Eco Diver

founded in 2000
Reef Doctor
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Coordinator | Sergei
Coordinator | Sergei
Book with Flex Option! Choose new departure dates or change to a different volunteer program at no extra costs.


Discover the unique beauty of this wonderful island-continent and its people, while directly contributing to both important community action and scientific work
Advance your skillsets: Diving qualifications and practice, team work and marine research, learning directly from professionals in the field at an idyllic yet humbling beachside setting.
Experience a front line battle against environmental degradation; working on one of the largest barrier reefs in the world and the marine conservation in place to help protect it.
Expand your network of like-minded and passionate conservationists working alongside the communities most directly affected by such environmental degradation.
Go back to basics for a while; escaping the trappings of the digital world and literally immersing yourself in the natural one.
Scuba dive training, basic marine species identification courses, and experience marine conservation in action This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+
Fancy a holiday or gap year with a difference? Then our EcoDiver volunteer programme may be just what you are looking for. It is open to anyone 18 and over who can only join us for a limited period of time. 
No prior skills are required, just a general enthusiasm to learn more about the marine environment and to get involved in activities on camp.
As well as learning to dive, you will get to experience;
  • eco-diving,
  • community-based marine management and conservation, 
  • the unique Vezo culture, 
  • and the amazing environments of this mega biodiversity hotspot. 

Enjoy a life changing experience, make lifelong friends, and return with incredible stories and memories.

It is a great opportunity to learn to scuba dive (or for those already dive trained: Enhance dive skills and experience) whilst learning about tropical marine ecosystems. You will also get the opportunity to participate in some of our marine management and community development initiatives.

As a Reef Doctor EcoDiver, you will get PADI dive-trained, acquire coral reef underwater identification skills, and gain first-hand experience in the workings of a marine conservation NGO.

Following Your Training 

Once you have completed your training you will be able to undertake ‘EcoDives’; advancing your learning of coral reef systems under the guidance of our science team. 

EcoDiver volunteers undertake regular diving (weather dependent). 

Night dives can also be arranged along with other PADI specialty dive courses, though these do come at an extra cost. 

You will also have the opportunity to assist our team in a variety of our core research, management, conservation, and community projects

Additional activities may include some of the following (although some are subject to season): 

  • Monitoring and maintenance work on our coral nursery and artificial reefs. 
  • Participate in our local community seaweed and sea cucumber aquaculture initiatives (with the opportunity to stay in a fishing village for 1–2 days to assist in sea cucumber harvesting/monitoring). 
  • Help our science officers tag and release turtles as part of turtle conservation project. 
  • Fisheries catch monitoring alongside our fisheries team. 
  • Mangrovetoursandreplantingactivities.
  • Environmental education: get involved with our Junior ReefDoctor’s initiative and Kids Club. 
  • Assist in our English-language lessons for local villagers. 
  • Learn the local Vezo language through our weekly Malagasy classes. 
  • Help us with our tree nursery and reforestation project.

Why Choose Reef Doctor? 

·       On average, 80%–90% of your expedition contribution goes directly into our conservation work and the local economy in Madagascar. 

·       Our core staff are professionals in their respective fields, their knowledge and experience will be passed on to you throughout your expedition.

·       Malagasy culture is vibrant and memorable. During your stay, you’ll experience it first hand; through getting to know our local Malagasy staff members, visits to Ifaty village and surrounding areas, and from participating in our education, research, and development projects. 

·       Our expeditions attract people from all walks of life and from all over the world. You will make new friends with whom you will share memorable life experiences. 

·       Our work is part of a larger, global effort. It helps develop an understanding of marine resource management in developing countries and contributes scientific information to a much wider conservation community. 

·       Our programmes are designed with the community at their heart; our work is directed at helping local communities develop and grow while conserving their culture and resources. 

·       Our expeditions are all about making a difference and you’ll be contributing to helping us fulfil our long term ecological and social objectives in the Bay of Ranobe. 

·       As a Reef Doctor volunteer you’ll learn new skills, walk away with new experiences and a whole new level of scientific knowledge, and ultimately, you’ll have contributed to helping protect threatened marine ecosystems and the future livelihoods of the local Vezo people. 

Typical day

Our working week runs from Monday to Friday

We offer a "fun dive" on Saturday, while Sunday is a non-diving day.

