Medical elective students are invited to join Blue Ventures' award-winning community health team at our base in the village of Andavadoaka, Madagascar, for 4-6 week placements.
- Booking your expedition
- Volunteer profile
- Pre-departure preparations
- Science training
- Life on site
How do I join a Blue Ventures expedition?1. Complete and submit our online application form.
2. If we’re able to accept your application, we’ll send you an email offering you a place on your chosen expedition with a link to download our detailed pre-departure guide.
3. If you request to speak to us about joining an expedition, we’ll give you a call at a time that’s convenient for you and answer any of your questions over the phone. You’re also welcome to come and visit us at our London office.
4. Once you’ve decided that you’d like to join a Blue Ventures expedition, you’ll be asked to confirm your place by paying a non-refundable deposit and agreeing to our booking conditions. This allows us to guarantee you a place on your chosen expedition, with the full balance of your expedition fees due at least 6 weeks before departure.
5. Once your place is confirmed, you’ll be asked to complete and submit various forms, including medical forms to be completed with your doctor, and details of your travel insurance policy, flights and emergency contacts. We’ll be on hand to provide any guidance that you need, and are always happy to answer any questions as our volunteers prepare for their trip.
Why should I choose to go with Blue Ventures?There are plenty of reasons why we stand out from the crowd! From our high quality accommodation and rigorous science training to our conservation impact, find out more about what makes us different, and check out our award-winning responsible practices.
Don't just take our word for it... these volunteer stories give a varied glimpse into life on our expeditions, and we're always happy to put prospective volunteers in touch with our expedition alumni in order to be able to hear first-hand about their experiences.
If I’m unable to join the expedition at the last minute, will I be eligible for a refund?We ask for a non-refundable deposit in order to be able to guarantee you a place on your chosen expedition, and the balance of your expedition fees is due at least 6 weeks before departure. In the unlikely event that a volunteer isn’t able to join the expedition and has already paid their balance, their travel insurance company should be able to offer a refund. Volunteers who pull out 4 weeks or less before the start of an expedition will not be eligible for a refund. Volunteers who pull out more than 4 weeks before the start of an expedition will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
If I can't go for the whole 6 weeks, can I still join an expedition?Yes! We offer flexible start dates and expedition durations. If you can't join us for the full 6 weeks then please contact us to discuss how we can tailor your time on site.
When do the expeditions start throughout the year?Please check out the dates of our expeditions.
How long can I stay?Generally expedition volunteers stay for 6-12 weeks, but if you’re enjoying yourself and we’re enjoying having you, essentially the stay can be as long as you wish! The longer a volunteer stays, the lower the price of the additional weeks.
What’s included in my expeditions fees?Please check out what’s included in the costs of our expeditions.
Can anyone join a Blue Venture expedition?Anyone can join a Blue Ventures expedition providing that they’re in a reasonable state of fitness and good health; we require volunteers to go for a medical check with their doctor prior to departure, with a medical form that the doctor must sign. Volunteers must be able to swim 400 metres confidently and tread water for 2 minutes unaided.
I’m not a UK citizen - can I join a Blue Ventures expedition?Absolutely! Blue Ventures has alumni from all around the world; Canada, France, Belgium, Sweden, Australia, India, etc! Anyone is welcome to join a Blue Ventures expedition providing that they’re able to speak and read English, as all dive and science training are in English.
What is the average age of a Blue Ventures volunteer?Typically our volunteers are aged between 17 and 60, but there’s no upper age limit. Every expedition group is made up of people with a wide range of ages, and the average age of our volunteers is 28. We insist that all volunteers who wish to scuba dive are at least 17 years of age, although we accept volunteers under 17 years of age to participate in non-diving activities (so long as they’re accompanied by an adult), and families are welcome to join too.
Will I meet my fellow volunteers before the expedition starts?Volunteers are put in contact with the rest of their group 6 weeks before the expedition starts. This allows them to get to know each other a little, and even coordinate travel plans if they would like to travel together. We also offer a popular overland trip from Antananarivo to Toliara just before the expedition starts, so many volunteers join this trip and get to know each other on the journey.
