Research Assistant and Divemaster Internship

founded in 2000
Reef Doctor
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Coordinator | Sergei
Coordinator | Sergei
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Qualify as a pro - certify yourself all the way up to PADI Divemaster whilst training and working on our marine conservation and social development projects
Discover the unique beauty of this wonderful island-continent and its people, while directly contributing to both important community action and scientific work
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.
Immerse yourself in marine research and conservation whilst training to become a PADI Divemaster This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+

Our Research Assistant and Divemaster Internship is on offer for those looking to make a significant time commitment to Reef Doctor. This position allows people with a keen interest in tropical marine conservation, but with limited experience, to gain their first steps in this exciting, yet demanding field. 

We offer 6-month internship positions, suitable for both non-divers and already qualified divers.

Expeditions run three times a year with spaces available for six interns per expedition.

Following an intensive science training period (first 3 months) and Divemaster certification, interns become valuable members of our team, helping core project staff with the marine research and conservation programme, volunteer dive and science training, and general camp-management duties.

This position allows interns to utilise their own experiences and qualifications to concentrate on particular Reef Doctor activities, from marine research and management to education or socio-economic development work. 

Each internship can be tailored to individual interests, experiences, and to future career and personal development requirements.

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 every evening. The conditions aren’t five star, but living simply, next to a traditional Malagasy fishing community, is an incredible life experience.

Who Joins?

We recruit interns from all walks of life as long as they are over the age of 18. All we ask is that you are reasonably fit and healthy; you will need to pass a diving medical before arrival.

No prior skills are required, just a general enthusiasm to commit to becoming an integral member of our team.

This programme is suitable for a wide range of people including:

  • Those undertaking a gap-year.
  • Those who wish to train and work as a Divemaster within a marine conservation organisation.
  • Those who wish to devote a significant amount of time to learn about marine science and actively participate in marine research, conservation, management, and/or community development work.
  • Marine and environmental science graduate students who wish to gain extensive, practical, field-based experience to further their career.
  • Those who are on sabbatical leave.
  • Those who are looking for a new career path.

Internship Training

The first 3 months of the internship includes the following training and activities:

  • ReefDoctor orientation: introduction to all of our projects, the local area, and basic camp management protocols.
  • PADI dive training; Open Water, Advanced Open Water, EFR, and Rescue certification (if required).
  • A diverse range of lectures on marine science.
  • Intensive marine habitat surveying training: Species identification (fish, invertebrate, and benthic, up to an advanced level),  coral reef surveying techniques, fish length/ biomass estimates, seagrass identification/ monitoring, and data management.
  • Training on our coral restoration and artificial reef initiatives.
  • Participate in our coral reef and seagrass surveys (subject to passing our exams).
  • Marine science guide training; our science officers will help you become competent coral reef guides to enable you to be able to pass on your knowledge to our EcoDivers and Research Assistant volunteers, helping to train them to become members of the surveying team.
  • Malagasy (local dialect) language lessons.
  • Turtle tagging and release.
  • Basic training in aquaculture monitoring and maintenance.

Divemaster Training

Your Divemaster training will begin after your first 3 months at Reef Doctor, following completion of the core science training. On average this course will take around 12 months to complete. The aims of the programme are as follows:

  • Develop diving skills, rescue skills, and professional-level dive theory knowledge.
  • Gain competence and experience as a certified dive assistant, develop dive management and supervision abilities, and learn how to conduct PADI programmes.
  • Develop the knowledge, attitude, judgment, and skills necessary to become a working PADI professional.
       The basic structure of the PADI Divemaster course is as follows:
  • Knowledge Development.
  • Water Skills.
  • Practical Application.


      Knowledge development

      Mainly conducted through independent study using the Divemaster crew pack:

  • Dive-master manual- nine Knowledge Reviews.
  • EncyclopaediaofRecreationalDiving.
  • Diving Knowledge Workbook.
  • Includes instructor led presentations, quizzes, and final exam.