The working day can start early (between 5-7am) because we are dependant on the tides for taking the boat out. 

Typically diving takes place in the morning and then again in the afternoon. 

We break for lunch at noon, after which we take a break for the hottest time of the day. 

We start again at 1.30 pm with land based project work and/or diving.

The working day finishes at around 5 pm

Dinner is at 6 pm before the sun sets. 

Then it's time to rest and relax under the stars.

In addition to diving and other Reef Doctor project activities, you will also be expected to get involved with the day to day running of the camp.

Our schedules have plenty of time for work, fun, and relaxation. After all, there is no point visiting such a unique place as Madagascar without taking some time to enjoy it!

Waking up to the sandy beaches in front of our project site provides an idyllic lifestyle, as does watching the sun set over the lagoon everyevening. The conditions aren’t five star, but living simply, next to a traditional Malagasy fishing community, is an incredible life experience.

Free-time activities


You are free to do as you wish at the weekend; simply relax in the peaceful surroundings on site, go into town for shopping, take a pirogue trip, walk to the popular beach resort of Mangily, visit local parks such as the Spiny Forest, or take a long weekend to go further afield in order to visit one of the regional national parks.

Exploring Madagascar

Behind our base camp is the spiny forest, considered one of the most endangered and unique habitats in the world. The flora of this region consists of dry weather plants such as cacti, shrubs, baobab trees, tamarind trees, and the infamous spiny octopus tree. 

The sandy beach outside the Reef Doctor base stretches northwards for miles. After an hour’s walk you can reach the main tourist beach destination for the region, Mangily. This region has many tourist attractions on offer at the weekends such as pirogue trips, various water sports, Spiny Forest visits, and humpback whale watching (July–October). 

If you wish, you will also have the opportunity to plan long weekend excursions to visit some of the national parks of the southwest Madagascar, such as Isalo.

Madagascar is an island of contrasts, the landscape, nature, and people change dramatically across the country; there are so many unique places to visit! Therefore, we strongly recommend to schedule in extra time and budget to explore this amazing country after your time with us



In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (fluently)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
You will receive all the technical training you require but being genial, helpful and particularly; respectful of both the working and social environment you will find yourself in, is extremely important.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 06:00 - 17:00

What's Included

Services by Reef Doctor

NB- Your programme fees include training up to PADI Advance Open Water. Therefore there is a £100 discount per dive level, applicable to the stated fees if you are already certified.

Services Included in the Expedition Fees

  • Airport pick-up in Toliara and transport to the Reef Doctor site in Ifaty.
  • Arrangement of hotel in the capital city Antananarivo, if required.
  • All meals, Monday–Sunday.
  • Filtered water, brewed local coffee and tea.
  • Lodging: with bed sheets, pillows, and mosquito net provided.
  • Standard first aid medical care.
  • Electricity for charging cell phones, laptops, etc.
  • (limited to weekdays).
  • Internet access on site (limited to weekday lunch times for personal use).
  • Dive training: PADI Open Water and Advanced dive certification.
  • Project equipment and educational materials: dive slates, paper, pens etc., all required
  • for your working activities.
  • Dive equipment, including: BCD, full regulator set, weights and tanks.
  • Occasional excursions to help some of our conservation partners in the area, such as HONKO (mangrove conservation and re-plantation).
  • Science training: level of training will vary according to the expedition duration, dive certification, and progression of the individual.
  • Pre-departure support and pre-departure guides: advice on flights, equipment, Madagascar, medicals, vaccines, insurance etc.
  • UK based support/communication throughout the expedition for the volunteers' friends and family.
  • Fuel, equipment, and staff (international and local) to make this all happen!

Airport Pickup at Antananarivo Airport

·       Airport pick-up in Toliara and transport to the Reef Doctor site in Ifaty. 

(This does not include pick-up from the international airport in Antananarivo although we can arrange a taxi for you with a hotel if you ask us to)


ReefDoctor Site & Facilities

Our compound is situated on a sandy beach with beautiful views of the Bay of Ranobe. This enclosed area is made up of one main house, eight brick bungalows, eight interconnected single volunteer huts, one dormitory, kitchen/dining area, dive shed, and utility room for the dive compressor and generator. The main house is used as a work area for all volunteers. A generator provides electricity for the compressor, pumping water to the house and bungalows, lighting, charging appliances, and computer/internet use.

