by Madison Kane, Expedition Manager, Madagascar
From the perspective of a staff member who was once a volunteer, I understand the ‘I’m-only-here-for-six-weeks’ feeling and making an effort to get everything you want done, in just 45 days. Knowing this feeling, we typically have a jam packed schedule (of fun) each day for our volunteers – a schedule so busy and set out, that often you’ll be confused on day 46 when there’s no set schedule at dinner telling you exactly what’s on for tomorrow!
Now, I bet you’re thinking what I would consider ‘jam packed’, so let me tell you about my Wednesday:
05.30: Wake-up, brush my teeth, pull myself into a wetsuit and set up my dive gear…wishing I had a coffee.
05.45: Listening to the dive briefing, admiring the incredible sunrise and peeking down the hill to see the village start their day.
06.00: Dive #1 – Peak performance buoyancy at Valleys
09.00: Dive #2 – Fish point-outs at Near Shore Coco Beach
11.00: Dive #3 – fish Test at Lovobe
14.00: Hammock time, science studying, volleyball, your call!
15.00: English with a Malagasy partner
16.00: Velondriake lecture with Mr. Roger
17.00: Computer fish test, Round 2
19.15: Vao Vao (Malagasy for ‘what’ s the news?’)
20.00: Tantara (A game, story, picture Sharing, etc.)
21.00: Lights out, bed time!
As you can see, the days are definitely busy. I bet your next question is ‘where do I find time to do anything else?’ Some days we let you lie in until breakfast, especially in the winter months when sunrise isn’t until 6.30am and other days, schedule depending, you may only be on one dive. Most volunteers average 1-2 dives per day, weather dependent of course, so when you’re not diving, you will have time study, relax, visit the village, swim, snorkel, etc.
In the afternoons, when the electricity is running, we schedule lectures with guest speakers from various projects or continue to pile through all the science you’ve got to learn. Remember, this is just my Wednesday… there’s six other days in the week to fit in!
Saturdays are a ‘dry-day’ and activities like cooking classes, assisting with BV’s Education work, a trip to the baobabs, sailing, mangroves, and many others occur.
Sunday is day off – whatever you want to do, it’s up to you! Bearing in mind that you only have 6 weeks here, I personally chose to keep my Sundays pretty full… even now as a staff member I like to keep myself busy. It’s a great day to plan something like a picnic sail over lunch hour, a zebu cart ride to the baobabs, or lunch at a local Italian restaurant with a pleasant sunset sail home – those are my favourites, to list just a few.
In addition to a daily schedule, at some point during your expedition you will have the opportunity to help other projects – join Rado in Lamboara to monitor spider tortoises, head to Befandefa with Safidy, go to Belevanoke with Silvere for a Shark and Turtle mission, or join the Aquaculture team in Tampolove to monitor sea cucumbers and harvest seaweed.
Keep in mind that this is an expedition, not a vacation, so you will be encouraged to participate in all the planned activities, though some might not be ‘your thing’ – you really don’t want to go home regretting not participating in something. There many other things to do here in Andava, but you’re going to have to figure that out for yourself. Though, I will advise you, your heart will fall in love with Andavadoaka and you most definitely won’t want to go home, but we only live once, so dream big, take chances, and support conservation. Challenge yourself and travel with a purpose. Pack your bags and see you next expedition?! … I’ve got Thursday to plan!