I am sad that my time in Madagascar is coming to an end. It has been a fantastic experience from which I will take a lot of happy memories and life skills (example: how to light a fire and crush garlic amongst other much more useful things). Teaching was a dream. The students, both adults and children, were inspirational. The adults became good friends and I have some lovely poems to take home from which to remember them by. The young students at the school were so excited to have us there and wanted to learn English. The walk home every day, escorted by at least 20-30 children was an experience to say the least. I will probably never say ‘hi’ and high five quite as much again in my life. The next project was Marine. The aquatic life was sublime and the knowledge of the field staff was top notch. I quickly felt confident to not only dive, of which I was a complete beginner, and knew everything I needed to know to be an active team player during surveys and active searches. The water was so warm and the boat laughs with the other RA’s was great fun. The Forest project is really interesting. Sweaty, but worth it. Observing Lemurs in their natural home is very cool and they are very cute. I never thought before coming here that I would be a practised butterfly catcher. Camp life is great, I quickly felt comfortable and at home and felt totally relaxed enjoying beach life when not busy with a project. In all Madagascar has been full of surprises from what I expected and the culture and the locals has been so warm and welcoming. The support from the field staff has been superb however I felt the initial support given from head office before departure was disappointing which is why I had to mark Frontier down for that aspect. :)
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Frontier has over 300 projects globally, offering unlimited opportunities to volunteer abroad. You could be spending memorable days scuba diving off the brilliant white beaches of Fiji or discovering South Africa on a conservation project with lion cubs! You can learn new skills, gain valuable qualifications and make lifelong friends.
I was on the adventurer project for six weeks and took part in the teaching, marine and forest projects. At first I was apprehensive about the teaching project because I had never taught a class by myself before, but I really enjoyed the challenge and found the two weeks enjoyable and interesting; and it has prompted an interest in taking part in more teaching projects. For the next two weeks on the marine project I learnt to dive and obtained my PADI open water qualification; I loved diving and found the variety of invertebrates that I was able to see was incredible. For the last two weeks I took part in the forest program; I really enjoyed the black lemur walks and the night walks where you can see a contrast of species that are active at night. Overall my whole project has been amazing, and I have found every aspect of the project fantastic, also the staff at frontier Madagascar have been great and the project wouldn’t of been the same without them, thank you!!!
I spent a few weeks volunteering on the Frontier Madagascar and was disappointed with the experience. Having volunteered on a number of different conservation programs around the world (with other organisations) I was expecting great things from this project - especially after reading the rave reviews online. However, I want to clarify this: before leaving the project the PI takes you to a spot where there is wifi and you are expected to write your review in front of them. They then read the review while you are still there, meaning it is incredibly awkward if you have written anything negative - they also guilt trip you into writing a good review by saying how upset they get when one gets posted. Furthermore, any volunteer who hopes to come back to the project as a staff member is forced to rewrite their review and give the project 10/10! So DO NOT believe all the positive feedback that Frontier has received online.
The Madagascar project is appalling value for money. Despite paying thousands of pounds for your stay you are given one roll of toilet paper for the week - beware getting a funny tummy. The food is terrible and they dont always make enough for all the volunteers, meaning you are then expected to supplement your meals with extras at an additional cost from the snack bar. The cost of living in Madagascar is so low and yet we were charged more for this project than for volunteer projects in much wealthier countries where excellent food was served three times a day - and don't make the mistake of thinking that the money goes to a good cause.
I took part in the Wildlife Conservation Adventure but I struggle to see where the conservation part comes into play. Every day we walked out into the forest, which was beautiful and full of amazing creatures (this I can of course appreciate!) However, from my perspective the project is doing more harm than good. The staff admit there has been a decrease in the amount of wildlife in the area since the project started, and we saw staff and volunteers alike littering and leaving their cigarette butts around the place with no regard for the impact on the environment. I cant see what good is actually done with the research we undertook, and the money that we paid basically goes to the big shots in the London office. Its supposedly a not-for-profit organisation and yet I saw NONE of the money going back into protecting the environment.
There was one staff member who was absolutely fantastic, Emily from the forest team - she made sure that the volunteers were always looked after and happy and that our needs were being met. Unfortunately even her massive efforts were unable to fully make up for the behaviour and attitude of the rest of the staff, who segregated themselves from the volunteers and maintain a seriously cliquey vibe, making me uncomfortable around them during my entire visit. They hold staff events e.g. steak night on a Thursday, during which they just get drunk and make you feel like you are intruding on their territory. If the staff think they are so much better than the volunteers and don't want to make any effort to include volunteers, then perhaps they should have separate accommodation. This would have made my stay a lot more comfortable.
Frontier was obsessed with having control over the volunteers' lives, and some of the staff are on a huge power trip. There are so many ridiculous rules, even though almost all the volunteers are adults and should be able to make our own decisions about our lives. We got ourselves to Madagascar, didn't we?! We had to ask permission if we wanted to leave the camp to visit the local village or use wifi at Phillipes - and sometimes the staff refused to let us go for no reason at all. We had a one drink restriction and were threatened with repatriation if we got drunk or had too much fun. Chris would follow us to the village and watch us to make sure that this was being adhered to, and yet it didn't seem to matter if the staff broke this rule and got drunk on staff steak night.
While volunteering there we were assigned camp duty once a week - not something Im opposed to per say - however I found it very unfair that those on camp duty were expected to stay at camp that day, and if your camp duty fell on a weekend (which seemed to happen a lot to some people) you were not allowed to visit town or go on any other excursions. Considering how much I paid for this experience I found that disappointing and frustrating, and I definitely do not feel as though this restriction should be placed on paying customers, because in reality that is what we are. Furthermore there is always supposed to be a staff member on camp duty with you, but I found that often the assigned staff member would decide that they could not be bothered and the work would all fall up to the volunteers. And of course Emily, who would jump in to save us whenever necessary, and always seemed to be following up in the areas where other staff were lacking.
Overall I would rate this project very poorly. I think it is badly run, a complete rip off, and I don't believe it is making any positive difference in an environmental or social sense to Madagascar. I would not recommend this to anyone looking to volunteer in Madagascar.
When coming to Frontier's teaching program in Madagascar, I had an open mind, with no set expectations. What I got out of the project was more than I could have asked for. There is an incredible amount of teaching experience you gain while here, as well as a wide variety to keep you busy. Teaching every day at the primary school in town was really fun. When originally hearing there would be classes of 100 students, it was a bit overwhelming. However, the kids were extremely disciplined, loved learning English, and were always excited to see you. I would get well over 100 enthusiastic hello's a day whether it was during school or seeing the kids around town. The adult class is very interactive and with the level of English they have, you really get to know them on a more personal level. Teaching at Atafondru on Friday can be challenging, yet quite the experience. You will always walk away with good stories from teaching. This has been an incredible and rewarding four weeks. The time flies by too quickly.
The Madagascar project was an unforgettable experience. Not many Americans my age get the opportunity to participate in something like this but I strongly encourage anyone looking into something similar to choose this project. I took part in the adventurers program which I do not regret. Being able to do scientific research in the forest and ocean as well as teaching is a unique yet truly magnificent combination. Although I only was able to participate for four weeks I learned an unthinkable amount, met some great friends, and developed a deep admiration for the staff due to their hard work, extreme knowledge, and great interest in all they do. I wish I could have spent much more time in Madagascar helping out with Frontier. Thanks to everybody!
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