Arriving in Madagascar
I arrived in Antananarivo around 1 am local time and was picked up by a Projects Abroad staff member. I then found out that another volunteer was arriving the same day! It was really nice to start with someone, especially someone who hadn’t been to Madagascar before. She was from Canada and spoke fluent French and English which I soon found was extremely useful in Madagascar!
We stayed in the guesthouse overnight and made our way to Andasibe in the morning. It was around four hours in the car but there were amazing views. We arrived in Andasibe on a Sunday and all of the other volunteers were out enjoying their free time, we had a quick tour around the house and our rooms, and they gave us time to settle in and unpack before dinner.
Food in Madagascar
Meal times were the social times of the day, we would share news from our day and get to know other volunteers. There were only three other volunteers when I arrived. People come and go regularly but it’s a nice flow of meeting new people and sharing what you’ve learned so far. Be prepared to eat a lot of rice (you do get used to it, so don’t worry). We used the evenings as social time after dinner to play cards, Monopoly (in French) and sometimes a movie night.
Weekends and social events
Weekends are ‘free time’ for all the volunteers and there are little trips you can do. You can go to the beach (a few hours away) and go to Vakona (roughly 30 min away) to see the lemurs. It’s best to go in small groups if you can persuade other volunteers to join you, so you can split the cost of transport. On a typical weekend, we would do our laundry, read, relax and go to a nearby hotel pool. Projects Abroad organised social events once a week to get us immersed in the Malagasy culture, during my time there I went to a Malagasy dance class and two Malagasy cooking lessons.
My Conservation Project
I absolutely loved my project in the rainforest. We did a bird and lemur census, planted trees, collected seedlings, picked up litter, did path restoration, built bins, and educated local villagers about recycling and waste management. It was such a wonderful experience to work with the locals, learning from them, as well as teaching them.
We also did some community days with the daycare which included taking all the children to the national park museum to teach them about the wildlife in the rainforest. We also did a school feeding day, where we cooked a huge meal for 22 children.
Tips and advice
- Try and learn as much French as you can before you go (I managed with minimal French knowledge so it’s not vital but it definitely helps)
- Try and learn some Malagasy whilst you’re there, the locals love it! (It’s not too hard once you get the basics)
- Always take a raincoat when you leave for the project even if it’s sunny
- Take A LOT of insect repellent
- Be open to everything
My overall experience
I know a few things have changed since I left Andasibe and this is all from my personal experience. I was only in Madagascar for four and a half weeks, but I loved every minute of my time there and I can’t wait to go back and visit everyone (and the lemurs, of course)!