Marine Conservation Expedition in Madagascar
86% Rating
(11 Reviews)

Marine Conservation Expedition in Madagascar

Join the team of Blue Ventures surveying the rich coral reefs of the Indian Ocean in Madagascar. We offer volunteers from around the world a unique opportunity to contribute to our efforts supporting coastal communities to conserve this spectacular ecosystem. From coral reef surveys to environmental education, expedition volunteers are immersed in the full breadth of our innovative and integrated programmes. You’ll be living in a beautiful tropical setting alongside vibrant coastal cultures whilst gaining scientific research skills and SCUBA diving qualifications.

Expeditions run throughout the year, giving you an opportunity to join us whenever suits you best. Volunteers are able to join us for a period of between 3 and 18 weeks.

Expedition volunteers are at the heart of everything we do and we’d love to have you join us!

“Challenging, exciting, rewarding… An expedition with Blue Ventures will change your life!”
Nick Hayes, Madagascar Expedition Volunteer

Locations
Africa » Madagascar
Length
2-4 Weeks
1-3 Months
3-6 Months
Language
English
Starting Price
$0.00
Currency
USD
Price Details
Expedition fees include:
- 3 meals a day cooked for you by local chefs
- Accommodation in beach front eco-huts
- Science training
- Daily Scuba diving
- Scuba training if necessary
- Scuba dive gear
Expedition fees do not include:
- Flights, insurance, visa costs or personal field and dive kit
Other Locations
Andavadoaka

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    85%
  • Support
    90%
  • Fun
    87%
  • Value
    87%
  • Safety
    93%

Program Reviews (11)

Dawn
Female

Madagascar Spring 2017

10/10

My expedition with Blue Ventures was an informative and incredibly enjoyable experience. There was a good balance between learning and lectures (which covered everything from the various aspects of the work of the charity to lectures on bio-luminescence before our night dive), diving and rest and relaxation time.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the model of the charity, for example for most roles locals are trained rather than Westerners brought in from outside of the community, as well as aspects of local and global marine conservation. Blue Ventures provide the data we collect to a locally managed marine area council and it is the locals who use the data to make decisions on how to sustainably manage their reef. This made me feel like the work we completed was a direct contribution to the sustainable management of the local coral reef.

I was part of an international group of 11 volunteers, we formed close friendships over the course of the expedition and had some great times, whether star gazing, diving or dancing. The trip to the seaweed and sea cucumber farm was a highlight for me, I could see how practical approaches to aqua culture would enable many families to earn an improved living while also ensuring the health of the reef in the future.

Truly one of the highlights of my life, I would highly recommend a Blue Ventures expedition to anyone interested in marine conservation.

How can this program be improved?

Provide resources and lesson plans for the English teaching expected.

Default avatar
Anonymous
Male

Disappointing

1/10

I participated in the second expedition of 2017. Unfortunately, my experience with Blue Ventures (Expeditions) Ltd is a bit less positive. The way the research programme was described appeared inaccurate and the facilities increasingly deteriorate. I only did 3 research dives; a lot of things broke down and apparently there was not such big data need. Secondary activities, like language teaching, were very unstructured. For me the highlights included a sense of remoteness and remote communities, the beautiful sunsets, the amazing night skies, the turquoise ocean (although it looks better halfway to the site) and the cool creatures in the ocean and on land; but the programme itself was not really a highlight.

We did have a few days of unideal weather conditions, including some effects from a cyclone on the east coast of Madagascar, but nothing too bad. A couple of days after that cyclone I actually had one of my best dives there, with the best visibility so far. I think that on some days when the organisation cancelled dives if not for equipment reasons, for example when the wind picked up, we could have gone out for a dive, specially if the crew did not mind to get out of bed a bit earlier, since like elsewhere in Africa (such as South Africa and Mozambique) you typically get the best diving conditions in the early morning. In terms of visibility it was quite site-dependent, with the near shore sites generally not that good. Unfortunately we were a bit stuck to those, also due to equipment issues. The boats are not the most oceangoing anyway. A faltering very weak (only 25 hp) outboard engine and a missing satellite phone were not such good starting point to get to further sites, including the reserves.