Do I need previous marine science or diving experience to go on a Blue Ventures expedition?No! With a high staff to volunteer ratio, our expeditions team are on hand to support you to develop your marine science and diving skills. Half of our volunteers have never dived before, and our PADI dive courses represent excellent value for money.
How do I get to Madagascar?There are regular flights to Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, from London, Paris, Bangkok, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Mauritius. We recommend checking prices with SkyScanner; Kenya Airways, Air France and Air Mauritius tend to offer the most competitive fares from Europe.
How do I get to your field site in Andavadoaka from the capital city of Antananarivo?Our expeditions formally start and end in the southwest regional centre of Toliara, which is a short Air Madagascar flight from the capital city of Antananarivo. Transfers between Toliara and our field site in the village of Andavadoaka take 6-8 hours by 4x4, and are organised by Blue Ventures.
As an alternative to the Air Madagascar flight, we offer a very popular overland tour from Antananarivo (Madagascar's capital city situated in the central highlands) down to Toliara on the southwest coast at the beginning of each expedition, and from Toliara back up to Antananarivo at the end of each expedition, covering 1,000 kilometres through beautiful scenery and some of Madagascar's most famous national parks, with plenty of opportunities for spotting lemurs!
Do I need insurance?Yes, we require you to have two forms of insurance: basic travel insurance and specific dive insurance provided by Divers Alert Network (DAN). They are our chosen partner for our scuba emergency evacuation plan, so we insist that all volunteers have a DAN insurance policy.
Do I need a visa?Most nationalities need a visa when entering Madagascar, and this can be obtained at the airport for stays of up to three months. For further details please see our expeditions guide.
What vaccinations will I need to visit Madagascar?Before you join an expedition, you should see your doctor or an accredited travel clinic who will advise you on the vaccinations that you need to visit for Madagascar. As a guide, the standard vaccinations are:
• Polio, tetanus and diphtheria
• Meningitis A & C
• Hepatitis A
• Hepatitis B
• Yellow fever (only if staying in a yellow fever country en route to Madagascar)
Do I need any diving experience to join a Blue Ventures expedition?Both qualified and non-qualified divers are welcome to join our expeditions, with the PADI Advanced Open Water course offered to those without this qualification, including a Peak Performance Buoyancy adventure dive. Dive training is carried out during the first two weeks of expeditions, so that all volunteers are qualified to participate in underwater surveys once they have successfully completed their science training.
Experienced divers who have not dived in the six months prior to their expedition are required to take a refresher course with us, to ensure that they are confident and well trained. We also offer the PADI Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and Dive Master courses for those who wish to advance their diving qualifications.
What if I have diving accreditation through BSAC, NAUI or another organisation?All of our volunteers must be trained up to PADI Advanced Open Water or equivalent to participate in our underwater survey dives, so please contact our London-based expeditions team to check your qualification level if you’ve trained with a different scuba agency.
Do I need my own diving equipment?You’ll need to bring some personal diving equipment: wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins, watch or dive computer, dive torch (for night dives!), delayed SMB with reel and underwater slate (for our research work). You’ll be wearing your wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins almost daily for 6 weeks so it's very important that these fit well and are comfortable. We provide the scuba equipment you need including buoyancy control devices (BCDs), regulators, weights and cylinders. It is also a PADI requirement that you have your own manuals for all the dive courses you are undergoing whilst on expedition so you'll need to bring these along too if applicable.
How much diving will I do each week?We dive five days per week, and you’ll normally dive once or twice per day. The majority of our dives are science-related, for example, including training sessions, recording fish and benthic transect data, or surveying new reef sites. Diving is strictly weather-dependent due to safety concerns, and subject to logistical restrictions.
Which dive courses are offered while on expedition?All expedition volunteers are trained up to PADI Advanced Open Water level. We also offer the PADI Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and Dive Master courses for those who wish to advance their diving qualifications.
Please note that volunteers must be on site for a minimum of 12 weeks to complete their PADI Dive Master and must complete in this order: Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and finally Dive Master.
