Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in Madagascar
Madagascar is a popular destination marketed by gap year organisations when a one off splurge seems totally worth it. Finding cheap alternatives to these structured programmes is a little more difficult but can be done. Prices still tend to be a little more than they would elsewhere but, then, volunteering in Madagascar is in itself just that little bit more.
Grassroots Volunteering in Madagascar
The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:
Sainte Luce Reserve
These guys asked us to add their programme stating that, yes they do charge, but please let us explain. So they did, and after making a lot of very good points and inferring wild lemurs are cool – which they are – we are happy to list them here. The crux of their argument goes as follows. Their volunteering is at a nature reserve in the south east of Madagascar. It is really isolated; three to four hours over terrible roads, needing a 4×4 hire to get the volunteers to the site and back again. This costs them 250,000MGA (around $USD100) each way.
Then they pay two local people 40,000MGA to paddle the volunteer in a canoe over the lake to the reserve. Then, to keep a volunteer in the field for two weeks, it would normally cost around 400,000MGA for food for the person and the staff living and working with them. There are a million other costs too, but to keep a long story short, it costs them more to keep a volunteer in the field than the volunteer pays. At $200 a week, to live and work in an isolated beach front reserve with wild lemurs around, it really isn’t expensive.
Volunteering here is about general conservation activity, doing lemur monitoring, keeping the reserve trails clear, seed collecting and then propagating in the nursery, tree planting, and general maintenance. Volunteers are accepted all year except for March and April. No qualifications are required.
(UPDATE: For the moment at least volunteering at the reserve has been suspended)
Where: By the beach with wild lemurs (Sainte Luce, Anosy Region, District of Fort Dauphin).
Accommodation & Costs: There is a $249 registration fee and then around $215 a week for 12 weeks; more expensive for a shorter stay. Accommodation options are BYO tent and camping gear, or stay in one of their little camping huts purpose built for volunteers (there are only two so it’s first in first served).
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Another place to volunteer in Madagascar that appears to fall in the well this is hardly cheap, is it? category is Reef Doctor, a UK based non profit organisation conducting conservation and social development in Southwest Madagascar. Having said that both their cheapest internship and cheapest volunteer programme would qualify under our would it be cheaper to visit Madagascar and not do this fantastic thing? criteria.
Volunteers will become a certified PADI scuba diver, learn coral reef identification and surveying skills, take part in a range of marine research and conservation projects, and have the opportunity to assist in community work. They also offer a non diving, mangrove volunteer programme. Volunteering lasts between three weeks to three months. Two internships, up to six months, are also available.
Where: Southwest Madagascar.
Accommodation & Costs: Costs vary per project. Expect to pay a pretty reasonable £2500 for six months on the Aquaculture Intern Programme. The cheapest volunteer option is three months on the mangrove project, coming in at £1750. Fees cover your training, living expenses, and expedition activities.
Other Opportunities to Volunteer in Madagascar
Seed Madagascar also send volunteers that can afford it onto a conservation research programme. Stay ten weeks and it will work out at around £250 per week. Your work will be hands on, conservation fieldwork with species including lemurs, bats and amphibians, helping with community initiatives and environmental education.
Help Exchange Networks in Madagascar
Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in Madagascar
Stay for free in return for caring for local residents’ homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free Airbnb credit from us here.
Images copyright Sainte Luce Reserve and Reef Doctor