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Madagascar Wildlife Conservation Adventure
Frontier participants Frontier participants

Madagascar Wildlife Conservation Adventure

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    N/A

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Wonderful experience

The best aspect of the Madagascar Wildlife Conservation project was being able to carry out important and interesting work in a relaxed manner.

It was a wonderful experience, and one that I would gladly do again

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    N/A

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Amazing experience in Madagascar

This really was an amazing experience and it was great to be able to see the wildlife of Madagascar. It is great if my volunteering time and money is contributing towards the conservation of this wildlife but if not, it was an amazing holiday and I had a wonderful time.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

It is well worth it

I really enjoyed this project, it was really good, everything was smooth running. On the first day we were met at the airport and shown around town. On the second day we were out on the boat to the little island doing our searches and walks. The best part of this project was my weekend away at Nosy Iranja this was absolutely amazing and relaxing opportunity. We did lots of amazing things like scuba-diving and snorkelling in this beautiful out of this world surroundings. I would recommend that future volunteers take the time out to go to Nosy Iranja it is expensive but it is well worth it.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

The project overall was amazing

The project overall was amazing and I have learnt so much in such a sort space of time. I have met some really great people who made the experience worthwhile and something that I won't be forgetting at all. The staff on the whole were fantastic and hope they continue to do what they are doing to keep the project running well.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Program Administration

    6

  • Volunteer Placement

    8

You won't regret it!

I've had an amazing time with Frontier - definitely a trip of a lifetime. The amount you experience far exceeds that of any holiday. The immersion in culture and wildlife is the main draw, but camp life and the social aspects are also great. The fact I had 4 weekends, and did 4 trips was the icing on the cake... swimming with Whale Sharks in late September is the cherry on top. I would highly recommend you make the most of your weekends and go explore!

The staff and volunteers have been amazing on this trip and have exceeded my expectations.

My only criticism is the pre-departure stuff, things like the kit list can be overwhelming and the introduction of FAQ's would be welcomed. I just feel a better job can be done to prevent volunteers worrying unnecessarily before departure, especially after speaking to other volunteers.

Overall, I stand by the fact this is a trip of a life time and would highly recommend this trip.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    N/A

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Nosy be wildlife

Having arrived with only a little information on species present in nosy be I now feel comfortable in identifying most species that may be present by sight or sound.

The best aspect of the placement was seeing the wildlife of Madagascar and building field species ID skills.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Meeting so many lovely new people

I spent the first few days just settling into the project and getting to know everybody and the other volunteers and staff, everybody was very nice. On the first day I arrived there was a festival that I was invited to which was brilliant. For me the most enjoyable part of the project was the reptiles and the wildlife in general, it was a well established project. Meeting so many lovely new people was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

The project generally exceeded my expectations

The staff did a great job showing me around Phnom Penh and the project. The training was of a high quality. The scientific side of the project was well handled. The project generally exceeded my expectations regarding things such as food, accommodation and facilities.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Well done Frontier

Very good communication from Frontier from application to arriving at the airport. Science was very good and I enjoyed and application of the work very much. I felt what we were doing was systematic and useful. Every thing was better than expected. I most enjoyed the learning about the Fish and coral in a wonderful classroom setting, camp life and the beautiful location. Well done Frontier

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It encouraged us to become more involved

I feel that the best aspect was the work ethic of the staff members and the enthusiasm they showed. It encouraged us to become more involved

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Overall I had a fantastic time

I felt that the organisation of the forest science programme was very well done in general. We had daily timetables which organised the surveys. Overall I had a fantastic time, mainly due to meeting new people and making new friends.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    8

Ambalahenke a lovely village

Friendly atmosphere, staff knowledgeable and approachable. Great Location, access to towns Nice camp. Ambalahenke a lovely village.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

I had fun

Best aspects of the project: diving, teaching the local children, seeing lots of exciting wildlife, and making lots of new friends and meeting like minded people.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Overall had an awesome time

The Staff are wicked, fun and friendly, meet loads of people and made lots of friends. Diving most enjoyable, the dive life was awesome. There were always activities to do. Overall had an awesome time.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Camp life was truly a unique experience

Camp life was truly a unique experience, where everyone interacts and works together. People on camp made every moment valuable. The staff were absolutely amazing. The camp facilities are basic but surprisingly hygienic and comfortable.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    7

