By Sam Wragg, Independent researcher, Madagascar
Safe in the knowledge that I have plenty of time to write up my third year project when I get back to the UK and with my data collection occurring on a week-on, week-off basis, I’ve managed to find myself with a dream dissertation topic and the perfect way to wind down after my stressful second year exams.
The best piece of advice that I can give, is forward planning; you are really going to struggle to be over prepared out here, especially when it comes to the project itself. It is very difficult to know exactly how your project is going to be carried out before you actually arrive, due to the difficulties in communication out in the field and you never really know how everything is being completed without witnessing it yourself. The more organised you are before you leave, the better.
My mum once told me that only boring people get bored. There are too many activities to get involved with and therefore no time to be bored! Also, there is plenty to do as a non diver, you just have to be willing to join in. There’s swimming and snorkelling; you can do one on one lessons with a local BV staff member (which I would highly recommend, as I found it very rewarding). You can also join in with a lot of volunteer activities; Malagasy lessons, fish and benthic lectures, trips to see such things as the baobabs and the mangroves, and of course the odd game of volleyball with the staff, or football with the locals. The absolute highlight of my trip has to be a four day trip up the coast in a pirogue, following one of the BV workers who was collecting shark and turtle catch data. This allowed me to witness the way of life in the highly remote regions of south west Madagascar, in a way in which I didn’t feel like a herded tourist. I also got to see two juvenile whales while I was on the pirogue!
My overall aims when planning my trip were to relax after my exams, collect some useful data for my third year project and experience a completely different culture. I can safely say they have all been well and truly checked off!