What do expedition volunteers learn?All of our volunteers complete an intensive two-week science training programme run by our field scientists at the beginning of each expedition, involving numerous snorkelling and diving excursions as well as informal lectures, small group discussions and practical exercises on coral and fish species identification. All training materials are provided on site.
Will I be tested?Yes, all of our volunteers are tested on coral and fish species identification in order to ensure that the data we collect is scientifically robust. Tests involve point-out dives, where volunteers find and identify a variety of coral and fish species. Most volunteers pass these tests by the second or third week of the expedition, before moving on to underwater survey dives with our field scientists.
Telma sim card in Antananarivo or Toliara and use this for your time in Madagascar. Telephone/internet credit is available to buy in Andavadoaka. You can also buy a internet dongle in Toliara to use with a laptop should you wish.
What will the weather be like in Andavadoaka?Andavadoaka is situated on Madagascar’s dry southwest coast, where the weather tends to be very warm and settled. There are two main seasonal variations, the hot/wet season (November to March) when the temperatures soars, making diving very pleasant due to the water temperature, although occasional storms may be expected around February and March. The dry season (April to October) is slightly cooler, making a thin wetsuit necessary.
What will I eat in Andavadoaka?Local chefs prepare three meals per day for our expeditions team and volunteers. Breakfast is fruit (such as banana or pineapple), freshly baked bread with honey or eggs (bring your favourite spread!) and coffee or tea. Lunch is salad, rice, spaghetti, beans, fish or meat, and vegetables. Dinner is rice, spaghetti, beans, fish or meat, vegetables and a dessert. We're normally able to cater for those with specific dietary requirements, particularly vegetarians. Treated drinking water is freely available on site, with bottled water and other beverages and various snacks available to purchase from the local restaurant or shops. Volunteers are given the opportunity to learn how to make traditional snacks, such as doughnuts and fish samosas.
What can I do in my spare time in Andavadoaka?Lots! In their down time, our expedition volunteers can be found learning to sail with local fishers, exploring the baobab forest, taking a picnic out to one of the nearby islands where there is excellent snorkelling, relaxing in their hammocks, playing beach volleyball, etc.
How does Blue Ventures ensure the safety of its volunteers?Safety is our top priority when working both above and below the water in remote environments. Our volunteers are required to complete a medical check with their doctor before joining an expedition with us, and we aim to have a qualified medic on site at all times, with additional 24-hour medical support provided both from our UK based medical and within each expedition country.
Rest days (decompression days) are incorporated into our schedules, and conservative dive profiles allow for a large safety margin. Communications can be difficult on remote expeditions so our field sites and research boats are connected by VHF radios and/or mobile and satellite phones at all times, and our research boats carry medical oxygen on all diving trips.
We have a worst-case scenario medical evacuation (Medivac) plan, supported by 24-hour contact with our head office staff and medical advisers. All of our expeditions staff are experienced divers, with training in first aid and practical rescue management skills.
7 March 2014: How the 'Avon' model is empowering women to 'inspire change' in Madagascar by Laura Robson in The Huffington Post
25 February 2014: After a chance meeting, a new Population-Health-Environment programme is born in Madagascar by Dr Vik Mohan in the Wilson Center's New Security Beat blog
13 February 2014: The blog "Shark fishers in Madagascar sell fins for pennies" is featured in the National Geographic.
January 15, 2014: The video "What I see is that women are healthier...children are healthier" by Vik Mohan is featured in the New Security Beat blog.
December, 2013: Notes from Nosy Mitseo, Madagascar: the legacy of the demand for shark fin by Garth Cripps and Fran Humber is featured on the Save our Seas Foundation's blog.
September, 2013: First shark data sent by smartphone by Fran Humber is featured on the Save our Seas Foundation's blog.
October, 2013: Business + Conservation + Communities: The Rise of Community Focused Marine Tourism in the WIO by Taylor Mayol is featured in Wiomsa Magazine.
Nov 12th, 2013: Family Planning in Madagascar: lessons from a conservation NGO is published in the Guardian.