The staff on camp are amazing

The staff on camp are amazing. The people on camp made it good, camp is awesome. Staff on site are spot on. They made this project for me.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Madagascar Wilflife Adventure

When I originally saw Frontiers wildlife conservation opportunities in Madagascar I was determined to get out and get started. Madagascar is somewhere I have always wanted to visit, for it's huge range of endemic species, and incredible scenery. Thankfully I have not been let down, with the fantastic staff deployed on the Island of Nosy Be, most species can be identified with just a quick word, and if not there is a decent selection of books for fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Sadly there is less known about the flora of the island, as an aspiring botanist, this should have been more upsetting; however, the friendly people, cheap and tasty food around camp and fauna surrounding you on all sides, never disappoints. I could not recommend this experience enough, my only words would be to grab on with both hands, and don't neglect learning the species, and bits of French before you get out here. Don't miss out, come and do this, you'll meet people you'll never forget and hope to stay friends with, Madagascar is truly an adventure.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Engagement

    7

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    8

An amazing experience

My experience in this program has been incredible. The kindness and openness of the locals, the beautiful nature filled with unique species and all the different but somehow like minded people you meet at camp. Living simple but still covering most needs forces you to go out of your own comfort zone in some way, something we all could need more off. Im thankful for all I have learned in nature, about people and about myself while being here. I will carry this experience with me in my journeys to come.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    7

We found something interesting to observe every day.

Basic living add to the adventure and promote understanding of alternative ways of life and cultures. Loved the interaction of the locals of Ambalahonko village. While out on surveys we found something interesting to observe every day.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    8

The overall experience was amazing

Best aspects of the project: The overall experience was amazing and something I will always look back on in later life. The walks and the wildlife was amazing and great fun and also Sat Camp was brilliant.

Overall Rating

7/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    N/A

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    8

Madagascar wildlife conservation

This really was an amazing experience and it was great to be able to see the wildlife of Madagascar. It is great if my volunteering time and money is contributing towards the conservation of this wildlife but if not, it was an amazing holiday and I had a wonderful time.

Overall Rating

5/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    1

  • Program Administration

    1

  • Living Situation

    5

  • Community Engagement

    5

  • Health & Safety

    5

  • Day to Day Life

    4

Avoid Frontier at all costs!!

