The aim of the trip is to produce a habitat map of the Velondriake Marine Protected Area Network, for use by the Velondriake committee. Velondriake is a massive 800 square kilometre protected area in southwest Madagascar, run by local communities, and aided by international NGOs.
We will be zoning the Velondriake protected area into different types of habitats – such as coral and seagrass in marine areas, and mangroves in terrestrial areas, using a variety of equipment and survey techniques. This will primarily help the Velondriake committee to make decisions on which key areas to protect.
The Velondriake area has never before been surveyed in this way. Although the French completed a bathymetric (underwater) study in the 19th century, but with a much lower accuracy.
Fortunately the weather was been good, and have had a lot of calm days on which to collect the data. We eventually hope to extrapolate the results for our marine survey so that we can map areas all the way to Tulear – a distance of 250km.
We are very lucky to have the help of Dr Sam Purkis, from Nova University in the US, a world expert on GIS and reef mapping.
There is plenty of data still to collect, but below you can see a preview of the underwater terrain in the Andavadoaka region (the black is above sea-level), to give one a taster of what is possible with GIS!