Expedition Information

Madagascar Kit list

The objective is to take the smallest amount of equipment needed to be comfortable and safe. Always aim to buy equipment that is compact, light weight, durable, quick drying, versatile and in good repair. You may find that you have suitable gear already, so don’t feel you have to buy everything new. Shop around and price everything before purchasing anything. Some items you may be able to borrow from friends or relatives, pick up second hand, or get deals off the internet.

We have done some research and certain outlets will give you some excellent deals if you mention our name. In the UK our main contacts are: Nomad Travel (0207 833 4114), and Travel with Care (01980 626 361) for the terrestrial projects.

Try out your kit in realistic circumstances if at all possible before your expedition, especially new boots which can often need time to fully mould to the shape of your feet. We also advise that new boots which should be soaked and worn till they dry on your feet to prevent blisters whilst trekking. All baggage, clothes and kit should be clearly labelled to avoid confusion. There are many volunteers, and some may have the same or similar items to you. Valuables are very occasionally at risk. Please make sure you have insurance, record all serial numbers and keep all receipts. Remember to carry all personal documents and cash safely in a concealed money belt.

The sections below relate to equipment for terrestrial projects, marine projects and personal medical kit.

Hiking boots. You do not have to spend a fortune on boots just make sure they have firm ankle support, a semi-flexible sole with good grips and dry relatively quickly. Light-weight Gore-tex boots (or a cheaper equivalent) are a comfortable and sturdy solution. Please ensure that all footwear is clean before you leave home, to prevent the spread of diseases that are harmful to animals such as the Chytrid fungus that infects amphibians (that has recently been introduced to Madagascar).

Hiking sandals.  These types of sandals (Tevas or the like) are really useful as a number of the routes you will walk require you to go through water, sometimes for quite lengthy distances.  Most hikes are easy walking and quite sandy so having footwear that can easily make the transition from wet to dry saves having to change out of boots into sandals or going bare foot.

Large Travel Bag. You will not be required to hike with your main luggage so rucksacks are not strictly necessary in Madagascar.  However, if you have one, they are really useful and practical for travelling.  An alternative is a strong holdall.  We wouldn’t recommend hard suitcases as they are harder to transport once in site.

Day bag/Small rucksack. Needed for your field work for carrying water, paper, pens, binoculars, cameras etc.

Sleeping Bag. We recommend a 2 or 3 season sleeping bag depending on if you feel the cold.  It is not very cold at night, but can feel quiet chilly on some nights.

Roll Mat/Thermarest. It is advisable to take a good roll mat or thermarest with you as you will be sleeping in tents on the ground.

Pillow. Pillows are not provided so if you cannot sleep without one you will need to bring one.  Alternatively bring a pillowcase and stuff it with clothes.

Water bottle/platypus, etc. A combination of leak-proof plastic bottles (total capacity 2 litres) is imperative. There are many styles to choose from – it is not necessary to get anything fancy, though if you do want to invest in one of the ‘hydration systems’ on the market (Platypus, camelback, Ortileb) they do have the advantage of packing flat when not in use. Nalgene do a heavy-duty wide mouthed bottle with a measuring gauge.

Head Torch. These are essential for night walks with the herpetology team and going to the toilet in the night! We highly recommend a head torch with a high lumen rating to be able to spot the wildlife, and please make sure you bring plenty of spare batteries or a re-chargeable head torch/batteries are a great option.

Insect repellent.  There are lots of mosquitos so bring plenty! DEET based repellents can’t be used on a number of surveys where you will be handling the wildlife so make sure you bring non-DEET repellent as well.

Clothing. It is advantageous to pack as lightly as possible. You will be able to do hand washing at our sites and things dry quickly in the sun or give laundry to the locals for a small charge. Please bare in mind temperatures can fluctuate in Madagascar at this time of year with very hot day time temperatures and evenings that can get very chilly, it is suggested if you are prone to feeling the cold you should bring a couple of warm items of clothing.

  • Lightweight long baggy trousers (2-3 pairs)
  • Shorts (2 pairs)
  • Cotton t-shirts (~3-4)
  • Long sleeved top/shirts (~3-4)
  • Lightweight Hoodie/sweatshirt (2)
  • Nightwear
  • Cap/Sun hat
  • Socks
  • Knickers/underpants
  • Bras

Towel. Don’t bring a big thick towel as it is heavy and won’t dry quickly enough. Excellent travel towels are available or a sarong will do the job brilliantly.

Sunblock.