I don't want to offend any of the staff on camp with this review, as they are lovely people, but I need to be honest so people know what they are letting themselves in for with Frontier...
Firstly, before you even leave, the pre-departure support by Frontier is awful; I chose this organisation so that I could do a BTEC Diploma in Tropical Habitat Conservation, and paid for 10 weeks as this is the length of the qualification - and then only a few weeks before I was due to deploy, I was told that actually Frontier should never have offered me the BTEC, as they are currently not even running it, which they had known since before I booked my trip. They led me on and allowed me to book my project, knowing full well that I wouldn't be able to do the course, to ensure that they got the money from another volunteer, and told me when it was too late to back out as I had already paid them £3000 in instalments and paid for my flights. They did offer me to do their 'Frontier Certificate' instead, but that defeats the point as it carries no accreditation or UCAS points, and is not recognised, so is really not an equivalent - and once arriving in country it was quite clear that if I had decided to do this there would be no real support from staff, and Frontier is not respected as a science organisation at all, so it would be worthless. As well as the issues with the course, there was also a ridiculous faff with the briefing weekend - another reason I chose Frontier in the first place, for the extra support beforehand- the date was changed several times, finally fixed last minute, I was then harassed for the £80 payment (its all about getting as much money out of you as possible), and then when I did try to pay, I was told that actually it had been moved again to a date that was after I had already left for the project!! So, not only did I not get any briefing, it was also a very stressful experience - the 'volunteer coordinators' you get change all the time (they are all interns in London HQ and come and go very fast, and clearly have no idea what they are doing), they tell you vague and often false information before your project, e.g. that certain items of the ridiculously long kit list (which has many 'compulsory' or 'highly recommended' items that are utterly useless and unnecessary) are needed when they aren't, or that you can't buy anything in country, when you can. If you are unfortunate enough to already be going on a Frontier trip, don't bother with the briefing weekend (if you have one), as when I asked for the information to be sent that we missed from the weekend, I was told to just look in the field brief... why have a weekend if you aren't telling us anything we haven't already been given?! - to get an extra £80 from everyone, obviously.
When it comes to in-country stuff, there is an inherent problem of disorganisation running through the whole company and this translates into the projects. They currently have huge staffing issues - the forest project has no senior staff, and the current highest staff member, although she does the best with the resources given to her, is severely underpaid for the work she has to do, and she leaves at the end of November, which will leave only assistants, who work for free and have all just arrived within the last few weeks, so don't know any of the transects. There is no senior staff coming as the PI who was due to come had a falling out with London HQ, so cancelled his trip altogether - it is clear that the project is likely to go even further downhill, and I feel awful for the ARO's there now, who are lovely people, as they will have no leader, be working for free to do jobs not meant for them, and will be trying to lead volunteers on walks that they barely know. I spent 2 months on the project, and after my first week, a dispute with a village meant that we can no longer go into secondary forest (1/3 of the project's transects), and despite much talk about 'this week we will have a meeting and sort it out', every week nothing happened, and when I left 7 weeks later, there is still no secondary forest walks (and the new ARO's haven't been able to learn any secondary transects, and certainly won't be able to by the time the RO leaves in November, so then there will be no one on camp who knows those transects for if they are ever allowed back into secondary forest!) Primary forest is only accessible for a few walks every 3 weeks approx, as it is reliant on the tides, and with no secondary forest, you spend the majority of your time in Degraded forest, which is mostly plantations - not 'rainforest' at all, which then limits the species you can see. In addition, the majority of your day is spent sitting around on camp - you might have a 1.5hour walk in the morning, and then a night walk, and the rest of the day you don't do anything. There are also no activities on Thursday afternoon or most of Friday to make time for 'meetings' - a huge waste of everyone's time, as what is discussed never happens anyway. They may plan activities on camp in the middle of the day - games or films, but they are cancelled the majority of the time, as are walks, which will be cancelled if it is a bit wet or cloudy, so there may be some days where you literally do nothing. This brings me on to the fact that frontier is also NOT a science organisation in any way - all of the 'surveys', which are literally just groups of too many people walking along a well-trodden path and trying to count animals (most of which are scared away by the many training staff at the front so by the time volunteers get to them, they are gone), are extremely biased. Many transects are hardly ever done, in favour of easier transects, so barely any useful data is collected for them - after 2 months there were transects I had done 4 times a week, and some I had never done at all. Also, the 'data' collected, which I was given the job of inputting, sits around in camp for months, unused. I inputted transect data from 7-8 months ago that had been ignored by the staff for all this time- and as I inputted it, it was clear that the staff who have recorded it have no consistent way of doing so; there were huge amounts of data missing, incorrect things written, and most of the data was pretty much useless, meaning it was not a surprise to find that after so many years collecting data here, no results have been produced by Frontier that will be helpful for any conservation. I came here to get fieldwork experience, under the illusion that I was contributing to a conservation project, but no real science is happening here - go elsewhere and work on a project that is actually making a difference and doing some proper research. The only impact we have is negative - we traipse around in the forest disturbing wildlife under the pretence of 'research' to get huge amounts of money out of volunteers, and Frontier's extremely tight budget (which is $2 for food per day per volunteer, apparently - given what you spend to go there, this is ridiculous) means that they only buy palm oil (extremely bad for the environment) for cooking, as this is 25p cheaper than other oils, refuse to instal solar panels on camp ($200 to