Venture to the remote islands of Madagascar to get stuck into marine and lemur conservation and teaching. Mixed into the program are scuba courses and island hopping.
Madagascar is the worlds 4th largest island just off the East Coast of Africa, directly east of Mozambique. The island’s signature animal is the lemur of course, but there are many more weird and wonderful creatures to look out for starting with the eerie-looking fossa (remember those guys in the movie?), chameleons, rays and turtles, sharks and whales in the breeding season.
About Our Projects
Our projects are based in the North, in and around the island of Nosy Be, Nosy Komba, the nearby forests and further remote islands. There is no denying it; the main focus of this program is marine, forest and animal conservation with an injection of community education and teaching. The overall emphasis being “save and protect this unique ecosystem”. Local scientists run the research and conservation projects and the data gathered by Leapers is invaluable in contributing to worldwide studies.
Typically our programs are for 10, 6 or 4 weeks long, taking in some or all of the sights and experiences you'll find described below with plenty of downtime for you to explore.
Forest Conservation, Nosy Komba: Weeks 1+2
Early in the morning you’ll head up the hill to contribute to the following long-term projects.
Black Lemur Ecology
3 groups of lemurs are currently being studied, in the closed canopy forest close to village and human presence. The focus is to study their relationship with their habitat, home range and group size, with the aim to estimate their tolerance against habitat fragmentation and disturbance.
You’ll help survey the reptile populations in 6 different habitats: open plantation, coffee plantation, shrubby forest, closed canopy forest and primary forest. In each habitat there are 6 zones where an area of 20m2 is searched for snakes, geckos, lizards, chameleons and frogs. The survey is concluded with weekly night walks in the forest to count the nocturnal reptile population.
You’ll help conduct bird population surveys on the coast, plantations and in the forest identifying them both visually and vocally. This survey aims to study the seasonal occupancy on the endemic bird species present on Nosy Komba.
Teaching English: Weeks 3+4
There is great demand among the island communities on Nosy Komba and Nosy Be to learn English, to enhance their future job prospects and to have the ability to communicate with the growing number of tourists.
Despite this enthusiasm, opportunities to learn the foreign language from native speakers are scarce, until now.
Here you’ll venture out to the local schools on Nosy Be and Nosy Komba to teach both kids and adults conversational English.
Sailing around remote islands: Weeks 5+6
Hop on board a 50ft catamaran and set sail to visit some of Madagascar’s remote islands.
Nosy Iranja: The Nosy Iranja Archipelago is 40 km south of Nosy Be. Comprised of two islets, Nosy Iranja Be and Nosy Iranja Kely linked together by a sandbar at low tide. Both stunning and characterized by large white sandy beaches that are important breeding sites for the Hawksbill and Green sea turtles. Amazing snorkeling here.
Bararahamay River: Verdant hills behind sunny, white beaches. The villages are known for their blacksmiths, boat builders and wild honey.
Mamoko Island: Very remote and traditional with their ‘Queen’ still appointed as head of the island’s small village population of just 40 people. Here you’ll be able to meet the 100-year old tortoises and a small lemur family.
Russian Bay: Full of mystery and intrigue. The bay’s name dates back to 1905 during the Russo-Japanese war when a Russian warship anchored there and refused to return home as life was so good.
Scuba Diving and Marine Conservation: Weeks 7-10
This phase takes place in the exotic, healthy reefs around Nosy Komba and Nosy Be, in the Lokobe Nature Reserve, visited daily by turtles and exotic fish. This is the time to earn your scuba stripes with our PADI instructor on hand to teach you to dive safely and skillfully up to PADI advanced level. Or, if you are already a scuba expert you can opt for a 2-day refresher course. Once you’ve reached advanced level you’ll be able to help on the following marine conservation projects, contributing to projects coordinated by the Oceanographic Research Institute of Madagascar.
Turtle Identification and Monitoring
Despite being protected by Malagasy legislation, there is still an active traditional fishery, heavily impacting sea turtles through the use of long-lines, gill nets, and trawls. These are unsustainable practices as coastal populations have increased, bringing shoreline and seabed alterations such as vessel traffic, nesting site degradation, and vegetation changes. Sea turtles and their eggs are killed for food and for products including oil, leather and their shells. The main aim here is to establish an estimated inventory of Madagascan turtles, to build an annual species population census. The identification of individuals within a population is the preliminary step in the ecological study of a species. You’ll do this by snorkel surveys and visual monitoring.
