Based in Lokobe National Park, participants on a wildlife research fellowship receive on-the-ground training, learn from conservation experts and gain career-boosting experience. With access to scientific datasets, you can work on your university dissertation or one of GVI’s flagship research projects. You’ll also have the chance to lead or co-author a paper on a specific conservation issue.
On this research fellowship you’ll conduct surveys and collect data on amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, biodiversity, lemurs and birds. The data collected will be used for your individual research project or long-term research initiatives. Working alongside experts, you’ll gain career-boosting experience while contributing to conservation projects through ongoing research work – including entering data into citizen science databases, and leading environmental education on environmental topics. Apply all you’ve learnt by writing up a final research report or contributing to long-term research publications.
Along with skills that you’ll develop in wildlife conservation, species identification, survey research and population ecology, you’ll also gain experience in research data collection, data analysis and presentation, report writing, leadership, project management, critical thinking, time management, interpersonal skills, communication, and teamwork. Further develop your career skills by completing three of our optional online courses which are included in your program: Leading Teams for Impact, Careers in Sustainable Development and Wildlife Conservation.
Our base is next to Lokobe National Park, home to many species only found in Madagascar, like the Hawks’ Sportive lemur, dwarf frogs, chameleons and the Madagascar tree boa.
Participants on this program will contribute to UN SDG 13: Climate Action and Goal 15: Life on Land.
Complete your thesis or dissertation with focused research, guided by experts with access to exclusive data on several critically endangered species, including black lemurs, Hawks’ sportive lemurs panther chameleons, dwarf chameleons, green turtles, and hawksbill turtles.
Immerse yourself in three diverse, species-rich ecosystems – rainforest, ocean and tropical coast – in one location.
Conduct research abroad and co-author or publish a scientific paper on a pressing conservation topic.
Join GVI on one of our flagship research projects, or complete your own thesis or dissertation.
Attend individual sessions with a qualified PhD-holding scientist with a strong academic background.
Contribute to a legacy of 25+ years of scientific conservation research that has been cited over 1,000 times.
Travel off the beaten track to live and work in remote habitats. Get exclusive access to protected species and unique ecosystems.
Gain international experience, receive four recognised qualifications and get a LinkedIn reference to boost your CV.
This internship is specifically useful for someone who has or is actively studying the below subject areas at school, university or college, or has an interest in these subject areas.
Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program.
Learn how to identify species, conduct surveys and population assessments, assess threats to terrestrial ecosystems, and track ecosystem-level processes.
Contribute to ongoing camera trap studies; learn to track wildlife; and lead lemur, bird, reptile and biodiversity surveys. The data you collect in the field will either be for your individual research project or for GVI’s ongoing flagship research initiative.
You will get involved in our ongoing conservation project work including entering data into citizen science databases, and leading environmental education and community outreach workshops on various environmental topics.
You will learn how to manage GVI’s databases, assist with data entry, analyse data for insights, and present data in visual and written formats.
Work on a research project that contributes to GVI’s ongoing research or addresses the topic covered in your personal dissertation or thesis.
Meet weekly in a small group with other research fellows and interns to receive guidance and feedback on your research or receive training on research methods.
Apply what you’ve learnt to write up a final research report. Or lead/co-author articles for long-form research publications.
Some of the partners we work with on base.
|24-hour emergency desk|
|24-hour in-country support|
|Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)|
|All project equipment|
|Food (except on long-term internship placements|
|Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)|
|Group introductory call|
|Endorsed GVI Specialisation Course|
|Endorsed Leadership Course|
|Sustainable project work|
|Data collection and research|
|Real projects with partners|
|Weekly group check ins|
|Remote Academic Internship Supervisor|
|Remote Career Internship Supervisor|
|Preferential recruitment on GVI positions|
|Job portal access|
|Endorsed Careers Course|
|Career coaching sessions|
Certificates and achievements
|PDF reference - upon request|
|Linkedin reference and skills endorsement|
|Additional drinks and gratuities|
|Extra local excursions|
|International and domestic airport taxes|
|Medical and travel insurance|
|Personal items and toiletries|
|Police or background check|
Our base is located on Nosy Be island – also known as the “Perfumed Island” because of its ylang-ylang plantations, which give off a beautiful floral scent during their flowering season. This island is also renowned for its extinct volcanoes, ancient rainforests and an abundance of rare and incredible species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, such as the Nosy Be panther chameleon, the Hawks’ sportive lemur and the Madagascan fish eagle. Nosy Be means “big island” in the local Malagasy language, and is located off the northwestern coast of Madagascar.