Hopefully the organisation will do something with the extensive feedback that has been provided to them during the expedition and afterwards, but at this moment I see that the inaccurate, misleading programme description has not been changed.

From that information you get the idea you will receive your training in the first two weeks and then collect data until the end of the expedition, all structured. Unfortunately it was nothing like that. For those that needed a dive qualification, their PADI Open Water course only already cost a staggering two weeks to complete. After this the PADI Advanced Open Water course still had to start, meanwhile a lecture here and there, followed by the research training. By the time everyone was about ready to finally do some research dives, it was almost the end of the expedition. Those who already had dive qualifications, like me, started survey training a bit earlier than others. Like everything it was slow-paced and unstructured, with quite some of dives cancelled, but l passed my in-water test as part of the training at the beginning of week 3. Still I only did 3 research dives.

Then on site they explained that around 4 dive sites are surveyed during an expedition. If there are for example 12 participants, and half of them do the fish surveys, this means that there are 32 transects (at each dive site you typically do 8 transects) to be done by 6 participants. You can do about 2-3 transects per buddy pair per dive. With one, ideally two dives per day of diving, this means all these transects for the expedition can be done in 2-3 days of diving already. That is by far not the idea you get when you sign up. We ended up surveying 3 dive sites. With my 3 research dives I even did more than others did. Even with double the sites surveyed, it seems unfair that the organisation provides information that you collect data for weeks. When the Monitoring & Evaluation Manager, also former field scientist, was visiting towards the end, we had a talk about the set-up of the programme and the disappointing dive operations. It seems like the programme description is more representative for how it maybe was several years ago.

In terms of diving facilities, a lot of things broke down or were already broken. My diving experience started off with a torn BCD, a leaking regulator, insufficient spare parts, difficulties to find an adequately filled tank, one available boat in the first weeks with very limited capacity and engine trouble, incapable to even reach the reserves, missing emergency equipment; it ended with pretty much all of that but now also including a second very slippery boat not only with engine trouble but also a hull that already started to crack after a few weeks, a broken air compressor, a borrowed compressor from Laguna Blu (a nearby hotel) that was pretty much pushed beyond its capacity in an attempt to make up for missed days of diving, and even less spare parts for everything. I did not expect the diving facilities (and the overall facilities by the way) to be so badly managed.

On site they would typically say something like ‘this is Madagascar’ when equipment broke down. To me that is bit of a lame excuse, in other remote (African) places I have had much better equipment and also in highly developed places you still have to maintain your own gear. And if you know it takes a bit longer to get spare parts, it might be an idea to have a few in stock. I think that the number of times dives had to be cancelled or plans had to change due to equipment issues or missing gear is simply not proportional to the amount of resources trusted to the organisation with the idea they would deliver something decent to work with. The organisation also did not inform beforehand about issues really impacting the expedition, like the boat situation.

With the idea that the amount of data collected is quite limited and the amount of participants seemed beyond the reasonable capacity, it is like you are just there for the money.

Money it seems for the homestays (it was still a bit of an experiment) too. Of course it can be an enriching (not in money terms) experience to be in contact with the locals, and throughout my Africa travels I have had a lot of those contacts, but via the programme it felt less genuine. We shared some meals with some of the villagers and were expected to sleep at their homes two nights a week (all still optional) but I did not really like the idea of them having to sign all contracts for this and offering their place to the point where they were sleeping outside on the ground so expedition participants could use their bed, in some cases with plastic over it, just so they could make some extra money. I liked the contacts I made via activities that were not directly part of the programme, such as sports, exploratory walks or a drink in the village, much more. Very friendly people. I also liked the normal transactions (like buying fruits, bread, cookies, a coffee in a local café, other drinks and other products) much more than the forced and paid ‘private dining’ experience as part of the homestay concept. The food experience was better though than at the place where you normally eat; Coco Beach messes up any of the very few ingredients and their dining area really lacks atmosphere, I think it is not really a nice place.

