Frontier

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8.9 / 10 after 435 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings

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.

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I recently paid a lot of money to volunteer with Frontier for three weeks in Costa Rica as part of their ‘Big Cats, Primates and Turtles’ project. Unfortunately, the experience could not have gone any worse due to several issues which arose in the short time we were on the project.

Firstly, despite the 'Big Cats' advertised in the main heading (along with images and description on their website) this aspect of the project was unavailable due to lack of adequate equipment. According to project staff members London HQ have refused to replace the previous ones which were stolen six months prior. We made several enquirers about this issue, including several conversations with the manager at their London HQ- who often refused to even discuss the situation; instead insisting that we complete and sign a legally binding document (presumably to tie us up and waive our right to any refund or compensation).

Any opportunity of completing “ground-breaking research” (as advertised on the website) was limited due to the number of staff with relevant scientific background/qualifications- one of whom we have had little contact with as she has been forced to station herself at the overflow camp, again due to high numbers. Also, in general there was very limited opportunity to take part in any surveys, due to the number of volunteers; most volunteers averaged no more than three a week.

Health & Safety was also a complete disaster: despite being informed on the phone a few weeks prior to departure date that there will be 25 people on the project, there were approximately 36 volunteers on camp. This concern was compounded by the lack of staff members, several of whom are merely volunteers who have been given responsibilities to compensate for the lack of staff.

This was exposed on our first outing, when i turned around to find one of the volunteers suffering had an asthma attack Fortunately, I turned around soon enough to witness this and was able to rush back and assist her as there were no other staff around. Thankfully, she recovered. Although the staff member(s) were eventually alerted about this situation there were further problems a few hours later on the return walk when three volunteers went missing in the middle of the dense and potentially rainforest. Thankfully they found their way back to the camp; albeit very distressed.

Aside, from these specific incidents, there is a general health & safety concerns with having such an overcrowded campsite in that location.
However, it appeared over-crowdedness wasn’t an issue exclusive to this Frontier project: The one day a member of staff had to remove a tent from the camp to put in the garden of a nearby Frontier teaching volunteer house for the new volunteer(s) to sleep in due to lack of space in the actual house!

Due to the above experience we raised our concerns with project staff and subsequently contacted Frontier in London, and informed them we wanted the issues resolved before returning to camp. They (London office staff) refused to discuss the any specific issues insisting we put our complaint in writing; which we did. We were then requested to meet with the project manager at a nearby town who agreed and apologised for the number of Health & Safety mishaps which had taken place and agreed it was largely due to lack of staff- something which was out of her control. However, Frontier HQ would not be able to send the relevant equipment in order for volunteers to carry out the Big Cats aspect of the project. I then spoke to the manager at London HQ and informed i wasn't prepared to return to the camp until the issues had been resolved. However, in response to the issue about the lack of equipment; the HQ manager highlighted that although that particular survey isn't going on at present there were many examples of great ‘big cats’ research work which had been done in the five years when the project previously had the equipment! Needless to say this was no consolation for me and despite a number of serious issues and legitimate complaints Frontier’s (London HQ) handling of the matter was utterly disgraceful. They appeared to be more concerned to get me to complete the aforementioned legally binding document which was a series of ‘yes/no’ questions such as “Have you read our terms and conditions?” and other largely irrelevant questions, than they were of the Health & Safety of the volunteers and staff.
Strangely the manager at the London office we spoke to also refused to confirm whether Frontier was a non-profit based organisation (they claim they are) or a profitable company, as when you scratch below the surface of their online presence it becomes unclear.

Despite being stranded in a nearby town- unable to go back to camp, the manager refused to even agree to deal with the complaint sooner any sooner than the 'up to 14 days for a response' that their standard complaints procedure dictates. As a result I was forced to spend money i didn't expect to spend and depend on family members to transfer me more funds for food, accommodation etc.

