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FAQ’s

Who can volunteer?

Our volunteer programmes are open to anyone over the age of 18, providing they are in a reasonable state of fitness and can speak English. Volunteers will need to complete medical forms signed by a doctor prior to departure (medical forms will be provided by ReefDoctor upon application).

How do I become a volunteer?

Simply complete our volunteer questionnaire, return it to volunteer@reefdoctor.org, and a member of staff will contact you in response to your application.

Volunteer Questionnaire

Do I need to be a qualified scuba diver?

No. If you have never dived before we will train you from scratch and certify you to PADI Advanced open water in the first couple of weeks of your expedition.

When can I come?

Expeditions are open each month between February to December. The level of your dive experience and qualifications will determine the point in the month you will start the programme. If you have no dive qualification you will start the expedition in the first week of the month while PADI Open Water and Advanced (or equivalent) certified divers join in the second week.

When is the best time to come?

Madagascar has two main seasonal variations. The hot and wet season (October to March) makes for pleasant diving conditions but perhaps not favorable for those who cannot tolerate the heat. In the southwest of Madagascar the wet season typically only consists of around one weeks worth of rain, in comparison with the much wetter northern part of the country. Throughout December and January it is the cyclone season, this produces windy conditions which may affect the diving schedule at times and reduce diving visibility, we therefore offer a reduced expedition fee for those joining in December going into January. The Dry season (April to October) is slightly cooler and you will most definitely require a full wetsuit during this time. Humpback Whale season also starts in July through to October so this a great time to come as we often see whales when out diving on the exterior of the bay, or we can organise whale watching excursions for you.

 

Month Season (according to Europe seasons) Risk of Malaria Average Day Temp °C Average Night Temp °C
January Summer (cyclone) High 36 33
February Summer High 40 35
March Summer High 38 30
April Autumn Medium 35 28
May Autumn Medium 30 20
June Winter Low 26 17
July Winter Low 23 15
August Winter Low 23 15
September Spring Low 25 20
October Spring Low 25 25
November Spring Medium 30 28
December Summer (cyclone) Medium 32 28

 

If I cancel the expedition will I lose all my money?

ReefDoctor asks for £500 deposit to be paid upon signing up to an expedition, this deposit is non-refundable in all circumstances. However, if you pull out but still wish to come at a later date, having paid the deposit, it will be honoured and you will just have to pay the remaining expedition fee.

To ensure volunteers are happy with joining us and to safe guard your money ReefDoctor will ask for the final payment 30 days before your expedition start date. If you pay the final balance before this and/or at the requested time but pull out then your money will not be refunded. Volunteers who pull out, having paid the full amount, and cannot join due to exceptional circumstances will be considered for a refund on a case-by-case basis.

Are there any additional costs I need to know about on top of the ReefDoctor Expedition and programme fees?

Yes there are the costs for your return flights, insurance, vaccines, PADI course materials etc., please download the following document for more information.

ReefDoctor Expedition Additional Costs

How much money do I need to take with me?

Additional money you will need during your time with us, in general, is small. There is little opportunity to spend money on site, expect for the occasional snacks or drinks you may wish to purchase from Ifaty village, have your washing done or by some internet credit to email family and friends whilst on site.

The only major additional spending money you will need will be to cover excursions, should you to wish to take any,  to see some of the surrounding area such as spending the occasional weekend in Mangily and Toliara, or travelling a little further afield to some of the regions National Parks. Travelling in Madagascar is never too expensive and we can help you organise the cheapest options. In general we advise to bring in cash 300 Euros) to cover such expenditure during a 12 week expedition.

Do I need insurance?

All volunteers and interns must have two forms of insurance, basic travel insurance and specific diving insurance. We recommend that you take out Divers Alert Network (DAN) insurance to cover your diving activities.

Do I need a Visa?

You will need to get a standard ‘Tourist Visa’ to cover all expeditions between 3-12 weeks. Visas for a maximum of 30  days are free (3 week expeditions only), any stay over this costs around 60 Euros. The best way is to buy this on arrival at Antananarivo international airport (cash only, they will take pounds/dollars/euros). You MUST have a return airline ticket as they will not let you into the country on a single ticket.. Volunteers over 12 weeks (all Research and DiveMaster Interns) will require a working visa which ReefDoctor will arrange for you.

Do I need my own diving equipment?

We will provide you with the BCD (buoyancy control device), full regulator set, scuba tanks and weights. You will have to bring your own mask, snorkel, fins (booty fins), wetsuit, dive slate and a dive watch or, preferably, a dive computer.

(you can indicate in the questionnaire if you need to hire equipment).

In addition all volunteers (except Research and DiveMaster Interns) must purchase and bring with them the PADI dive instruction manuals and PADI PIC (certification) cards, as per PADI International Rulings May 2006. PADI PIC-cards are required to process each level of all PADI courses we offer – you can buy these PIC cards from local dive shops or from us for an extra fee of £25 (29 Euros) per PADI course and £15 (17 euros) for the EFR 1st aid.

What if I have diving accreditation through BSAC, NAUI or another diving organisation?

All ReefDoctor Research Assistants must be trained up to Advanced Open Water (PADI) or equivalent to undertake the survey work. Have a look at the following document to see where your certification falls in line with PADI.

 PADI Dive Equivelent Qualifications Table

How much diving will I do in a week?
ReefDoctor Eco-Divers will undertake one dive a day 6 days a week, Sunday is a no diving day.