The programme also included some other activities, such as a monitoring spider tortoises for a few hours during a multi-day trip to a nearby bay. Unfortunately again not the full potential was used and structure was missing. I think it did not really make sense to go survey close to midday (very warm, tortoises hiding too much, transect cancelled). Most of the time there was probably spent on drinking and sleeping. I do not really understand why we did not do something more, for example find more spider tortoises at a better time on one of the other days. I didn’t just want to sit around there and explored a bit of the area and the village myself. The language teaching programme, if you can even call it a programme, again was very unstructured.

Unfortunately the fun dives (dives that were not training / survey related) were not that good either. Those could have made up a little bit for the disappointing programme, to at least explore the reef quite extensive then without surveys if you happen to be there anyway and paid for the diving activities. My dives were mostly tagging along with others that still needed to do their training and hold a SMB. There was one night dive, for which all the creatures you might encounter were presented with great fanfare, but the dive itself was not so good. Sometimes there was an exciting find, but looking at my logbook I think I would not rank the dives higher than the bottom 20 or so of my 129 logged dives to date. It would have been cool if we could get to the far shore sites a bit more. I am sure it is possible to have amazing dives at the Great Reef.

As you can see my experiences with the organisation are not so good. Once again hopefully Blue Ventures will soon make improvements; if they at least provide an accurate outline of the activities and situation on site that would already be an improvement.

Response from Blue Ventures

Dear Pieter,

Many thanks for taking the time to review our programme. We are very sorry to hear that your experience with us wasn’t what you expected; this is also a huge disappointment for us.

We have received a complaint from you separately to your review here, which we trust we have responded to to your satisfaction. We hope this proves our determination to continuously improve our programme based on volunteer feedback.

You raised the amount of surveys planned per expedition. We initiated conversations with field staff to explore the option of introducing a more ambitious survey schedule. We have furthermore edited our website to reflect that science training can take between 2 and 4 weeks depending on group size, qualifications and other factors to ensure future volunteers are prepared it may take longer on occasions. Many thanks for raising these matters and thereby helping to improve our programme.

It was very unfortunate that during the expedition we experienced some unforeseeable problems, such as bad weather and equipment failures which you also detail in your review. Given we work in an extremely remote location with very limited access to repair facilities we operate a redundancy policy and have back-up equipment (boats, outboard motors and breathing air compressors). Occasionally even with back-ups there are mechanical and equipment problems that we cannot foresee or resolve quickly. It is also worth noting that there are no suppliers of dive equipment or spares in Madagascar. We understand how it can cause frustrations to not be able to solve issues as quickly as we may be used to.

The feedback you have provided stood out from the rest of your group, of which 92% rated their overall experience with us as good or very good, which we hope reflects that every effort has been made to overcome challenges outside of our control.

We are most disappointed to hear about your experience of the homestay programme. Homestays are a very successful Community Based Tourism initiative and we support this model in all of the countries in which we work. In Madagascar Homestays are an integral and extremely important part of our programme as they provide a direct economic benefit to the local community whilst offering an alternative source of income to fishing, which further helps to alleviate the pressure on marine resources the village relies on for food and income.

Since introducing the programme in November 2016, 95 families have joined the homestay group and as a result of the great interest we received, we developed a rotation system to enable as many families as possible to benefit from it. We are sorry you felt that the Homestay wasn’t a genuine experience, however we have not received any other feedback that supports your view and we trust that the huge interest the community has showed, reflects that the initiative is well received locally.

We really appreciate your input and very much hope that when you look back on your time with us, you will remember the positives you also outline in your review!

Default avatar
Mary
Female
25 years old
Collierville
University of Connecticut

Amazing Expedition!

10/10

Everything about this expedition was so amazing, its hard to pick just one story. The staff was excellent, the food was good, the volunteers were all lovely, and the diving was superb! Although I had been out of the country many times, this was my longest stent away from home, and my first flying completely solo, so naturally nerves ran a bit high. But all of my fears were put to ease instantly upon arriving. I was on the Overland Tour, which was highly worthwhile and a beautiful view of the Madagascar countryside. When we finally arrived in Andavadoka, our base site, the view from our huts was spectacular, and our group often enjoyed watching the sunset or stargazing from the top of the dunes. The dives, as I said before, were great! Though not always perfect visibility, it was always very fun and safe. I felt like I learned a lot about the diversity of sea life, both of benthic organisms and various fish species. We were also located right next to the village, and could easily interact with the villagers through a walk down to town or at our English lessons (which I really enjoyed). Overall, the experience was a perfect mix of community interaction, learning, and conservation efforts! I would highly recommend this trip to anyone!