     Water Skills

  • Five Stamina Exercises:
  • 800m snorkel.
  • 400m swim.
  • 100 m inert diver tow.
  • 15 min tread water.
  • Equipment exchange.
  • Plus 25 Basic scuba and skin diving skills (Skill Circuit)

     Practical Application

  • Dive site management and set up.
  • MappingProject.
  • Dive Briefings.
  • Search and Recovery Scenarios.
  • Diver Rescue.
  • Deep Dive scenario or Deep Specialty.


 Workshops - Conducting and assisting with;

  • Scuba Review.
  • Skin diving and Snorkelling Supervision.
  • Discover Scuba Diving.
  • Discover Local Diving.
  • Open Water Diver Course.
  • Advanced or Rescue Courses
  • Guiding Certified Divers.

Following Your Core Training

As a trained Intern, you will become an integral member of our team; your responsibilities and activities will include:

  • Support our science team and their core research programme (coral reef surveys, coral nursery maintenance, coral transplantation, artificial reefs, seagrass surveys, mangrove replanting, fisheries catch monitoring, data entry, tree nursery work and reforestation).
  • Support our Dive Officers in the daily operation of the dive shop and diving schedules (tank filling, dive shop maintenance etc.).
  • Assist with volunteer and Malagasy IHSM student’s dive and science training.
  • Assist with data analysis and report writing.
  • Support our Fisheries and Aquaculture team in various activities such as fisheries catch monitoring and sea cucumber/seaweed farm maintenance.
  • Participate in our community education initiatives such as adult English lessons, Kids Club, and Junior Reef Doctors.
  • Help create information packages/leaflets/posters etc. to relay our projects, findings and news to the local stakeholders, NGOs, government ministries, and institutions.
  • Assist with fundraising activities.
  • Help to create Reef Doctor’s newsletter and update our blogs.

Typical day

Working as an intern means you will be following the working times of our core staff

  • The staff working week runs from Monday to Friday with a half a work day on Saturdays. Fun dives occur on Saturdays; you will be assisting the dive officers with this.
  • The working day can start early (between 57 am) as we are dependent on the tide for taking the dive boat out. 
  • We break for lunch at 12 noon, after which you are expected to be back at work by 1.30 pm
  • The working day finishes at around 5 pm, though like all staff you will always be on hand to help out with any required work or volunteer assistance. 
  • Dinner is at 6 pm before the sun setsa sight that’ll have you running for your camera every night and then it’s time to rest and relax under the stars. 

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

As a working intern, you will also be allowed to take 14-days holiday for the opportunity to explore this fascinating and beautiful country. Upon signing up to the programme, all interns will have to sign a standard work agreement which will outline the working/holiday entitlements, accommodation, equipment provision etc.

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 (intermediate level)
Criminal Background Check
Required Documents
CV and Madagascan Voluntary Work Visa (we help in acquiring)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
English language fluency
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 05:00 - 17:00

What's Included

Services by Reef Doctor

NB- Your programme fees include training from 'no diving qualifications' up to PADI Dive Master. Therefore there is a  £100 discount per diving 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.
  • 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, certification fees and PADI materials for ALL PADI Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, EFR and Dive Master courses.
  • PADI dive instruction manuals and PIC cards
  • Project equipment and educational materials: dive slates, paper, pens etc., all required for your working activities.
  • Dive weights and tanks - BCD and regs should be your own for this level of diving.
  • 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!

Your financial contribution not only funds your own living and work activities with us, it also contributes to our conservation projects and allows us to employ local staff to support our work.

Airport Pickup at Tulear

·       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)


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 Tulear (TLE) in Tulear. 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

Research Assistant & Dive-master Internship Start Dates 2020

Unqualified divers/ PADI Open Water, Advanced or Equivalent

13th January         20th January

8th June                15th June

5th October           12th October

N.BThese 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.

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
26 - 26 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
26 weeks (min. stay)
26 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees
$248 /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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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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Research Assistant and Divemaster Internship

Immerse yourself in marine research and conservation whilst training to become a PADI Divemaster


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