Discover, monitor and assess the huge variety of Madagascar's exotic and rare species as you trek through remote regions of this hugely exciting island.
The enchanting Island of Madagascar is famous for its bizarre assemblage of wildlife, its dramatic landscapes and its unique and varied ecosystems. No other island or place in Earth boasts such a combination of species richness and endemism! For example, every native terrestrial mammal species found on this huge island is endemic, and found nowhere else on Earth! Most famous of all of its inhabitants though are the Lemurs, primitive prosimians whose name, derived from the Roman Lemures, or 'spirits of the dead' exemplify the islands biological wealth, yet also its fragility.
There are currently 103 recognised Lemur species on the island, all of which are believed to have evolved from a single colonising ancestor, who reached isolated Madagascar some 50million years ago! Sadly however, recent assessments made by the IUCN now show that the Lemurs are now the most endangered group of vertebrates in the world, with 94 species being classified as threatened with extinction! However Lemurs are not the only group of animals in need of help! The Amphibian fauna of Madagascar is considered to be one of the greatest on Earth, with 238 recognised species and with another 182 candidate species currently awaiting classification! Madagascar has sadly already lost over 90% of its original forest cover though, and this has put increased pressure on all of the endangered species who live here.
Madagascar is also the centre of diversity for chameleons, with almost half of this old world fauna being found exclusively on the island! Including both the largest, and smallest species in the world! In Madagascar, there are weird, unique and wonderful forms of life everywhere that you look, and the more you discover about each of them, the more amazing they become! This sentiment was summed up perfectly by the 18th century French doctor and explorer, Joseph Philibert Commerson in a letter to his tutor in Paris:
"Of Madagascar I can announce to naturalists that this is truly their promised land. Here nature seems to have created a special sanctuary whither she seems to have withdrawn to experiment with designs different from any she has created elsewhere. At every step, one meets more remarkable and marvellous forms of life"
Despite these tantalising early accounts, Madagascar is still an island shrouded in mystery, and remains relatively un-studied to this day! Myths and legends abound in Madagascar, and remain deeply embedded in the collective imagination, adding to the sense of magic surrounding the island!
So journey with us to our current location in Northern Madagascar, an area which represents a transitional habitat between the floral communities of both the East and West, an area renowned for its high species diversity and high levels of endemism! One of the most threatened forest habitats in Madagascar - The seasonal humid forests of the Sambirano biome.
The Frontier-Madagascar wildlife conservation project is currently based on the 'scented island' of Nosy Be, famous for its vanilla, ylang-ylang and mangoes! Whilst on the wildlife conservation project you’ll discover a huge variety of Madagascar's exotic species, as you trek through rugged and remote regions of this hugely exciting island. Working alongside other dedicated volunteers, you’ll help to monitor the distribution and abundance of many groups of animal, and help assess how they are responding to human induced stress factors such as deforestation, habitat fragmentation and other forms of anthropogenic disturbance.
On this project you will directly contribute to important research, aiming to inform local government about how to manage the remaining forests and conserve their invaluable natural assets. You will learn an array of surveying techniques and have a chance to contribute to the to the local community through our education outreach days. But of course it is not all work, and after a hard days trekking and exploration you can always take advantage of the camp’s beach front location and relax on the golden beaches, snorkel in the crystal clear waters or play football against the local village!
06:00 - breakfast; bread, sandwiches or cebada
06:30 - bird survey
08:30 - active search for reptiles/amphibians or lemur survey
11:00 - butterfly survey
12:30 - lunch; rice and beans!
13:30 - active search for reptiles/amphibians or lemur survey
16:00 - revision or presentations
18:00 - dinner; rice and beans, or option to eat out in the village
19:00 - night walk - active search for amphibians/reptiles
*This itinerary should only be considered as an example of the kind of activities and timescales to expect. Actual itineraries may vary depending on the season and the requirements of the project.
Deployments are every Monday throughout the year.
The Frontier-Madagascar camp is great fun and in your spare time you'll have opportunities to swim in waterfalls, play football and beach / river volleyball against the mostly unbeatable local teams. You can socialise, sit around the campfire, enjoy a traditional Saturday night themed camp party, play chess, poker or backgammon or join in a camp quiz night. After a long hard day of trekking and working in the field you may wish to relax with a drink and sway in the camp hammock, if you've made one, chatting to your new friends under a tropical sky lit by a million twinkling stars, before drifting off to sleep to the exotic calls that fill a tropical night.
A range of adventure and cultural activities like visits to remote villages, dive trips, and quad biking are available. Talk to our local staff teams to fix these with local providers and tour operators.
Scuba diving courses may be available (subject to availability of spaces and time constraints).
WHAT'S INCLUDED Before you go
Volunteers arriving weekly on a Monday will be welcomed by a Frontier representative at Nosy Be airport. From here it's a short taxi or minibus ride from the airport to the centre of this vibrant town. If you arrive before noon, you will transfer to your project site and be introduced to the Frontier-Madagascar programme on the same day. If you arrive later in the day, you will stay overnight at the Frontier volunteer house in town and transfer to your project site the following day. You will meet staff, receive some initial project briefings, including an introduction to the work programme and to the field research techniques used, as well as being given health and safety lectures, so make sure your medical kit is complete and start reading your Safety and Medical Guides now.
During the project you'll trek each day from the main campsite on the beach at Nosy Be, along with other Frontier volunteers and staff, to distant and remote sites in the forest to conduct the field work. We aim to provide you with a unique and memorable living experience. The Frontier field camps are designed to blend in with the surrounding natural environments. They consist of a collection of tents and shelters sometimes incorporating simple local dwellings constructed by Frontier volunteers working with local staff, using traditional building techniques and locally sourced materials. Your beach camp will make no permanent or intrusive impact on the environment and will provide you with a special home during your stay.
Life on camp is simple and fun. We believe that part of the excitement of journeying to a foreign country comes from immersing yourself with the local communities and living at one with nature. In your beach-camp your "shower" may consist of a river-pool, jug or bucket of water or wash in the sea and you will be cooking over an open fire: so prepare yourself for the simple, low footprint, unencumbered lifestyle! When you are trekking away from the base camp you may stay on a "satellite camp" which may consist of a mosquito net pitched in a remote clearing. You will help run camp from day-to-day, taking turns to cook, collect firewood, purify water, and other essential camp maintenance duties.
At the end of your period of field work you will enjoy a few days of well deserved rest and relaxation with swimming and snorkelling in the fabulous crystal clear offshore waters.
Camp food is basic and nutritious and consists largely of rice, vegetables, beans and noodles, all of which are purchased locally in order to help support the local economy. Luxuries such as chocolate, peanut butter and drinking chocolate must be imported from the local town, so make sure you stock up before heading to the field! Part of your role on camp will be to help with the cooking, so get your cookbooks out now and start practising! Also, with luck you'll be invited to local feasts and festivals – a great way to meet locals and enjoy local culture.
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