How can this program be improved?

I would recommend having a bit more structure for the English lessons, or more tools available for teaching. Although I thought the lessons were great, I think the students could have gained more if there were more resources (like English to Malagasy dictionaries or grammar workbooks). It could also be good, as a volunteer, to bring some resources with you.

I would also recommend a stricter study regimen for learning fish and benthic species. Our group didn't manage to survey until the last week and a half. I think that if we had been pushed to learn earlier, or the importance of learning quickly had been more emphasized, we would have been able to survey more and go to more offshore sites. I think that having an hour self study some days, and leader led/group study other days (so that you can talk out similarities and differences and learning tricks) would have been really helpful, both for benthic and fish.
Again, as a volunteer, learn from my mistakes (and laziness) and learn your stuff quickly! Its worth it, trust me! Don't put off studying :)

Default avatar
Hoamby
Female
24 years old
Madagascar
Other

the beauty of Andavadaoka

7/10

In the field of Andavadaoka, the experience to be with the fishermans and seing them working are so amazing. They are sociable, simple and are conscientious of the importance of the sea. the first reason is that the villager depend totally of fishery. A wonderful traditonnal activity in the field is the pirogue race that we've got the chance to participate. In the other case, they have sometimes somes difficulties, the probem of luck of fishing equipement, or during the strong storm some them became homeless.
The best moment during this expedition was the diving activities, in that case i've got the chance to se a few shoal of dolphins for the first time, to see some big gorgonian and sponge, differents kind of fishs. A very beautifull biodiversity, favorits my time was to relax on the beautiful white sand of the beach. the expedition was an opportunities to meet some wonderfull and unforgettable friends

Jenni
Female
25 years old
Portsmouth

Madagascar According To Jenni

10/10

I spent 8 weeks in Madagascar earlier this year and to keep this story short - I had the best time of my life! I kept a blog while I was there which has more details and hundreds of photos: https://madagascaraccordingtojenni.wordpress.com. I really can't recommend this enough, it's a different world and I fell in love with Andavadoaka so much! I wouldn't have believed how attached you can get to a place and a group of people in such a short space of time.

How can this program be improved?

By letting us stay and not having to go home!

Default avatar
Charlie
Male
32 years old
London, England
Oxford Brookes University

Excellent Project

10/10

Being a Blue Ventures volunteer in Madagascar is an experience that I will never forget for all the right reasons. No two days were the same but fun was guaranteed. I am going to try to give an overview of what a typical day might comprise.

You would get a wake up call from the waves and birds just outside your door any time after about 5.30. I normally woke up between 6.15 and 7 and went outside to lie in my hammock and watch the world go by for a while or go slightly crazy and exercise in Jim’s Gym at 6.30. It would then be time to prepare my dive kit before breakfast if I was diving at 9.

Breakfast was at 8 with the rest of the morning normally spent diving or hanging out in the beautiful surroundings of Coco Beach or Andavadoaka. The diving was really varied with different sites visited almost every day. It didn’t matter if you went back to the same site three times in a week as you would see different species every time. Bic, the dive manager, is absolutely fantastic and you should have no fears about going diving if you haven’t as he really knows how to teach and he is just an awesome person to be around.

When not diving, at 9 and 11, you had downtime in which you could study your fish or benthic invertebrates have a relax outside the huts, take a walk into Andavadoaka or go for a swim off the beach. You would dive once most days and twice every couple of days.

