I was looking for something very specific when I joined Azafady's ACP team: an opportunity to practice immersive field work in Madagascar for over two weeks. I signed up for the maximum length, 10 weeks.
Azafady was the cheapest, most reputable program for the length of stay I wanted. We camped in tents for the full period.
As an American, it was very interesting to go with Azafady because I felt like I was not only learning about Malagasy culture, but about English/British culture (as the staff were primarily British, and the majority of volunteers were European).
I was very satisfied with my experience. The volunteer coordinators were caring, knowledgable and dedicated. We got to know some of the Malagasy people who were our guides through the forest, and they were amazing, swift-footed, with eagle eyes. Our main activities: researching amphibians and reptiles, surveying palms and lemurs, and teaching the local schoolchildren environmental lessons (once a week), were all extremely rewarding. If you have a sharp eye for spotting creatures, can estimate distances, and have an intrepid spirit, you will serve your team very well!
The pace of life is slower there. I got used to things taking longer to do and being a bit less clean: bucket showers from the well, huge muddy puddles on the road, rice and beans every lunch, "mofo" and banana and rice for breakfast, with simple vegetables, pasta, and occasional fish or zebu for dinner. Everyone missed some food luxuries, like cheese, more meat, spices. We longed for our beds a bit too, after that long in a tent. And hot showers. But let's face it, being in Madagascar and getting to walk through forest fragments almost every day is worth a little sacrifice.
Your volunteer team will most likely be diverse: my team came from at least 10 different countries (but mostly the UK). I had some stomach issues halfway through that didn't really leave me until I was back home recovering, but was never horribly ill. I took the anti-malarials (malarone) and those worked out fine.
One thing that was suggested to me to save the most money was to go on my own and just find an organization once in Madagascar. But I don't speak French, and for a first time to the country, didn't want to worry about safe food sources and accommodations. I'm really glad I decided to go with Azafady. With their knowledge and connections with the local people, it allowed me to do and see things I never would have otherwise.
It's the experience of a lifetime, and you'll be glad Azafady's got your back.