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

2025 Dates

2 weeks: 2 weeks terrestrial only – 20 July – 1 August 2025
3 weeks: 3 weeks terrestrial only – 13 July – 1 August 2025

Mahamavo terrestrial biodiversity research experience

This is a large team of researchers spread across three camps in the Mahamavo forest area. Projects include studies on the structure and species composition of the forest, Pollard counts of butterflies, spotlighting for amphibians, crocodile transect surveys, herpetofauna routes (both day and night), bird point counts and mist netting, and distance sampling for lemurs (both day and night). In addition, there are other projects running such as colour change in chameleons, sifaka population studies, DNA sampling of herpetofauna, mark release-recapture of nocturnal mouse lemurs and others that also require assistance from time to time. During the first week you will have lectures about Madagascar wildlife and conservation but for most of the time you will be rotating between a series of research projects.

Madagascar Mahamavo Research Objectives

Madagascar has less than 5% of its land designated as Strict Nature Reserves, National Parks, Wildlife Reserves or Wildlife Corridors, and even some 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 formal protected areas in terms of protecting biodiversity. The dry forests around Mahamavo have exceptional diversity with two species of diurnal lemur and another six to seven 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).

  • Attend lectures and field based 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
  • Visit a traditional Malagasy village and school and learn about their culture
  • Learn some basis Malagasy words and phrases
  • 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. The standard package costs around £435 or $565 on average.
  • Extra nights’ accommodation in Antananarivo costs around £31 or $40 (breakfast included).
  • 30 Day visa (35 Euros / $37 / 115.000 MGA)
  • Park entrance fees are £25 or $33.
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic medicines – cost can vary depending on your healthcare provider.
  • All prices in GBP or USD unless specified.
  • Standard travel insurance – cost can vary, for 2 weeks it can range anywhere from £40-80 or $40-150.

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. 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. Most surveys require walking long distances, and although the terrain is relatively flat you will be walking mostly on sand.

Creature comforts
Facilities are basic (tents, bucket showers, long drop toilets). The site has no phone signal or wifi.


  • Madagascar
  • Antafiameva
  • Mariarano
  • Matsedroy

Want to get involved with this project?


Want to get involved with this project?

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