ReefDoctor Research Assistants will undertake diving on a rotational basis due to more training and other project activities. Thus volunteers undertake an average of 20-25 dives a month. All dives are done in the morning due to tidal regimes in the Bay. The rotational diving schedule consists of one week of 4 survey dives over 2 days and 3 days of land and snorkel based projects and then the following week 6 survey dives over 3 days with 2 days land and snorkel based project activities. Fun dives occur on Saturdays, whilst no diving is permitted on Sunday.

What does the science training consist of?

The level of training we provide ranges from basic to expert depending on the type of volunteer programme you join (and individual competencies). ReefDoctor Eco-Divers will begin training in basic marine science and species identification during the 2nd week of their expedition.

ReefDoctor Research Assistants undertake an intensive marine science training (basic to expert level) period in the first few weeks of an expedition (though training is always ongoing throughout ones expedition). ReefDoctor provides lectures on marine biology, ecology, species identification and surveying techniques but a large proportion of the material is self-taught, by completing species identification and practise survey dives with ReefDoctor’s science officers and interns.  In order to take part in ReefDoctor’s coral reef monitoring programme, research assistants are required to pass tests (computer and scuba based). These tests are to ensure that the data you will collect on surveys is at a sufficient scientific standard.

All volunteers will be given species identification and study guides no less than one month before leaving home so that you can start learning, thus maximising your time with us.

How do I get there?

There are regular direct flights to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar from Paris, Milan, Bangkok, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Mauritius. We recommend comparing prices from the main airlines; Air France, Air Madagascar and Air Kenya (this one tend to give the best deals).

When I get there how do I get to the ReefDoctor project site?

ReefDoctor staff cannot meet you at the airport in Antananarivo but we can arrange a hotel that can pick you up at the airport if you cannot get a connecting flight to Toliara that day.

There is usually one flight a day to Toliara, the regional capital for the south west of Madagascar and the nearest city to our site. All domestic flights are serviced by Air Madagascar. You can visit their website to book your connecting flight to Toliara from the capital or ask your travel agent to do this.

Upon arrival to Toliara airport you will be collected by Taxi (the driver is well known by ReefDoctor) and taken to the centre of town (taxi fare will be covered by ReefDoctor). The taxi driver will have a sign with your name on it and you cannot miss him as the airport is very small.

If you arrive to Toliara in the afternoon (from 3pm onwards) you will have to stay overnight in Toliara (room, food has to be covered by the volunteer). ReefDoctor will arrange the hotel booking and have the taxi take you there. A ReefDoctor staff member will then collect you from the hotel the next day to take you to Ifaty.

If you arrive in the morning or early afternoon (up to 2pm) the taxi will take you to the centre of town to the ‘Le Terrace’ restaurant where you will be met by a ReefDoctor staff member and they will take you to our site in Ifaty by taxi bus.

How safe is travelling in Madagascar?

Madagascar is a safe country to travel in providing you practice the same laws of common sense necessary when travelling in any developing country. In general we recommend not to travel around at night alone and when travelling by public taxi bus not to travel overnight (as roads are not in the best condition) and to break up the journey. ReefDoctor will advise you on safe travelling should you wish to explore more of the country.

How can keep in touch with friends and family whilst at ReefDoctor?

The easiest way to do this is via mobile phone, you can buy a SIM card and/or phone at a very cheap price (2 Euros SIM card and 10 Euros for a phone). Mobile phone reception is very good at our project site and we also have mobile internet. The internet is predominately for work purposes but volunteers can easily buy credit for sending and receiving personal emails. We also have a 24-hour telephone messaging service in case of emergency and enabling good UK -based communication support for any family members that require updates on the volunteer.

How does ReefDoctor ensure the safety of its volunteers?

At ReefDoctor your safety is our top priority. Our expedition camp is in a semi-remote location therefore we have rigorous safety procedures in place. We focus heavily on accident prevention; providing safety information, training and advice to all volunteers and staff when they arrive. Whilst our project site is in a semi-remote location, hospital care is readily available in Toliara which is accessible within an hour.

What happens in an emergency?

In the event of an emergency, ReefDoctor has prearranged emergency and evacuation procedures. We liaise with the Divers Alert Network (DAN) in Europe and South Africa and review them monthly to ensure that information is correct and training is up-to-date. All volunteers and staff receive training with the plans on arrival. These plans can be put into action at a moment’s notice and the Operations Manager is in 24 hour contact with the London office. If you would like to see any of these protocols please contact us at volunteer@reefdoctor.org.

What vaccinations will I need when visiting Madagascar?

Madagascar is affected by a number of tropical diseases and you should see your doctor or an accredited Travel Clinic who will advise you on the relevant inoculations necessary for visiting the country. You must get the following vaccinations before entering the country as advised by the WHO (World Health Organisation):

Hepatitis A and B

Tetanus

Typhoid

In addition, some health care professionals may also recommend the following:

Polio, and BCG (Tuberculosis)

Diphtheria

Meningitis (A & C)

Rabies

Do I need to take anti-malaria medication?

Yes. Anti-Malaria medication needs to be started before departure and volunteers must ensure they bring enough medication to last the duration of their stay in Madagascar. Lariam (Mefloquine) is not recommended whilst conducting regular scuba divingactivities(UK HSE Medical Advisory Service). There are other malarial prophylactics options which your doctor or travel clinic can advise you on.

How can I find out more about Madagascar?

The excellent Brandt Guide gives itineraries to suit all interests and budgets. There are also personal anecdotes combined with input from around 50 experts.