kit out the whole camp) in favour of cheaper fuel-powered generators, and paint their boat using paint that leaches heavy metals into the sea and is banned in multiple countries. For an organisation which is supposed to promote conservation, this is disgusting. They have no regard for the environment or the impact of their projects - they just want to maximise the money they take from volunteers. Despite supposedly being 'non-profit', the money you pay to go definitely doesn't benefit the local economy in anyway - I would love to see where all the money goes, my bet would be someone is making big bucks off young people thinking they are doing some good. It is clear that much of the money is also spent on advertising, much of which is false - there are no amphibian surveys, and bat surveys only started in my last week, and butterfly surveys aren't 'surveys' at all, as they have no way to ID species, so you spend all your time doing reptiles or lemurs, and videos on the website that show you picking up snakes (with 'heavy duty gloves' on the kit list that you most certainly don't need) are very misleading as we aren't allowed to touch any animals! Frontier also seems to try and sell a range of projects which don't actually exist - there are only 3 projects; community, forest and marine. If you sign up for 'beach conservation' you will just be given snorkelling activities that the marine team struggle to think of, and if you are 'lemur conservation' you will do all other surveys with the forest team, and lemur surveys twice a week, if that. Camp is only set up to have two projects, and any others are just non-existent extensions designed to make more money from unsuspecting volunteers. There is also a huge lack of resources on camp to do fieldwork - there isn't even a working tape measure to measure out transects, and several ARO's have expressed their disappointment in being told there would be surveys happening that aren't set up, and that there aren't the resources available to carry out their personal projects. Lots of people, from volunteers to staff, on both projects, considered leaving early or transferring to MRCI, another volunteer company in Madagascar, due to these problems, showing it is a universal feeling that we haven't received what Frontier has promised. I left 2 weeks early for the pure fact that I was bored - there isn't enough happening to want to stay longer, and I am extremely disappointed with the lack of actual conservation.
In terms of health and safety, there were times when I felt unsafe or that Frontier wasn't doing what it should:
- there is currently a very sad epidemic of the pneumonic and bubonic plague on the mainland, and Frontier rightfully inputted new guidelines for health and safety, such as putting DEET on our mattresses to kill fleas, or that anyone flying in via the mainland should be quarantined for 7 days before coming to camp. This then was completely ignored, and a new volunteer who had been in the capital came straight to camp, which theoretically put everyone on camp at risk.
- Typhoid is a big problem in Madagascar, and even though we are vaccinated against it, Frontier don't like to mention that the vaccine is actually only 60% effective, and there have been a number of cases of staff and volunteers getting Typhoid on camp, as did one of my close friends on the project while I was there. When she had to go to hospital, no staff members accompanied her - it was left to another volunteer in town who just offered to go with her so she didn't have to go alone. Although Frontier cannot help that Typhoid is a risk, and they do tell us how to reduce the risk, they should mention that people do get it on camp, as people incorrectly yet understandably presume that if they are vaccinated they are safe.
- The screening of people to join the projects is obviously a bit lax; there was a staff member on camp (who is a great person and I by no means think they are a risk), who is there without having given in their CRB check, and Frontier now keeps badgering them about sending it in... surely they shouldn't let anyone onto the project before they have been properly CRB checked?! In terms of volunteers, there was a girl allowed onto camp with severe mental health problems, who is depressed and suicidal, and ended up having a physical fight with someone and being violent, and threatening to kill herself on more than one occasion, yet she was allowed to stay on the project (which she probably shouldn't have been allowed to join in the first place), when violence is supposed to mean immediate termination of your project. Yet, at the same time, we were threatened with 'formal warnings' if we so much as touched a stray dog. The issue of stray dogs continued throughout my project - in the year before I deployed, after I had already booked my trip, I looked through all of Frontier's Instagram and YouTube posts, and it is quite clear that they used to let puppies and dogs into camp. They used to pet them, feed them and allow them to live in camp, which they posted photos of on social media, leading us to think the dogs are a part of camp life. However, once we got there we were told that we could no longer pet them as they had become a problem, and when they followed us on walks or snuck through the fence into camp, we were told that it is a new problem caused by our current group of volunteers occasionally petting them, yet in reality it is a problem created by past staff who led the dogs to think they belong to us, and now they don't leave us alone. To not want the dogs in camp is understandable, but to try and blame us for a problem that has obviously been long-standing and initially encouraged buy the staff in unfair.
- there are some problems with broken and old objects in camp which create a hygiene problem (and is no doubt because Frontier don't want to pay to replace things), e.g. knives don't have handles (dangerous and unhygienic), and washing up bowls were falling apart and disgusting before they were finally replaced. Food hygiene is also a bit of an issue, with old food being dumped in the tap area where is rots and has a fowl smell, and attracts rodents and other animals, and sometimes things like mayonnaise was served to us in potato salads after it had sat around in the heat on the boat all day.

Overall, Frontier is an organisation that should be avoided. I could go on and on with examples of their disorganisation and flaws. If you have already booked with Frontier and can't back out, then you can make the most of it by doing extra trips and exploring in your free time. I was lucky enough to have a great group of awesome people as my fellow volunteers, and we did various weekend trips, such as to the paradise island of Nosy Iranja, whale watching, swimming with whale sharks and dolphins, seeing turtles on Nosy Tanikely, and doing a tour around Nosy Be; all of these things were incredible experiences and made my trip worthwhile, but this was despite of Frontier, not because of them. I recommend spending a lot less money with a different organisation if you want a worthwhile experience (and if Frontier don't take down my review before it's seen!)