The magical Island of Madagascar is famous for its bizarre assemblage of wildlife, its dramatic landscapes and its unique and varied ecosystems. No other island or place on earth boasts such a combination of species richness and endemism, which is attributed to 88 million years of separation from all other land forms. For example, every native terrestrial mammal species found on this huge island is found nowhere else on earth! Most famous of all of its inhabitants though are the lemurs, with 101 currently recognised lemur species in Madagascar, all of which are believed to have evolved from a single colonising ancestor who reached this isolated island some 50 million years ago. Madagascar is considered one of four global hotspots for primates despite being less than a tenth the size of some of the other regions. Unfortunately, Madagascar is also one of the most heavily impacted countries in terms of habitat loss, with some estimates indicating that almost 90% of native forest has been lost, leaving very fragmented small pieces of forest left. This, in addition to subsistence hunting, has decimated lemur populations across Madagascar; with recent assessments by the IUCN now showing that lemurs are the most endangered group of vertebrates in the world and 94 species being classified as threatened with extinction.
In Madagascar, there are weird, unique and wonderful forms of life everywhere that you look and the more you discover about each of them, the more amazing they become. In addition to lemurs, Madagascar, and its island of Nosy Be, is filled with rare and endemic reptiles and amphibians, including both the largest and smallest chameleon species in the world and thousands of bright and beautiful, rare and endemic, birds and butterflies. This sentiment was summed up perfectly by the 18th century French doctor and explorer, Joseph Philibert Commerson, in a letter to his tutor in Paris:
"Of Madagascar I can announce to naturalists that this is truly their promised land. Here nature seems to have created a special sanctuary whither she seems to have withdrawn to experiment with designs different from any she has created elsewhere. At every step, one meets more remarkable and marvellous forms of life"
Despite this tantalising early account, Madagascar is still an island shrouded in mystery and remains relatively unstudied to this day. Myths and legends abound in Madagascar and remain deeply embedded in the collective imagination, adding to the sense of magic surrounding the island.
So journey with us to our current location in Northern Madagascar, an area which represents a transitional habitat between the floral communities of both East and West, an area renowned for its high species diversity and high levels of endemism and comprising one of the most threatened forest habitats in Madagascar - the seasonal humid forests of the Sambirano biome.
The Frontier-Madagascar wildlife conservation project is currently based on the 'scented island' of Nosy Be, famous for its vanilla, ylang-ylang and mangoes. Whilst on the wildlife conservation project you’ll discover a huge variety of Madagascar's exotic species, as you trek through rugged and remote regions of this hugely exciting island, assessing the status of the island's lemurs. Working alongside other dedicated volunteers, you’ll help to monitor the distribution and abundance of lemurs on the island and their habitat preferences, in order to assess how they are responding to human induced stress factors, such as deforestation, habitat fragmentation and other forms of anthropogenic disturbance. You may also have the opportunity to be part of our reforestation programme, designed to help reforest areas and create natural wildlife corridors for the lemurs to move safely, and socio-economic surveys with the local people, to determine the best methods of land management for lemur populations. Depending on the time of year and length of stay, you may also have the chance to be involved in either the building, installing or monitoring of nest boxes, which provide the lemurs with ‘houses’ where natural areas may be lacking.
On this project you will directly contribute to important research, aiming to inform local government about how to manage the remaining forests and conserve their invaluable natural assets. You will learn an array of surveying techniques and have a chance to contribute to the local community through our education outreach days. But of course it is not all work and after a hard day or night trekking and exploring, you can always take advantage of the camp’s seafront location and relax on the golden beaches, snorkel in the crystal clear waters or play football against the local village!
Discover strange and beautiful Madagascar
Study the most endangered primate in the world in one of the world's most biodiverse regions
Make lifelong friends and return with incredible stories, photos and memories
Night and day surveys to monitor lemur populations
Building, installing and monitoring nest boxes
Habitat surveys and mapping of vegetation
Get involved in surveys on many other species: birds, butterflies, reptiles, lizards and invertebrates
Assessing human disturbance
Recording how local communities use their precious natural resources
Relax on beautiful beaches and snorkel in warm waters to discover the marine life as well
Airport pickup weekly on a Monday. Alternative start dates possible, additional £50 applies for pickup, please speak to an adviser
Transfer to town centre and beach camp from Nosy Be Airport weekly on a Monday
Communal beach camp
Before you go
Pre-departure support & documentation
Travel & medical advice & documentation
Discounted medical kit
Free Frontier t-shirt
UK residential briefing weekend including food, accommodation and training (extra cost applies)
Airport pickup weekly on a Monday. Alternative start date possible, additional US$85 applies for pickup, please speak to an adviser
Internal ground transfers & in-transit accommodation weekly on a Monday. Alternative start dates possible
Local orientation and training
In-country emergency support
24-hour international HQ back-up
Vocational qualification diploma or certificate in Tropical Habitat Conservation or CoPE available (4 week+ volunteers)
PADI scuba diving courses available extra cost applies (subject to availability)
A variety of qualifications are available on many of our projects. For example, BTEC certificates and diplomas on our Group conservation projects and TEFL certificates and BTECs on most of our teaching projects. You may also be able to gain a CoPE to support your university application. For more information on these qualifications, please see the qualifications section of our website or ask your volunteer advisor.