Volunteering or Boot Camp – Saving Forests with MRCI

So I’ve been at Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute for two weeks now and I think I’m just starting to settle into life here. The work, at least for foresters, is not for the faint of heart. Also, the amenities on camp are great, but life here requires a lot of work for simple luxuries we generally take for granted back home. 

(Hey chameleon! Don’t roll your eyes at me!)

Every day foresters start with a hike, generally across boulders and the beach then straight up the mountain. All in hot and extremely humid weather. It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever done and much harder than Peru, where the walks were long and hot but flat. I keep telling myself this is good for my body and in all honesty I am starting to feel much better and stronger every day. Also, I can see my quads coming back which is cool! 

(Fellow foresters perched on a rock doing a bird survey!)

The heat can cause a lot of problems, making one generally feel unwell and many new volunteers experience stomach problems upon arrival. As I’ve said before, “If you don’t have a good poo story, then you haven’t traveled far enough.” But this can hinder one’s motivation for such strenuous walks in the heat. Thankfully staff are very understanding. I’m looking forward to seeing just how much stronger I can get over the next 7 weeks.

(Island life)

These hikes take us to various transects on the island, 250m paths where we survey the wildlife, both flora and fauna. The data collected gets recorded and honestly, I’m a little excited to stretch my math and data analysis muscles on what we’ve collected to see what cool things we can figure out. It’s been a few months but I’m up for the challenge. 

(Beautiful forest – I’m sweating so much behind the camera.)

As for life on the island, while beautiful and majestic, it’s pretty different from life at home. There are no cars and we walk everywhere, which isn’t a bad thing in itself. This also means we walk about 1.5 miles, scrambling over boulders and across 4 beaches to get to the nearest village, Ampangorinana (Ampang). This walk is required to get wifi and charge electronics (unless you’re lucky enough to catch the generator on at camp). If you’re coming to Madagascar, a really good solar charger will be your best friend. But Ampang has quite a bit to offer travelers and volunteers. Here you can purchase gorgeous handmade souvenirs including some beautifully hand embroidered items from the ladies in the village and also visit a conservation lemur park where you can see the black lemurs that inhabit the island. Ampang also offers several nice beach bars/restaurants that offer some great food. 

(Ampang embroidery… it’s so beautiful and amazes me that it’s all done by hand. Some is definitely coming home with me!)

Ilo Village is quickly becoming my go to for vegan pizza, wifi, and power! The joint is run by a lovely French couple who treat the volunteers like family. Their hospitality makes the hike over so worth it. 

(The resident Ilo Village cat living his island cat life.)