Experience the rich biodiversity of Sainte Luce!
I have been sitting on my hands for a while now trying to decide how I can possibly capture my experience with SEED Madagascar in a few hundred words. And I think I have come to terms with the fact that nothing short of being there yourself can really measure up.
If you are considering volunteering for SEED’s conservation program, this IS the experience you have been looking for. From July to September, I spent ten weeks working with international and Malagasy staff, learning all about conservation at its very core. We ate, walked, worked, adventured, walked (there’s a lot of walking), and experienced the region together. There were hard days, like when my pack got soaked by a spontaneous nighttime downpour, when I found out I had fleas for the second time, or when I had an incident with a vine that left a linear bruise across my face, but those days are outweighed by the purity of the experience. We are lucky that Sainte Luce is a place that you truly become part of the community and get to know the littoral forest beyond what a tourist might see. In one day you might see a hundred geckos or frogs, and not quite so many lemurs. I often opted to go without bug spray so I could get a closer look at the frogs, but be careful because Heterixalis boettgeri like to jump on your face. And you are the scientist, so you get to find them, identify the species, and take the measurements; all of which will make a huge difference in protecting the forests.
Not only do you get to experience the region’s rich biodiversity, but you also get to immerse yourself in Madagascar. Some of my favorite memories from my trip were just everyday things: looking up on clear nights and seeing the brilliant Milky Way, the brilliant cook Vayah’s morning mofo (Malagasy fried bread), and even just spending endless hours with the Research Assistants and other volunteers drawing, talking, or playing games. They all will have something unique to bring to the team so be sure to interact with everyone. I also loved being able to learn a little bit of Malagasy language to communicate with locals and guides. Even if languages aren’t your greatest skill, don’t be shy about practicing with people, it will absolutely be worth the time.
Lastly, come in with an open mind. As I said at the start, it’s impossible to capture the entire experience, so it probably will not be what you expect. It will likely be more adventurous, more magical, and a hell of a lot more sand-filled than you might imagine. Volunteering in Sainte Luce will be life changing, and I hope that you enjoy your time as much as I did, and will walk more inspired and motivated to protect Madagascar’s ecosystems than when you arrived.