Although I do enjoy the old spot of casual travel, I often feel rather too vagrant simply interacting with everything new in the world without having a particular purpose (other than trying to learn more about my curious self…aren’t we supposed to?). One of the best ways I have been able to do this is by taking part in conservation — above and below the ground.
Despite the oh so fabulous experiences you encounter when spending time with other tourists and foreigners, there’s something highly fruitful when becoming part of a local culture and community. I’m not the only one who has cottoned on to this idea! By doing so I’ve met some inspiring and beautiful people along the way… not to mention the benefits of studying and helping to conserve the very paradise in which you have been welcomed to live and work in.
Madagascar, Nosy Komba
An island covered in dense tropical forest, situated to the north west of mainland Madagascar. It’s beautiful and filled with a multitude of endemic species that are sadly threatened. Nosy Komba is close by to the more well-known and larger Nosy Be — the place to go to on weekends off for some partying with the locals, exploration or electricity for those who become desperate. Sadly it also fuels the prostitution trade, which I was unaware of until visiting.
I chose to do my conservation work with IVHQ Madagascar in 2015.
I was given the chance to get involved with a variety of efforts, all focused on the protection of Madagascar’s marine ecosystem. I mainly collected data through reef surveying, turtle monitoring and nudibranch research! The nudi research was possibly my favourite…they look like funky flying magic carpets.Of course, I received training to prepare myself for this research, which essentially involved learning how to identify the abundance of amazing and wonderful things down there. And yes, all this research involved rather early morning starts…but these early starts constituted waking up in an open hut listening and seeing the sounds of the jungle. Probably the best wake up call I’ve ever had.
I took part in species identification of lemurs, reptiles and birds in Nosy Komba’s dense and rather steep tropical forest. The jungle welcomes many of the iconic wildlife species that Madagascar is famous for, and this is partly why it was so special. My studying and monitoring of species was, and still is part of a project to figure out changes in forest dynamics, populations, habitat health, and possible threats to this. Like with marine conservation, I received species identification training and learnt how to conduct surveys and collect data.
During both projects I also had the opportunity to educate the local community about environmental issues, conservation and protection of biodiversity and marine resources. This was really where I was able to find a connection, through a deeper understanding of another community that I wasn’t really familiar with, because I became to understand how difficult it is to change a perspective of a society that has been living a way of life long before I walked the planet. This frightened and fascinated me at the same time.
What did I learn?
This experience was probably what finally burst through that nomadic spirit of mine that was itching to break free. The lifestyle…the connections…all will be remembered and yearned for!
Sure I had travelled before this, but it was a different type of experience and one I would recommend to anyone, whatever conservation or volunteer work you choose to do. It felt as if you weren’t just taking part but also giving back, a thank you to what you were experiencing. And yes, I never said that I did this solely for the environment….I was always aware of the huge selfish part in this also – but what’s wrong with taking a little back for your efforts? That is what lead me to respect the world I live in much more and henceforth my mentality toward the way I should treat it.
To be honest, when I left Nosy Komba I felt like I was leaving something truly close to my heart….the culture, the community, the attitudes, it all makes you feel something, something I cannot quite put into words.
A roadtrip across Madagascar! East to West.
Check out my post ‘A Malagasy Ride’
What did this lead me to do?
I realised on this trip that whilst I experience other cultures and landscapes, it will most likely alter what I want in life in return. During my marine conservation, I noticed I probably was never happier than I was at that moment. Of course this was encouraged by the minimalist lifestyle that allowed me to consume my experiences rather than material things, but it was also because I was underwater. When I left Madagascar I decided that when I got the chance I would work to achieve the goal of one day living in this lifestyle constantly.
Check out my posts ‘Divemaster Course – Thailand’ and ‘Instructor Course – Philippines’.