Feature

Volunteer tourism in Madagascar

G Magazine

Scuba-diving on coral reeds on a tropical island ... saving the world can be such hard work!

Madagascar beach with wetsuits and palm tree

Credit: Josephine Wagstaff

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The last day of expedition number 40 marks the first time I've witnessed a sad face among the volunteers.

Everyone's reluctance to return home doesn't surprise me.

Having just returned from a sunset swim at the secluded beach a stone's throw from our huts, everyone begins swapping stories from their final day diving on the world's fourth largest coral reef.

"I was looking out into the deeper water off the edge of the reef which was making my stomach do somersaults," recalls Josie.

"I could see these big shadows lurking out there. Then, all of a sudden, all I could see was this crazy mouth full of teeth. I nearly had a heart attack. This great big barracuda had swum in so fast I didn't even see it coming. Then before I'd started breathing again, it had disappeared. I just can't believe how quick it was."

Others join in trying to describe the intense joy and amazement they felt as they watched a humpback calf go on a breaching frenzy a hundred metres from the dive boat. The mother of the calf had the last word when she showed the calf, and the amazed boat crew, how it's really done.

A Grand time

For the last few weeks, these fortunate people have lived beside the remote fishing village of Andavadoaka on the western coast of Madagascar.

From the dinner table, you can look out over the water and see the signs of an expansive coral reef system known as the Grand Récif de Tuléar.

The volunteers have spent most days venturing out on the brilliant blue waters and diving on magnificent coral gardens full of weird and wonderful life forms.

The coup de grâce of this experience is that these travellers are also helping to protect this eco-hotspot.

Blue Ventures (BV), a small UK-based green group, has set up a research station where volunteers can help with scientific research that is vital for protecting the region's environment.

The motivation for such an initiative is easy to see once you're here. Madagascar is spectacularly beautiful.

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