Escape to Madagascar – the magical island which is home to some of the world's most spectacular and least explored dive sites. The crystal clear waters host a dazzling array of pristine marine habitats and support a huge diversity and abundance of marine creatures. The vivid multi-coloured corals and luxuriant sea grass beds provide rich feeding grounds for an extraordinary array of colourful reef fish, rays, sea urchins, anemones, octopus and even sea turtles. While barracuda, sharks, dolphins, migrating whales and shoals of pelagics cruise the deep blue waters offshore. You can explore this exquisite, untarnished underwater world as you learn to dive off the island of Nosy Be. Meaning ‘Big Island’ in Malagasy this location certainly lives up to its name. You will discover and chart extensive areas of pristine coral, record healthy populations of fish and coral cover, and learn to identify a wide range of intertidal creatures from tiny Hermit Crabs to sparkling sea anemones. On shore you will explore the lush mangrove forests; the unique ecosystem which straddles the land and the ocean. You'll learn how artisanal fishing communities live and utilise the rich marine resources. You will discover which groups of marine organisms are being harvested sustainably and which are being over exploited or hunted to extinction. Your days will be eventful; the work will be challenging, rewarding and fun. Your discoveries will be of huge benefit to the conservation of these fabulous coral reefs and you will gain immense satisfaction from knowing that you have helped protect these precious natural resources for future generations. The results from your investigations will supply vital information on the Madagascan coastline to enable the sustainable management of natural resources in the region and the protection of the marine wildlife. WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO? An Exotic Island Paradise 165 million years of isolation have created a globally important biodiversity treasure with over 80% of species endemic to this island paradise. Frontier Madagascar’s conservation project is located on the island of Nosy Be in the northwest Mozambique Channel. Characterised by shallow continental shelf waters, the mangrove and coral reef ecosystems are home to a diverse array of associated fauna and flora and home to many charismatic and unique marine mega- and micro-fauna. Population growth and removal of foreign aid has lead to the coastal zones being under chronic stress from socioeconomic anthropogenic pressures. Increased deforestation causes sedimentation to the reefs and removal of mangroves for wood and building materials has removed many precious nursery areas for coral reef fauna. The Malagasy government is now working with international conservation and aid agencies to halt this destruction and save the island's invaluable biodiversity, and Frontier volunteers are an integral part of this effort. Record Marine Biodiversity Through SCUBA and snorkel surveys you will map coral, identify reef fish and invertebrates, study abundance of indicator fish species and possibly sight whale sharks. Diving under the supervision of a professional dive officer, you will become confident and comfortable underwater. Your results will determine the biodiversity of these waters and help formulate future management plans. Other activities include surveying mangroves, a vital buffer against storm surges caused by cyclones, and an important part of the coastal ecosystem. If you are only able to join the project for 2 or 3 weeks your involvement in the surveys and conservation work will be limited. Malagasy Culture & Communities Working alongside the Malagasy people will give you an insight into their extraordinary culture. You may even be invited to some of their ceremonies as such as local weddings or the Donia street festival. Community work includes Environmental Awareness days in local schools and villages to explain Frontier's work and promote conserving the environment. The data from your investigations will supply vital information on the coastline for the Madagascan National Programme. WHAT WILL I BE DOING? The marine research and conservation programme is run in association with L'Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marine (IHSM), with whom Frontier has been in partnership since 2000. This research and conservation project aims to provide the local communities, stakeholders and government bodies with the information they need to design and implement management plans for the future protection of this pristine marine ecosystem. To gather the data needed you will undertake diving surveys and snorkel surveys (weather permitting), mangrove transects and interviews, with one day off each week. If you need dive training we will train you up on the Frontier camp at the start of the project. Your activities will involve locating and mapping the extensive, pristine coral reefs and studying the various communities existing on them. The number of dives completed each week on the project depend on the quarterly science plan and itinerary as set by the Frontier field staff. You'll also explore the important mangrove forests and record the rich variety of organisms living there and in the other intertidal zones. Whilst diving you will discover dense sea grass beds rich sources of nutrients for the marine communities. You will deploy a wide range of newly learned research skills and scientific techniques including: underwater visual census of reef and commercial fish such as trigger fish and parrot fish, assessment of algal and coral cover to determine the extent of coral bleaching and damage, and line intercept transects for benthic life and indicator invertebrate species such as nudibranchs. You may even get to study the impact of potentially destructive fishing methods on the corals reefs, study the effects of global warming on marine communities or note any indication of the impact of the marine-curio trade on endangered marine invertebrates. Whilst diving and snorkelling, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals from colourful reef fish species to turtles, sea cucumbers to cushion stars and spiny urchins to octopuses. By the end of your project you will be capable of identifying a wide range of colourful and patterned reef organisms, as well as being an experienced and competent diver. Although the work is intense and challenging you'll get immense satisfaction from having survived and from having made a valuable contribution to the conservation of this marine environment. Volunteers who join the project for less than 4 weeks will not be able to participate in the full range of project activities and surveys, but will still be able to make a valuable contribution to the work. You will return home with vast numbers of photos, lots of new friends, a wealth of fascinating stories and extraordinary memories. You'll find your team to be a fun, dynamic mix of ages and experiences, with members who all share a passion about travelling in developing countries and conserving nature. Your staff will be a friendly and welcoming group who are highly experienced in their research field and many of whom will have been Frontier volunteers at an earlier stage in their career.
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