunch, a staff member will lead the volunteer team for a walk to the neighbouring village; for the return you can either walk or take the teacher boat back to camp (costs 2,000 MGA/person).
With Madagascan food for the dinner, a briefing with the volunteer appointments will follow, since the first official day on the project will come!
Generally, as a forest volunteer you will get hands-on activities integrated with staff and other more experienced volunteers. Staff will go over activities and times after dinner on Monday so you know where to go.
Forest conservation volunteering in the forest conservation project is a rare opportunity to experience one of the world’s most unique ecosystems and encounter the iconic creatures for which Madagascar is famed. Volunteers receive training on species identification, conducting field surveys, equipment set up and data collection. Also personal volunteer projects or university studies are welcomed!
There are currently long-term projects running on black lemur, birds and reptile biodiversity. Beautiful animals that with their presence show us the health of the forest.
- Black Lemur ecology (Eulemur macaco macaco) – the forest volunteer project studies 3 groups of lemurs, all located in closed canopy forest close to villages and human presence. It focuses on the lemur habitat, home range and group size. This forest conservation project hopes to estimate the lemur’s tolerance against the habitat fragmentation and disturbance. In addition, forest volunteers together with a project team conduct behavioural comparisons between wild and habituated populations at the local lemur park.
- This exciting volunteer project will show you how today many lemur species are threatened with extinction, due to habitat loss and hunting. Therefore volunteer activities of lemur conservation is of crucial importance to the habitat of Madagascar. Lemurs are important since they have shared characteristics with primates and can give us insights even into the human evolution. Native people of Madagascar believe that lemurs have souls which can revenge if anyone wants to injure or kill them.
- Bird Survey – forest conservation volunteer project also comprises an attractive topic of bird population surveys on the coast, in plantations and in the forest. Point counts are conducted where birds are identified both visually and vocally. Here the help of volunteers in surveys allows the forest conservation group to study seasonal occupancy, habitat preferences of the impressive birds. These forest activities provide updated data on the endemic bird species present on Nosy Komba and help towards the essential subtropical bird conservation.
- Reptile Survey – this volunteer sub-project uses two different methods, each focusing on different niches. In transect surveys, volunteers walk along set 250 m transects using visual search to identify all reptiles and amphibians. During plot searches, volunteers actively search through a pre-defined plot looking for more cryptic species. In addition to the intensive transect and plot searches, sometimes volunteers help in using pitfall traps to study ground dwelling reptiles and amphibians. Most surveys happen during the day however weekly night walks are carried our for nocturnal species using the same methods. The forest volunteer project studies reptile populations in the following habitats: open plantation, coffee plantation, shrubby forest, closed canopy forest, primary forest.
Generally, forest conservation volunteers have morning and afternoon activities. After dinner each day, there is a briefing to go over activities for the following day.
NOTE: The schedule will vary widely depending on the project, tides, etc… for that day.
Sample Volunteer Schedule:
05:00-07:00 Breakfast on camp prepared by the in-house cooks
06:00-08:00 Start of morning activities on project
12:00 Lunch on camp prepared by the in-house cooks
14:00 Start of afternoon activities on project
16:00-17:00 Volunteer activities for the day conclude
18:00 Dinner on camp prepared by the in-house cooks
18:45 Board Briefing to go over volunteer activities for the following day
The volunteer research centre is built into the steep slopes of Nosy Komba as a multi-level compound overlooking the spectacular coral reef below. A volunteer can climb stone stairs up from an idyllic beach to main house situated above the dive deck and can have the stunning view of the ocean extending far across all the way to Lokobe Forest Reserve on Nosy Be. The Main House accommodates senior staff members and serves as a meeting place and hangout for volunteers during the day.
From the back of main house, follow more stone steps up another level to a separate kitchen and dining hut nestled among vibrant gardens. Volunteers can expect to share a hut with four to six other volunteers.
The volunteer camp is eco-friendly with solar powered lighting throughout. There are no charging facilities for electronic devices; volunteers are encouraged to bring a solar panel and battery pack to keep their devices charged. Charging ports are available in the neighbouring village of Ampang, about a half hour hike from camp. The volunteer project has an onsite generator for staff use and volunteers are welcome to charge small devices (no laptops) from this if there is space.
If we go for a volunteer experience and we want to help in our ecological mission, then, when packing, please keep in mind that there are no waste diposal or recycling centres in this area of Madagascar. Therefore, volunteers should please minimise the amount of disposable, plastic or one-use type items that you bring. We suggest also bringing a solar panel and battery pack if you have any electronics you want to keep charged (i.e. phone, laptop etc…).
You need to bring your own beddings and towels with you. If you bring a sleeping bag you still need to bring your own sheet.
Most meals have a rice base with a serving of beans, usually cooked in a sauce with vegetables. Some meals will include seafood or chicken. Meat, when part of a meal, is typically prepared with a sauce, breakfast usually consists of either baguettes and jam, eggs or crepes.
There is a vegetarian option for all meals. Vegans can help themselves to the vegetable-based foods prepared, but will also need to supplement their diet with foods purchased off camp.
Wi-Fi is not available on camp, however there is Wifi access in the neighboring village of Ampang,
A hand washing laundry station is provided on a volunteer camp with a clean water tap. Volunteers can either do their own washing, or pay one of the local kitchen staff to do it for them. Typically, it costs 10,000 MGA per bag of laundry, plus soap.
Volunteers can arrange their own travelling around before or after the volunteering session that they make in the forest conservation. Here are some ideas:
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 snorkeling in the bay to explore the delicate coral reefs. This traditional island still has a Queen as head of their population and a 100 year old tortoise.
The name of this fascinating area dates back to the Russo-Japanese war of 1905, when a Russian warship anchored in the bay.
The 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 with a choice of hiking trails.
Ankazoberavina Marine Reserve
Ankazoberavina (meaning “island with big-leaved trees) Marine Reserve lives up to its name with a forest of large trees and mangroves which is home to some species of lemur, flying foxes and chameleons. The snorkeling is outstanding with spectacular coral formations teaming with tropical fish and resident turtles.
This little-known island is so small that it is used solely as a lemur rehabilitation centre and safe-house. It 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 makes up “Les Quatres Freres” (The Four Brothers) which also includes Nosy Betalinjona, Nosy Beangovo and Nosy Betanihazo.
The Nosy Iranja Archipelago consists of two islets (Nosy Iranja Be and Nosy Iranja Kely) linked by the now world famous sandbar at low tide. The clear waters offer excellent snorkeling and swimming. Nosy Iranja Be is the larger of the two and home to an abandoned lighthouse that was designed by Gustav Eiffel (best know for designing the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty).
Lush hills behind sunny, white beaches are the main features of Baramahamay River. Visitors to this remote area may even spot the extremely rare Madagascan fish eagle feeding off fish basking in the river. The villages are reknown for their blacksmiths, boat builders and honey.
Nosy Tanikely draws both bird enthusiasts and snorkelers alike. The crystal-clear waters are perfect for viewing the amazing variety of marine life. At low tide, one can walk all the way around the island, during which you may spot lemurs, flying foxes and white-tailed tropical birds.
About Spirit of Malala
The Spirit of Malala is a 50ft research and conservation vessel with cooking facilities, seating/dining area, showers, and flush toilets. This boat was built in support of Malala Yousafzai, an incredibly courageous young girl, who stood up for the rights of all young women to receive equal educational opportunities. In so doing she almost lost her life. Malala is the youngest person to receive a Nobel Prize and she continues to inspire and promote equal education for women globally. The meaning of Malala in Malagasy is “My Darling”.
Apply now and secure yourself a place in this amazing volunteer project.