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English Classes in Banana Village

Author: Emily Borth

English Classes - Banana Village MRCI 1

Building Friendships through English Classes

On the island of Nosy Komba, just a half-hour hike from the main village of Ampang sits Antitorona. A mix of wood and concrete buildings nestled right on the beach make up this picturesque village, with winding stone pathways leading up the mountain and into surrounding forest. Also known as ‘banana’ village, it is aptly nicknamed after the school there with its yellow uniforms and brightly painted buildings. The quiet beauty feels as if you’re inside a story book complete with a castle-like water tower near the tree-lined outer edge of the village. Working on MRCI’s teaching and construction programs, you get the chance to spend time in these small villages and get a glimpse into the lives of the people here.

Two artisans, wood sculptors named Cell and Ariss reside here on the Northeast side of Nosy Komba in this idyllic village. They have been friends for a couple of years now, bonded through their shared skillset. Ariss, the older of the two has two children he works hard to support. Originally from the neighboring island of Nosy Be, he serves as a de facto older brother figure for the younger Cell, born and raised here in Antitorona. They make a living mainly from the thriving tourism industry on Nosy Komba. On most pieces, they work together taking it in turns as they hone their craft. Each intricately carved work of art can take anywhere from half an hour to more than three hours depending on its size and complexity. They create beautiful carved wooden pieces and sell them in a few shops in the main village of Ampang.

We got to know them a few months ago when they began attending English classes in Antitorona held three times per week. MRCI teaches beginner and advanced English classes there for children, teens and adults. Thanks to donations from our generous volunteers, we stocked the classrooms with pens, notebooks and other school supplies and even provided a new whiteboard. Since many tourists to the area speak English, Cell and Ariss are hopeful that with a better grasp on the language, they can increase sales. They dream of one day expanding their business further and maybe even opening their own shop.

Just a few weeks ago, they created a beautiful wooden sign for MRCI’s newly built plant nursery, commissioned by volunteers on the forest program. In recognition of their hard work on the project, volunteers named the nursery after our Forest Officer, Menjah and former Forest Intern, Charles. The nursery will forever be known as Marles’s Nursery, denoted with a beautifully carved wooden sign (thanks to Ariss and Cell).

Ultimately, that’s what volunteering with MRCI is all about: becoming part of the community, living alongside the people here and learning from them. Conservation work helps ensure a healthy ecosystem for generations to come. No one understands that urgency better than those who live here and depend on what nature produces year after year. Together, with whole-hearted community support and cooperation, we progress.


Read More About Our Volunteer Teaching Program!


English Classes - Banana Village MRCI 2

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_1
BlogMarine Conservation

Marine Conservation Monthly Report

Author: Ethan Getz, Marine Science Manager
January 2018

Over the past few months, the marine conservation staff have worked to continue long-term reef monitoring projects while developing new methods to measure the health of our home reef and the surrounding reefs on Nosy Komba. Robust datasets have been collected from reef transect surveys, turtle watch, and nudibranch surveys. These long-term surveys will provide valuable information on the health of our MPA and some of the indicator species that inhabit it. In the coming months, efforts will be made to analyze these data in depth to decipher developing trends. While long-term data collection from existing surveys remains the primary goal, staff have also recently developed new reef survey methods.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_1

Baseline surveys using the Spirit of Malala were developed in November to assess the health of reefs all around Nosy Komba. To date, three baseline surveys have been conducted (at xmas tree hotel, greenhouse and pyramids) and data have now been analyzed. Results suggest that the south and west sides of Nosy Komba have healthy coral reefs while reefs are more sparse on the eastern side. Results from the sessile surveys indicate that no coral bleaching is currently happening and that the reef appears to be in a period of recovery. The presence of rock, sand and silt indicate that there have been damaging events in the past, but currently the reefs are rebuilding.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_2

Marine Conservation Monthly Report January 2018

Active swimmer surveys were used to determine the number of fish species at each site and which functional group they belong to (i.e. piscivores, herbivores, ect.). Results suggest that there is a good distribution of fish from each functional group on each reef, but the relatively low abundance of piscivores indicates that overfishing may be a problem on Nosy Komba.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_3

Marine Conservation Monthly Report January 2018

These species are generally the first ones to be fished out and their relatively low numbers point to fishing pressure in the area. Benthic surveys also provided data on invertebrate diversity around Nosy Komba and suggest that there is a healthy reef community.

In addition to baseline surveys, artificial reef surveys on the pyramids at Stonehenge and Madhatter have produced meaningful data. On average, each pyramid provides habitat for 115 fish, 39 bivalves and a variety of sessile species. In addition, many species of fish such as the Malabar snapper and red emperor snapper are routinely found on the artificial structures, but only occasionally on the natural reef. The high abundance of juvenile fish on the pyramids is also an encouraging sign that the structures are acting as a nursery for fish larvae settling out of the water column. Overall, the pyramids seem to be increasing both abundance and diversity of many reef species making them well worth the investment to construct them.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_4

Other ongoing projects include the coral bleaching surveys, invasive species surveys and turtle monitoring. Since coral bleaching and invasive species surveys have only just started, preliminary results will be analyzed in the coming months. Results from active turtle surveys, turtle walks and turtle watch are still being analyzed, but preliminary results suggest that there is a healthy population of resident turtles on our reef. Turtle walks have been less productive with only one hatched nest having been found, but it is clear that at least some turtles nest on Nosy Komba. In summary, the reefs around Nosy Komba appear to be showing the signs of human activities, but overall it is still a healthy reef system with strong community structure.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_5


Find out more about our Marine Conservation Program Here



PADI Top Instructor in the Country

Kyle PADI Top Instructor

Congratulations are due to our Director of Diving Operations and Health & Safety Kyle Devine for placing as one of the top PADI instructors in the country!