Fieldwork on the conservation project includes trekking through the Lokobe National Park, (a “Strict Reserve”), looking for signs of critically endangered lemurs and the great variety of bird, reptile, amphibian and butterfly species that call this rainforest habitat home. Forest surveys are conducted in the morning or at night. You can catch spectacular sunsets and sunrises over the Indian Ocean. There are bound to be many priceless photo opportunities during the course of your program.
If you choose to complete a community development program, you will assist with teaching the English language – supporting the younger students with the language, as well as assisting with their grasp of environmental education. That will take place in the mornings. In the evenings, you will be doing the same for the Lokobe park rangers and other adults. English is a vital skill for people to learn as it’s highly sought after in the local job market and tourism industry.
Your accommodation – which is a stone’s throw from the beach –consists of dormitory style rooms with shared bathroom facilities. We use solar power and backup generators. Condit...
Travelling to and from Fascene Airport takes around 75 minutes, and can be arranged with GVI in advance, to align with your program’s start date. This consists of a 30-minute ta...
You will have limited access to long-distance communications while on the program, so make sure that your friends and family know how often they can expect to hear from you. Par...
The Malagasy diet is mostly rice- and bean-based. A typical main meal consists of rice alongside servings of seasonal vegetables in a sauce, with meat occasionally included. Loc...
Nosy Be has a hot, tropical climate all year round. The rainy, hotter season is between November and April, and the dry season from May to October. You can expect temperatures o...
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
We want you to make the most of the chance to live in – and contribute towards – the most diverse and unique wildernesses and communities on earth. Introducing GVI Experiences – immersive adventure, cultural and wellness activities exclusive to GVI that have been specially designed in collaboration with our local partners to support and stimulate sustainable economic development.
Enhance your impact. Expand your adventure. Explore your world.
Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.
Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.
You can spend time in the village and visit a local market, café or restaurant, and soak in the laid-back lifestyle and interesting culture. Although the island is still largely...
Mont Passot is the highest point on Nosy Be island, at 329 metres above sea level. It’s surrounded by eight crater lakes that are considered sacred, where you will often spot cr...
June to September is humpback whale-watching season. During this season you can book a tour with a responsible, ethical tour provider. If you’re lucky, you might spot some whale...
Book a recreational dive to experience the exceptional variety of Indian Ocean marine life up close. Among the vibrant corals, you can spot a vast array of colourful tropical fi...
Visit one of Nosy Be’s many palm-lined stretches of golden beach, such as Andilana, Ambondrona, Madirokely and Ambatoloaka, and enjoy a relaxing day swimming in the warm waters ...
Visit the Sacred Tree, located close to Mahatsinjo village, on the western side of Nosy Be island. This huge banyan tree was planted by the queen of the Sakalava people in 1836,...
We’re based right on the edge of Lokobe National Park which holds the last remaining preserved primitive forest on the island of Nosy Be. The forest is bordered by a beach and i...
South Africa is a mere three-and-a-half-hour flight from Madagascar. Fly to Johannesburg and book a safari tour through the famous Kruger National Park or experience the beauty ...
This breathtaking archipelago of islands is home to pristine beaches, coral reefs, nature reserves, as well as rare animals such as the giant Aldabra tortoise. From the main isl...
Visit the mainland to see a greater variety of species and experience other distinct cultures of Madagascar. See ring-tailed lemurs in Isalo National Park, hike the stone forest...
