Looking For An Adventure Like
No Other? Head To

A truly eye opening and productive experience

I travelled to Madagascar to do the Turtle Volunteering Programme on the island paradise, Nosy Komba, for a week during September of 2023 with two close friends I know from school.

"Our experience was truly eye opening and was an extremely productive trip for all of us. Many lessons were learnt, and I genuinely believe we all grew as people despite being there for only a week."

After an exhausting fourteen-hour flight with a transfer at Addis Ababa, we landed at the tiny Fascene Airport on Nosy Be (meaning Big Island) which lies off the northwest coast of Madagascar. Despite one of my friends’ suitcases being lost on the flight, we continued to the Cambrian Hotel for the night, a sanctuary of the developed world within the shanty town of Hellville, Nosy Be’s biggest town. We spent the first evening looking around the town, buying local food and goods, and eating a local meal in a restaurant. 

Exploring this town was an experience in itself: it was unlike the tourist traps of many third- and second-world cities where the inhabitants constantly haggle tourists. We genuinely felt like one with the residents and were treated like any other local when walking down the narrow streets, and considering the circumstances we could not have felt safer.

The next morning, we caught the first boat to Nosy Komba (Lemur Island) where we disembarked at the Marine Conservation Camp. After a quick introduction to the other volunteers, we got straight into the conservation work. The next five days were spent doing various activities from dusk till dawn. Every morning at about 8 a.m. we would conduct an Active Turtle Survey. This involved swimming in a bassline and then recording details and taking pictures of every turtle we saw. This was the highlight of each day as we’d see a minimum of eight every day, an incredible experience. Other tasks involved: ‘Turtle Watch’ (keeping a lookout from a balcony and recording how many turtles in a set timeframe are seen coming up to breathe), bamboo straw making, eco-brick making, sea grass surveys and various educational lectures. We also helped to paint a local school and to construct a new flood run-off system for the village on Ampangorina.

Having become close to some of the twenty other volunteers from different parts of the globe, it was hard to have to part ways. We all truly felt that we’d made a difference to preserving the local ecosystem and had helped the residents to live a more comfortable life. We’d spent the week without Wi-Fi, eating only fresh local meals and with a rigorous routine -- it was a week of personal growth.

Returning to Hellville for a day, we paid a guide to take us on a speedboat to watch whale sharks, and after four hours of searching we found one. Scrambling for our masks and snorkels, and with adrenaline pumping, we jumped into the water when the guide shouted ‘Aller’ (Go). A magnificent beast was right there, metres in front of us -- a truly surreal experience, terrifying but glorious at the same time. However, it was spooked by our hasty and sudden appearance and slowly disappeared into the blue abyss of the ocean. However, fifteen minutes later we found an even bigger whale shark and did the same thing again, but more calmly this time to avoid disturbing the gentle giant. Shattered by our day at sea, we returned to the camp and the following day caught our flight home first thing, extremely disappointed we had to leave the island paradise so soon.

Madagascar, being the fourth poorest country in the world and with fifty percent of its biodiversity being unique to the island, was an adventure like no other. Our experience was truly eye opening and was an extremely productive trip for all of us. Many lessons were learnt, and I genuinely believe we all grew as people despite being there for only a week.

logo icon

Head off the beaten track, Madagascar

Help conserve sea turtles and marine life in Madagascar.

Volunteer in Madagascar