The afternoons varied a bit more with different activities almost every day from 3 till 7. There would be a range of these from English/Malagasy exchange (fun but challenging), volleyball, presentations on different BV projects and lectures on the science (Don’t worry it’s not that hard and though the fish list looks daunting you should be on top of it within two weeks). There will also be opportunities to get involved in other Blue Ventures projects such as their Safidy (health) and education programs which are designed to help the communities around Andavadoaka reduce their reliance upon their precious marine resources by enabling them to have choices in their lives

Both volunteer groups I was in got on well and there was always someone to talk to if you felt like it. You can easily get away, though, and have time on your own.

Some of the best experiences for me were when we went on our excursions and spent some time away from base. These were a great chance to see Malagasy culture up close and the two trips we made to the island of Nosy Ve, were both really memorable. I really found the alternative livelihoods project were giving the communities the opportunities that they wanted and I greatly enjoyed assisting with the cucumber sale in the middle of the night. Perhaps the best experience was surveying for the highly endangered Spider Tortoise in the Bay of Assassins.

The diving was in my opinion better than that on the Great Barrier Reef and the fact that you learn to identify the underwater life makes diving much more interesting as you know what your looking at. I’d heartily recommend BV’s volunteer programme to anyone wanting to experience the extraordinary, while contributing to vitally important marine conservation. You also get to work with some of the most positive people living in some of the world’s poorest communities . The combination of diving, learning and contributing to Blue Ventures community projects was fascinating and exhilarating.

I wrote a blog (undermada.wordpress.com) while I was in Madagascar which gives more detail than this overview.

How can this program be improved?


Default avatar
Sanne
Female
20 years old
Netherlands
Other

Trip of a lifetime!

9/10

After finishing high school I decided to take a gap year. I already had my PADI Advanced open water so I knew I wanted to do something with diving. After doing some research on the internet I found Blue Ventures in Madagascar. I know there is also another organisation doing a conservation project in madagascar, but I got a better feeling from Blue Ventures.

My 12 week stay was amazing! I am now a dive master and I can identify fish and coral. The staff is super friendly and the place really starts to feel like a second home. BV really helps in the whole progress from getting my visa to getting a new gopro to Andavadoaka because I flooded the other one.

Only been for two weeks to Cambridge before heading to Madagascar I was quite nervous. However I made many new friends during my trip and I learned a lot from this experience! I cried when I left because I didn't want to leave and I know more people did the same.

I really feel that BV has helped the villages in Velondriake and I am proud that I could do something to help. From collecting data to collecting seacucumbers and helping during saturday school. This program is so broad that there is an opportunity for everyone to help in their own way.

The dive instructor Bic is a really good mentor and has helped me a lot with the dive master course. I feel confident in my diving and I am excited to continue my diving education. I did around 60 dives during my stay and I believe that the frequent diving really helps people to improve their skills. I've seen people come to BV without having done any diving before and leaving feeling confident in their diving skills.

All in all, I would really recommend this program to everyone. If you are interested in the program. I kept a blog during my stay https://sannestravels.wordpress.com

How can this program be improved?

During the first expedition we had some problems with the food. However during the second expedition the food improved immensly.

Default avatar
Lela
Female
New Jersey
Rutgers University

Blue Ventures: Madagascar

10/10

In 2013 I graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Marine Biology. After graduating I married my husband, a petty officer in the Navy, and moved to Virginia. After a year of working outside my field I had paid down my student loans enough so that I could afford to gain the dive certifications I will need to further my career in my field. After a lot of research I felt Blue Ventures was the best way I could not only get the dive certifications I needed but also gain experience in the field aiding conservation efforts while giving back to the local community.

I could not have made a better decision. As it was my first time out of my home country, USA, I was very nervous about leaving. From the fist step Sarah, from the London office of BV, was extremely helpful and was able to answer any questions I had, wether it was a simple passport question to getting me in touch with Madison the expedition manger in Andavadoaka, Madagascar.

I was very impressed with Blue Ventures involvement in the village. During my 8 weeks in Madagascar I was immersed in the local culture. I was able to participate in several community events such as Earth day, choir practice, dancing with the Nahoda, and the Malagasy Independence Day. I also developed a strong bond with my English student, Symphorian, who I am still in contact with.