Next door to this compound is land belonging to the University of Toliara. Here there are three interconnected single huts (to sleep 6 people in total) and two double huts. This is usually the main staff and intern accommodation. Our newly- refurbished community classroom from which we run all our community education programmes, is also located on this site. Our aquaculture offices are located on the opposite side of our compound on a separate property.

Volunteers sleep in the huts or in the dormitory in the compound. All huts are built from locally- sourced wood and reeds with a cement floor. The dormitory hut has dividers for privacy and plenty of windows for staying cool. Showers are taken in enclosed wooden shower stalls using water from the on-site well. There are two wooden stalls housing hygienic drop toilets.

Bedroom (Single) Bungalow Bedroom (Double)
Food & Beverages

We provide meals three times a day, seven days a week. 

All of our meals are cooked by our Malagasy chefs who serve up a mix of Western/Malagasy cuisine, consisting of the staple Malagasy diet of rice and beans, fresh vegetables, fish, meat, and fruit. 

We source all of our food locally to generate revenue for local communities. 

Our drinking water is locally sourced, delivered via traditional zebu cart, and treated on site.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Antananarivo Airport (TNR) in Antananarivo. We assist you to find cheap flights to Madagascar.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Madagascar provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Madagascar you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Madagascar.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

South West Madagascar Climate

Month:    Dec/Jan/Feb/March      April/ May     June/July/Aug     Sept/Oct/Nov  

Season:         Summer                       Autumn                 Winter                  Spring         

Malaria:         High (risk)              Medium (risk)        Low (risk)           Low (risk)

Avg Day     

Temp°C:   32   36   40    38     |       35       30     |     26    23    23   |    25    25    30

Avg Night                       

Temp°C:   28   33   35    30     |       28       20      |    17    15    15   |    20    25    28


Eco Diver Expedition Start Dates 2020


Unqualified Divers /  PADI Open Water and Advanced (or equivalent) qualified divers 


13th January          20th January

2nd March              9th March 

6th April                  13th April 

4th May                   11th May

8th June                 15th June 

6th July                   13th July

3rd August             10th August 

7th September      14th September

5th October            12th October 

2nd November       9th November 

7th December       14th December


N.B. These dates are when the programme commences so you need to arrive at our site ideally the day before. This means arriving at the capital Antananarivo two days before the start date.




Reef Doctor’s base camp is in the South West, close to Toliara (Tulear) but all International flights arrive at Antananarivo, in the centre.

If you require an overnight stay (and most volunteers do), we can arrange a hotel room in ‘Tana’ that we have a good relationship with. This includes pick up from the airport into Antananarivo, for the €20 per night mentioned in the above table.

You must decide whether you will fly to and from our nearest airport in Toliara or ‘tour’ down (and back up) via public transport or mini van.

In general we do recommend that you fly down to us upon arrival and then take the public bus or rent a mini-van back to the capital. This gives you a chance to make sure you get to basecamp in time. Then take the more adventurous, touristic or economical route back up, once you’re more familiar with the country.

Upon Arrival

 Your initial training includes a short spell to get used to life here. You will be given a background to Madagascar, its culture, and customs, particularly the local fishing communities we work with. 

In addition, you will receive an orientation trip of the local village of Ifaty, and an introduction to our work and the project site.

For those lacking dive certification; your first week will be dedicated to PADI Open Water training.In week 2 you will start your PADI Advanced training which will take about another week to complete. During this second week you will also begin your science training (lectures and point out dives).

If you are already dive certified to PADI Advanced level (or equivalent), you can immediately begin the science training.

In general, core science training is conducted over a 2 to 3 week period (2 weeks if you are only with us for a 3 week expedition), though ultimately your training is ongoing throughout your expedition.

This program is paused due to COVID-19 and reopens October 2020. Apply Now!

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
3 - 5 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
3 weeks (min. stay)
4 weeks
5 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees
$504 /week

The organization charges its fees in GBP. The price table in USD is subject to currency fluctuation. Reef Doctor will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Reef Doctor during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

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Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if Reef Doctor cancels your trip
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All program fees are charged directly by Reef Doctor.

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Eco Diver

Scuba dive training, basic marine species identification courses, and experience marine conservation in action


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