Through scuba diving surveys you will help provide data to determine the species density and biodiversity of nudibranchs in the area as well as associated substrates.
Beach Clean Ups
Clean beaches help save the lives of marine animals that are caught in and/or eat marine litter, as well as removing synthetic, damaging material from the ecosystem.
Community Environmental Awareness
Every Friday afternoon all the volunteers at Turtle Cove pick an “environmental theme” for the kids in the community. This can be anything from ‘save the turtle’ to ‘protect the reef’. It usually involves some sort of artwork and even a little play to make it entertaining for the little ones. The main goal is to educate the next generation about why they need to protect and conserve their environment.
Through reef regeneration by coral propagation and litter removal we aim to increase the coral reef size and health in the area, thus providing more habitat space for reef fish.
Projects: 5 days per week for 5 - 8 hours each day, weekends free. The working day starts very early, about 6.30-7.00ish to take advantage of the cooler mornings.
The weekends are yours to do with as you please. You’re welcome to stay and chill at Turtle Cove or head off if you crave a change of scene.
Most teams stick together at the weekends and your project leader will help organise any excursion
Nosy Komba lemurs/markets
Close to the volunteer house (10min by boat) is the main village Ampangorinana where you‘ll find many handicraft shops and markets selling local vanilla, rum, yang yang oils, wooden crafts and street food. Just a short walk from the village into the forest is the ‘Lemur park’ where a guide will take you around and call some regular black lemurs to come down from the heights of the trees for bribes of bananas. 5,000MGA (just over £1) excluding any drinks/souvenirs.
Tanikely Marine Park
This small-inhabited island is great for a day’ excursion. Fantastic snorkeling and diving, the island also has small museum at the top with a lookout lighthouse with great views. Group trips can arranged locally – usually about £10 for lunch, park fees and transport.
Some of the best diving locations are found around the islands of Nosy Be as well as the many wrecks, which are dotted around. Excursions to see whale sharks are also available. Approximately £30 per dive.
There are many fishing trips on offer. The best locations are further away so require longer than a day trip. It is also possible to go out with a local fisherman on a dugout canoe or pirogue for an authentic experience. Approx. cost £12-£40 depending on the type of boat you choose.
Lokobe National Park
Guided trips around Lokobe will take you to see the relatively small area of untouched native forest as well as some of Madagascar’s famous creatures: lemurs, chameleons, snakes etc.
Ambaro ranch offers half-day rides as well as riding lessons. It is located opposite the departure point to get to Nosy Sakatia on the west of Nosy Be. Approx. cost £40 for half a day
This huge tree is located at Mahatsinjo, west of Hellville. Within the tree there is a small prayer/worship area where you can give small offerings such as rum, honey, cloth and money. There is also a small museum, which gives visitors an insight to the local history of Nosy Be, 5,000MGA to enter, including museums.
The highest point on Nosy Be, a popular destination with spectacular views of the surrounding areas.
There are a number of lakes created in volcanic craters to the west of Nosy Be. Home to crocodiles so no swimming!
Nosy Be waterfall
Nestled in the forest just off the main road that runs to Ambatoloaka. There is a small fee to enter and some friendly locals are usually willing to guide you to the waterfall for a tip. In the drier months you’ll find clear waters and a small flow of water, whilst in the rainy season you’ll get a more impressive waterfall.
You will be picked up from the airport and taken to the camp over on Nosy Komba.
Turtle Cove, Nosy Komba
The accommodation here is stylish but simple comprising a huge thatched communal building, where everyone hangs out together, just up from the beach. 6 thatched sleeping huts are just behind this and up the hill. There are 3 bunks per hut, which have shared showers and loos close by, plus a dining room and kitchen.
The 50ft yacht sleeps up to 12 people (in double bunks) and has all the facilities you need whilst out at sea: sitting area, fridge, cooker, BBQ, showers, toilets and a built-in music system to plug your iPod into.
Three meals per day, prepared in the traditional Madagascan style. All meals usually have a rice base with beans and vegetables. Meals will change depending on the season. Occasionally seafood and beef (zebu) will be served and a vegetarian option is always available. Bread/ eggs and western style items will be available for breakfast.
A tuck shop is available on-site to buy snacks such as fizzy drinks, crisps, chocolate etc. (A beer costs about 50p, a coke about 25p.)
If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know.
Safe drinking water will be provided throughout and tea and coffee served at points during the day. Food at weekends, when away from the project base or eating in a restaurant, is at your own expense, as is extra soft drinks, snacks, beers etc.