I am completely shocked at what I thought was such an reputable "non-profit organisation" with ethical principles, can be so unprofessional and mislead customers in such a way. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight and more extensive research about frontier it is a lot less surprising. We are currently in dispute with the "non-profit organisation" and are awaiting responses to several correspondence which we have sent to them. However, we have been informed that many of the above issues continue to exist so i would strongly advise anyone to steer clear of this awful company.

P.S. the four stars for 'support' are solely for the project manager and other staff members in Costa Rica, who despite the shortcomings of the project, were supportive of our concerns.

Program:
Location:
Posted: September 2, 2014
Overall:
1
Support:
4
Value:
1
By: Owen
Age:
25

I was fortunate enough to spend almost 11 months living at the Frontier camp in Nosy Be working as the Principal Investigator for the Marine Conservation project. I have worked in remote parts of the world before on similar projects where we had no fresh water other than rain water to cook with, there was not sufficient for us to shower with so we had to wash using sea water and take a bucket and a cut in half bottle to chuck it over your head and where our food and other resources resupplies happened only twice every three months. I was stunned when I arrived in Ambalahonko to see what an incredible set up there was compared with other organisations. Not only were we blessed to have fresh, clean running water, we had an option of three showers delivering water at high pressure and we were able to shower as many times a day as we wanted! I was really pleased with the camp food as well, I know many people struggle to adapt to life away from a western diet but we always had fresh vegetables and a really good source of protein from the beans - absolute necessities when living in such an environment. Other projects I have worked on we received fresh vegetables only twice in three months and the only 'staple' veg we had was tinned sweetcorn, as for protein we were rationed to it only on 'meat days' which required sieving through corned beef to remove bits of artery twice a week! The Frontier Madagascar camp really is exceptional, where else in the world can you shower watching Critically Endangered Fish Eagles fly above the forest and see Sportive Lemurs on a trip to the loo?! The Madagascar's project staff are carefully selected based on their experiences in countries like Madagascar, we all have backgrounds of living and working in developing parts of the world and create a diverse science team. Our science backgrounds make conversations interesting and we love to share our knowledge and first hand experiences of working with marine and terrestrial wildlife. Throughout my time at with Frontier one of the most rewarding feelings was to see how RA's progressed, many of which completed BTEC's or CoPE qualifications. Others even considered changes in their future studies and careers moving towards conservation and biological sciences! For those trying to pursue conservation careers this project provides a wonderful opportunity to gain first hand experience of field research and surveying and the chance to take interest in new parts of conservation.

Program:
Location:
Posted: September 2, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: edobinson
Age:
25

I attended the Madagascar marine conservation programme and as soon as I arrived at nosy be airport I was welcomed by the project manager, Chris who was extremely helpful, funny and informative. The support I received in the run up tom and during my project was immense and thorough so this aspect was very good. The project itself was amazing with all staff members helping and being friendly. They were on your level and didn't belittle you, whilst joining in with what the RA's were doing which was amazing, you really felt part of it all (even for someone like me going for a short amount of time). In short, I would recommend this to anyone pre, or post university - 5 stars

Program:
Location:
Posted: September 1, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
18

I have recently returned from a 6 week trip to Madagascar with Frontier and I can honestly say I had the best time of my life. I was part of the Adventure program (MGA) and that was the best decision I could have made because I got to experience all three of the main projects - teaching, forest and marine. Unfortunately, myself and many others were delayed in starting our projects due to cancellations and delays from Air Madagascar but after a while all was forgotten and altogether, my time in Nosy Be was awesome and a lot of that was down to the dedication of the staff and also the close friendships you build in such a short space of time.

Program:
Location:
Posted: August 31, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
8
Age:
19

Though my stay was only a short one (2 weeks), I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Madagascar is a country with much to offer and the frontier staff on location manage the projects with great ease and experience. I got to do a wide range of community work, from teaching to construction. A good balance between volunteering and a little free time also enabled me to discover others corners of Nosy Be. I would absolutely recommend this project to anybody looking for new experiences, is open minded and flexible. Madagascar is full of surprises, and Frontier will make sure you don't miss any of them!

Program:
Location:
Posted: August 29, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
9
Value:
9
By: Julia-G
Age:
18

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