Notebooks/pencils. These are a necessity for all fieldwork.

Binoculars. These are highly desirable. (8 x 40 recommended).  You do not need expensive binoculars – Amazon has some great deals!

Watch with alarm. It doesn’t have to be anything technical. A travel alarm clock will also do.

Sunglasses.

Camera Bringing a digital or standard camera will enhance your experience but is not essential.

Marine based projects

Dive Training Courses
All those learning to dive will need to bring a PADI Open Water manual, RDP and logbook with them. They’ll also need a form of PIC, which allows you to register your completion of the course at the end of it. You can find information on purchasing these from http://opwall.com/get-involved/making-a-payment/padi-pack-and-pic-purchase/

If you want to buy these items elsewhere, please remember that the PIC is rarely included with the training materials, but it is still required. You can buy them on their own from us, but they’re £26 (or equivalent) each.

You will not be able to complete the Open Water course if you arrive on site without these items.

If you are already a qualified diver, we will require proof of your dive qualifications on site. You will also need to bring with you your completed log books, and PADI forms. We do accept non-PADI qualifications, as long as it is equivalent to or more advanced than PADI Open Water.

PADI Forms
Please bring your completed, original PADI forms with you on expedition, but you’ll need to send them beforehand to us for checking. Please find more details on the expedition document pages.

Dive equipment
We have negotiated a deal with Reef Divers whereby whether you are diving or snorkelling a full set of dive or snorkelling gear can be rented for £40-£50/week. Note this is a big discount on the normal $14 a day charge but it has to be paid in advance and there are no refunds available. Payments will need to be made in advance for those diving. Please contact diveuk@opwall.com for more information.

Wetsuit/rash vest. The water temperature in Nosy Be is around 26 degrees, which after being in the water for a pro-longed period of time you will feel the cold.  We therefore highly recommend you to bring a thin full length wetsuit (2-3mm), not only because of the extra warmth that they provide but also the protection they offer against the suns UV and stinging creatures. Wetsuits do not need to be really expensive, check out the larger supermarket chains (or sports direct if you are in the UK) as they often sell these near the summer.

Dive watch or computer. This is a requirement under PADI regulations for qualified divers. However, PADI allows Open Water divers to go off diving in buddy pairs on their own without a Dive Master whereas Opwall regulations require that all divers are accompanied by a Dive Master who times their dives. Under these circumstances we don’t consider it necessary but if you have a waterproof watch or dive computer please take it.

Mask and Snorkel. Available for hire.  However, if you want to invest in some equipment then a mask is a really good place to start (after a wetsuit).  If you wear glasses then it is possible to have a prescription mask made up for you by your optician or on-line so that you can fully enjoy the reef and fish.

Fins and Booties. Limited supply of full foot fins available for hire on site (fins come in two varieties, full foot fins, and fins with straps that require neoprene booties). Also when the tide is out walking to the boat over the silt, sharp shells and stones can be a very long walk and strappy sandals are prone to breaking so we highly recommend bringing neoprene booties as well as sandals. Flip flops are useless for this as they come off in the water, but are good for walking around camp.  It is essential to have some form of foot protection to avoid cuts when walking to the boats.

Swimsuit.

Notebooks and pencils. A requirement for all projects – if you want to splash out, waterproof books are definitely an advantage.

Personal Medical Kit

Although every expedition will have its own medical supplies and medical teams on site, you MUST carry your own personal medical kit. This way you will be as self sufficient as possible and able to treat minor scrapes and injuries yourself

The following are essential items:

  • Sun cream (SPF 25+)
  • Insect Repellent (there are lots of mosquitos)
  • Antihistamine tablets (Piriton/Piriteze) and antihistamine cream
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Paracetomol (bring plenty)
  • Ibuprofen
  • Rehydration salts (Dioralyte/Electrolade)
  • Elastoplast – waterproof and fabric x 4, medium size (if allergic, use micropore)
  • Anti-malarials (remember you cannot take Larium and dive)

Important
If you need to take prescribed medicines whilst on expedition, please bring sufficient supplies to cover your stay. For example if you are asthmatic you MUST bring your own inhalers, or if you have a history or recognized risk of going into anaphylactic shock due to an allergy, you must supply your own Epipen.

Always waterproof and clearly label drugs (with generic, rather than trade names). Occasionally there are restrictions on travelling with certain medicines. If you think this may be relevant to you, please contact your Home Office Drugs Branch (in the UK: 0207 273 3806).