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  • Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

On this expedition, you will spend four weeks in the dry forests of Mahamavo with the opportunity to move around the three camp sites, and then two weeks on the reefs in Nosy Be. During your first week in the forest you will receive lectures about Madagascar wildlife and conservation, but for most of the time you will be rotating between a series of research projects. With four weeks in the forest, you will have the opportunity to try out all projects, and then either continue rotating across all of them, or specialise and gain more specific field skills in particular surveys. Our biodiversity surveys include studies on the structure and species composition of the forest, Pollard counts of butterflies, spotlighting for amphibians, crocodile transect surveys, herpetofauna routes, mist netting and point counts for birds, distance sampling for lemurs (both day and night). In addition, there are other more specialist projects running such as colour change in chameleons, sifaka population studies, analysis of land change from satellite data, mark-releaserecapture of nocturnal mouse lemurs and others that also require assistance from time to time. During your time on site it will also be possible to be involved with a mangrove replantation project, working with people from the local community to restore the mangrove forests in the adjacent wetlands. At the end of the four weeks you will transfer to the island of Nosy Be for two weeks. If you are not dive trained then your first week at the marine site will involve completing the SSI Open Water dive training course, then moving onto the Indian Ocean reef ecology course which is two lectures each day and two dive based practicals. Alternatively, if you are already dive trained or just want to snorkel then your first week at the marine site will be spent completing the Indian Ocean reef ecology course and then your last week will be spent helping the researchers with the 3D modelling of the reefs and quantification of the fish communities from the stereo-video surveys. For an extra charge there is also the option of completing additional SSI dive training in your spare time.

Madagascar Mahamavo Research Objectives

Madagascar has declared 17% of its land as protected areas, but much of this land is already severely degraded, so the actual area of land under protection is much smaller. An alternative approach to assigning protected area status and prohibiting usage is to develop community managed areas such as Mahamavo, where there is a mosaic of protected and managed areas. DTZ, the German Technical Support Agency, has established a series of community managed forests in the Mahamavo area that appear to be successful and may form the basis for conservation and improving livelihoods in other parts of Madagascar. The Opwall teams here are monitoring how the forest structure and biodiversity in these community managed forests are changing over time to identify whether this management strategy can provide a viable alternative to national parks in terms of protecting biodiversity. The dry forests around Mahamavo have exceptional diversity with two species of diurnal lemur and another five to six species of nocturnal lemurs, two spectacular species of chameleons, three known species of leaf-tailed geckos, and many endemic birds. In addition to the forest work, the Opwall teams are also carrying out long term monitoring surveys in the adjacent wetlands, which have recently been given Ramsar status (a Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention).

Madagascar Nosy Be Research Objectives

Nosy Be is the premier dive destination on Madagascar, but there are few data on the coral reef communities that support this industry. Opwall teams will be gathering baseline data on these reefs, including data on fish community structure from stereo-video surveys, coral cover from video transects and 3D modelling.

  • Attend lectures and field bases practicals on Madagascan ecology and conservation
  • Learn survey methods to sample birds, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, lemurs and habitat
  • Learn how to use a GPS and smart phones for data collection
  • Opportunity to specialise in a particular project working alongside scientists
  • Visit a tradition Malagasy village and school and learn about their culture
  • Learn some basis Malagasy words and phrases
  • Gain an internationally recognized SCUBA qualification
  • Attend our marine research lecture series
  • Complete a week-long training course on Indian ocean reef ecology (if snorkeling or already dive trained)
  • Opwall fee
  • Cost of international flights into and out of Antananarivo
  • Cost of internal travel to and from the start and end point of the expedition, plus any hotels you might require. This costs around £430 or $625 on average. Extra nights’ accommodation in Antananarivo costs around £26 or $38.
  • Visa costs of €45 (90 days) to be paid in cash on arrival in Madagascar.
  • Dive equipment rental – £50 or $75 per week for a full dive kit. If you only wish to snorkel and want to hire snorkel equipment, the cost is £25/$38 per week. Please note that wetsuits cannot be provided – you should bring your own.
  • Park entrance fees – £20 or $29 for the terrestrial site, and £20 or $29 for the marine site.
  • Downloaded SSI materials (if you are completing your Open Water qualification) – £40 or $60 approx.
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic medicines – cost can vary depending on your healthcare provider.
  • All prices in GBP or USD unless specified. Visa costs are all in EUR.

Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.


In Madagascar it is the dry season so it is hot during the day (temperatures between 25 and 30degrees Celsius) with extremely little chance of rain in the forest and very occasional rain at the marine site. During the evenings the temperature does drop to around 18 degrees Celsius with occasional cold spells getting as low as 14 degrees Celsius.

Fitness level required
Moderate. In the forest most surveys require walking long distances, and although the terrain is relatively flat you will be walking mostly on sand.  Fitness requirements for the marine site is low.

Creature comforts
Facilities at the forest camps are basic (tents, bucket showers, long drop toilets). The site has no phone signal or wifi. Facilities at the marine site are a little less rustic with dorm style accommodation and running water for showers and flushing toilets. The marine site does get some phone signal and limited wifi.


  • Madagascar
  • Nosy Be Marine Site
  • Mariarano
  • Antafiameva
  • Matsedroy

Want to get involved with this project?


Want to get involved with this project?

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