Marine conservation in Madagascar

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Volunteer travel - what's it all about

Are you looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world’s most important conservation areas - and in community projects - then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world.
Edward Abbey said 'sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul'.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Marine conservation in Madagascar

Environment

The south west coast of Madagascar is home to some of the most biologically diverse and yet least explored marine systems on earth. The local community relies on these systems for food, transport, cultural identity and income. But these habitats face growing threats from pollution, physical degradation and overexploitation of marine resources. Through regular and continued data collection, carried out by field scientists and volunteers, sustainable local environmental management plans are created and the effectiveness of conservation strategies aiming at maintaining the biological diversity and productivity of the reefs are monitored.
Through work conducted so far, we have already set up Madagascar’s first short-term fishery closure for octopus and this has led to successful replication with more than 250 closures throughout Madagascar.

Community

The marine conservation expedition has been based in Andavadoaka since 2003, working closely with the community to develop programmes that respond to local issues and needs. As well as marine conservation projects the host organisation also supports other projects; aquaculture initiatives to develop sea cucumber and algae farms, education programmes, family planning services, marine protected areas and carbon science.

Instead of generating financial gains for shareholders, profits from the expeditions are used to fund grassroots conservation efforts and volunteer fees are directed into the community through the development and support of alternative livelihoods programmes. As well as a buy local policy, the host organisation has a hire local policy with more than 80% of its country staff being Malagasy nationals. Employment opportunities extend beyond the core team and the expedition itinerary includes volunteers joining local fishermen for sailing lessons, excursions to nearby islands and fishing trips.

Reviews of Marine conservation in Madagascar

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 30 Jul 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Diving everyday and enjoying the life of the Madagascan people!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


I packed a bit to heavy in the end and they had alot of equipment there already, so maybe check what you actually need and not what it says on the guides.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, i think the work we were doing was valuable and the locals loved us.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Was the best thing ive ever done in my life...and if i could afford it i would go straight back

Reviewed on 13 Jul 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Meeting people and scuba diving/snorkelling.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Do not have a strict schedule on getting there or leaving. Leave a period of time open (maybe plan on staying in Tana at the beginning and end of your trip or be flexible with your flights.) Just let the journey happen.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes. I especially think that the sex education/health for the locals was particularly useful.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


It was fantastic! I would highly recommend it for people of all ages with a sense of adventure and love for learning.

Reviewed on 04 Jul 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The most memorable? Too many! The whole trip was simply amazing! A year ago today I'd be there. For anyone thinking of going, or is mulling over to or not to, DO! Words cannot do it justice. Firstly the camp is set in the most beautiful place, and on a good night the stars are unbelievable. I've never seen so many! Must have seen at least 5 shooting stars a night as well as the cosmos! Although the coral reefs are not as eye catching as what you might see on tv, mainly due to the water not being that crystal clear of the Caribbean, the variety and the fish were more than exciting enough for me. If I had to pick a most memorable moment of the vacation it would be either the night dive or the recreational dive at the end. Diving down canyons, swimming along sea fans three times my size, or having a squid hover between me and my diving buddy before suddenly squirting off into the distance was A-MAZING.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Pack spare stuff, and bring some portable ipod speakers! Cannot stress how much music cheered everyone up and brought people together in the evenings for jamming sessions!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Hard to say. In terms of teaching English in the school I was primarily with young children, which was mostly chaos. They had no basic understanding of English so it was pretty hard. Would have been better if there was someone to translate maybe.

With regards to the coral and fish mapping I don't know. It would be nice to occasionally receive e-mails on how the areas my group visited are doing since we've been there. Are the ecosystems becoming healthier?

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Best vacation I've been on by far. Had so many jokes, met some amazing people who I'm still in contact with. Learnt to scuba dive, which is probably the best thing I've done in a while. Unfortunately I had to leave a week earlier than most was a shame because I wasn't ready to leave!

Read the operator's response here:

Thanks for taking the time to write this review. We're really glad you had such a great time with us in Madagascar.
We've actually greatly improved our Saturday School programme and have made it very structured with translators on-hand for every lesson. Attendance has soared and the children's English has vastly improved. We've also nearly doubled the amount of school scholarships we offer since last year.
For updates on our work out in Madagascar and in other areas, you can always take a look at our Research Updates on our website or let someone in the office know if you would like to be added to the mailing list.

Thanks again!

Reviewed on 26 Sep 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


I spent two days on a fact-finding trip with the field scientist, visiting fishing villages in the neighborhood of the project site. It was a great opportunity to see the impact of the marine conservation project on the local communities and how the partnership worked. More than that it was beautiful journey in a dug-out canoe, including one leg at night in an extraordinarily dramatic electrical storm with that evening's supper - a soon-to-be-dead cockerel - hunkered down at our feet. In one village we taught the local kids to sing "Cecilia" by Art and Garfunkel. They, in turn, danced for us to music from a xylophone made out of a few pieces of wood placed on outstretched legs. It was a wonderful two days.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared for an intensive group experience - it was closest thing to Big Brother I can imagine! The site is isolated and you are living in each others pockets, sharing huts with the same people etc for several weeks. Be prepared for basic food and don't expect the best diving in the world. The whole point about this place is that the reef is being over-fished. If you want a diving vacation go somewhere else, if you want to volunteer on a marine conservation project, this is a place that really needs your help.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Absolutely

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I wanted to stay in a community, get a sense of their way of life and help in some way. I felt it ticked all those boxes and was a lot of fun to boot - even though I was a lot older than most of the other volunteers.

Reviewed on 04 Jan 2006 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The coral reefs and learning how the system works.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be healthy and prepared for hard work.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes to both.

4. Any other comments?


Excellent vacation, highly recommended. I will definitely be traveling with responsibletravel and I have already told everyone I know about your website. Keep up the good work.

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