Madagascar is surrounded by many islands and islets. From our location on Nosy Be island, you can visit the neighbouring island of Nosy Sakatia, where you might be able to spot ...
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.
On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.
Marodoka village, which means “the ancient village” in Swahili, is located a few kilometres from Nosy Be’s centre. With exceptional architectural...
Many of Madagascar’s cultures have long-standing artisanal craft traditions. Some of these include intricate embroidery and brightly coloured baskets. Madagascar is also the pri...
The most notable festivals on the island of Nosy Be are dedicated to music. The Nosy Be Jazz Festival is held in April and the Donia Music Festival is held towards the end of Ma...
Most people in Madagascar speak Malagasy, a language with many dialects. The dialect that is most commonly spoken in the area in which we are based is Sakalava. Due to the influ...
If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.
We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.
Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.
Meet Padraig, also known as Pod, our Program Manager in Nosy Be, Madagascar. Pod is a passionate wildlife photographer and used to work professionally in the film and TV industr ...
‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.
We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.
GVI is a proud member of the Gap Year Association.
Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’
Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:
Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.
When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.
As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Madagascar is home to 5% of the world’s precious plant and animal species, with more than 70% being endemic to Madagascar. Lokobe National Park is the only remaining primary forest on the island. It’s also a rainforest, recognised as a nationally protected area by the government of Madagascar and defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a Strict Nature Reserve.
You will have the opportunity to get involved in vital project work such as camera trapping, behavioural surveys, and habitat surveys. You will also contribute towards reforestation efforts, sustainable agroforestry, and the prevention of the illegal logging and deforestation of Madagascar’s National Parks. One of the focuses being the monitoring and protection of the endemic species that are heavily poached for pet trade. For example, the monitoring of populations and numbers of the panther chameleon, one of the most poached and heavily trafficked chameleon species in the world.
Critically endangered species
The area is home to one species of endangered lemur, the black lemur, as well as two species of critically endangered lemurs, the Nosy Be sportive lemur, known as the Hawks’ Lemur, and the Nosy Be mouse lemur, better known as the “Claire’s mouse lemur”. As well as setting up and monitoring camera traps, we also track these animals and carry out behavioural surveys.
We carry out tracking, camera trapping, and surveys of other animals in the park, including insects, amphibians and reptiles – during the day and at night. This helps us determine the bioindicators of the park. The park has not been rigorously surveyed since the 1990s, and knowing the health of the park can assist local conservationists, governments, and international organisations improve decision-making.
Preventing poaching and the illegal wildlife trade
Despite being categorised as Least Concern by the IUCN when evaluated against the Red List, the panther chameleon is a highly poached and trafficked species, and part of the illegal pet trade. We monitor panther chameleon numbers in the forests to keep track of the naturally occurring numbers in the forest to ensure that the population remains sustainable.
Preventing deforestation and illegal logging
Habitat loss poses one of the greatest threats to all species. This is no exception in Madagascar, which has lost significant swathes of forest. We assist local park rangers and other organisations with maintaining endemic plant nurseries that will later be planted out into the forest. We also support other activities related to sustainable agroforestry and protections against deforestation and illegal logging, wherever possible.
The main United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) the GVI Nosy Be contributes towards is Goal 15: Life On Land.
GVI Nosy Be’s Long-term Objectives:
1. Monitoring and protection of critically endangered species.
2. Establishing the baseline biodiversity of Lokobe National Park, which hasn’t been rigorously surveyed since the early 1990s.
3. Reforestation, sustainable agroforestry, and working towards the prevention of illegal logging and deforestation of Madagascar’s National Parks.
4. Monitoring and protection of endemic species heavily poached for the pet trade, such as the panther chameleon – one of the most poached and heavily trafficked chameleon species in the world.
Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.
We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.
In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.
We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.
However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.
We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.
Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.
We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.
We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.
Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.
Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.
Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.
We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos
We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases
When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.
We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.
We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.
A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.
Learn about COVID-19 pre-departure guidelines, base expectations, personal and area hygiene practices and what we are doing to keep you safe.
Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.