I and the other volunteers formed a real sense of community with in the Blue Ventures team, who was very helpful throughout the expedition. As a group we dove twice a day while practicing dive skills, under water species identification, various surveying techniques, and eventually were able to conduct our own surveys. By the end of the expedition I was not only PADI Rescue Diver and Emergency First Responder certified, but also skilled in IDing local fish and benthic organisms as well as actively involved in the village community.

My expedition with Blue Ventures was a life changing experience and I would recommend it to anyone wether you looking for adventure, immersion in another culture, gaining dive experience, or kick starting a career in Marine Biology.

How can this program be improved?

The one draw back is that due to the remoteness of the site there is limited phone service, however with a Telma card internet is relatively acessable, I would defiantly recommend buying one in Antananarivo or Toliear their very in expensive.

Default avatar
Dorina
Female
32 years old
Germany
Other

amazing people and beautiful nature

10/10

Before leaving Europe for Madagascar, I was pretty nervous. Will volunteers and staff be friendly and fun? Will the diving be an good? Will I get sick? All these worries were blown away on arrival in Andava, the little village where BV has its camp. The huts (4 person huts, we were 3 girls sharing) are overlooking a beautiful bay. They are basic but totally sufficient, each hut even has a flushing toilet (luxury in that part of the world) and a salt water shower.
Volunteers were amazing. The age range on my expedition was from 18 to 60 and we all bonded instantly (being on the overland tour at the beginning of the trip was helpful). Staff was very helpful, cheerful, knowledgabe and seemed to enjoy their jobs. Malagasy people were always friendly and welcoming, even with the language barrier (French might be helpful but not as much as I thought). And shopping trips to the village for our daily sugar rationing in the form of bocu-bocu, a local kind of "donut" were always fun, people interested and open.
The first couple of weeks were lots of studying: fish, benthic, diving. But being right next to the ocean, having sand everywhere, being salty all the time, going diving every day: for me it was mind-blowingly beautiful! Not even the adminittedly basic, monotonous food (white bread and honey for breakie; rice, beans and fish for lunch and dinner) could harm my enthusiasm. Special treats were trips to the baobab trees, to the seacucumber pens in another village, to go search spider tortoises, sailing trips in pirogues and party nights on saturdays.
The diving was very diverse. We had everything from 2-30m visibility, saw lots of broken corals from the last hurricane and lots of beautiful hard- and softcoral. Of course also lots of fish, and we were able to ID most of them ;)
I learned so much from this expedition. I learned a lot about life in the ocean and about living with the ocean. But also what it means to live in a third world country, where people still live without electricity, bathrooms, or any other kind of luxury. (don't worry, the expedition huts have power for 7 hours a day from a generator and as mentioned, they have bathrooms).
I loved staying in such a remote area, being around awesome people and living right next to and with the ocean. I would definitely recommend this program. It was a wonderful, rewarding and live-changing experience.

Default avatar
Michael
Male
32 years old
United Kingdom
University of Manchester

Marine conservation & diving with BV

9/10

Wonderful experience. Excellent staff, great support throughout, very responsive to feedback, well organised.
A typical day would involve two dives in the morning, learning fish and benthic or collecting coral/fish data to help monitor the state of the coral reef both in and out of reserves set up by blue ventures. Afternoons are spent in informative lectures about other projects blue ventures take a part in, as well as chances to give something back with three weekly english lessons to local villagers.

The setting itself is breathtakingly beautiful, a remote area of paradise.

Default avatar
Courtney
Female
24 years old
Johannesburg, south africa
Other

Go to my blog and read my journey!

9/10

I wrote a blog about my life changing experience, have a read and see for yourself: http://cpikesadventures.blogspot.com

This will tell you all the ups and downs but it is nothing short of a magical experience!

I would love to go back... It is where I left my live for an amazing country!

About The Provider

Thumbnail

Blue Ventures runs award winning marine conservation expeditions in Belize, Madagascar and Timor-Leste.

We have a team of dedicated researchers and volunteers who study all aspects of the marine environment.

Our expeditions offer an opportunity of a lifetime and attract volunteers from all backgrounds and

Read more...