Kyle has been living in Madagascar for over 6 years. He has a love for the ocean and has been diving for nine years. He is a qualified PADI OWSI Instructor (Open Water Scuba Instructor) and holds a Coastal Yacht Master Skipper’s ticket with the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) as well as a power boat level 2 certificate.

To date of this year, 2017, he has already taught more students that all of last year. He was placed amongst the top 5 of highest certifying instructors in all of South Africa. There are over a thousand individual instructors registered in South Africa, but very few were able to come close to what Kyle achieved in 2017.

MRCI PADI Diving School

Learn More about our dive school in Madagascar

A PADI certification is the worlds most respected and sought after dive credentials. This means wherever your dive travels take you, you can be confident that the local dive community will recognize your dive qualification. MRCI’s PADI diving courses apply the concept of performance based learning.  Performance based learning means that our students’ progress to the next level on the basis that they meet specific performance requirements.

Contact Us For More Information or Sign Up Now

Madagascar Taxi Brousse 1
BlogIsland Life

Taxi-Brousse: Antananarivo to Ankify

As you might have noticed yourself, if you have done some research, you can find plenty of horrible stories from people about taking a taxi-brousse in Madagascar. It is not always like that! For us taking the taxi-brousse from Antananarivo (Tana), up north, to Ankify turned out to be a unique, unforgettable experience.

Not knowing what to expect when we were planning our journey from Tana to camp, we decided to take on the adventure of travelling by taxi-brousse, instead of by plane or private car. Fortunately we got the help of the Director of Operations of MRCI (Lucy Prescott)  in organising the trip. She put us in touch with Christian, a local staff member of the organisation in Tana. All we had to do was send him our arrival details and the name of our hotel in Tana so that he could arrange a taxi to take us to the bus station.

When we arrived there, we were slightly overwhelmed by the chaos on site. Fortunately the drivers of our taxi-brousse were already waiting for us to guide us to the right bus. As they did not speak English, nor French very well, our taxi driver was the perfect translator. He arranged us two seats each. We highly recommend doing this to make you more comfortable during the 18-hour drive. We paid 120 000 Ar each (which comes down to about €35). Compared to the airplane or the private taxi, this is really cheap! The taxi-brousse we took was a national one from Tana to Ambanja which is a village about 20 km or a 30 minute drive (2 000 Ar/seat) from the port of Ankify where you take the boat to Hell Ville, Nosy Be.

The drive is a great way to see parts of mainland Madagascar before you head to the islands of Nosy Be and Nosy Komba which are very different in scenery. During daylight, we loved looking at the variation in the landscapes and views. Sunset and sunrise were definitely the highlights of the drive. At night we saw the most beautiful star-filled sky through the window of our bus. This all makes the 18-hour drive more exciting.

Our taxi-brousse had 3 drivers that switched places every 4 hours. During these stops we had a quick leg-stretch and pee-break before we hit the road again. Contrary to our expectations, we did not waste a lot of time on breaks like these. During the night there were some police stops to make sure everything was legal and safe, because of all this we never felt unsafe during the journey.

We had a great experience, but there are a few thing you have to keep in mind when taking the taxi-brousse. First of all: food & water! Bring food for lunch, dinner and breakfast as the bus only stops in a local ‘highway restaurant’ for dinner. We ordered sandwiches in our hotel and bought water and snacks in a shop near the hotel.
Secondly you will want to take a sleeping bag/blanket with you on the bus as it gets chilly at night.
Our drivers loved their up-beat music, even at night, so we were very happy we brought earbuds with us on the bus. Having toilet paper and hand sanitiser in your backpack will come in very handy as well!
And last but not least: get used to the Malagasy time which means that the bus might leave later as they always wait until all the seats are sold. So do not worry about that, get comfortable and enjoy the mora mora lifestyle!

– Margot Lootens and Marlouk Van Es


Madagascar Taxi-Brousse 1 Madagascar Taxi-Brousse 2

About Us



  • Our current project is the construction of a School in village of Ampoagna
  • Renovated a day care center for intellectually disabled children on Nosy Be (March 2023)
  • In collaboration with Tim Kohlbecher and the Leo Club Charity, we constructed a fresh water well in the village of  Ampoagna (2019)
  • In June of 2018, MRCI started with the Ampoagna Clinic construction project which was then completed in November of 2018. A traditional opening ceremony was held by the local community which was attended by governmental delegates and broadcasted over national television.
  • MRCI will build toilets in Ampadinombe and in turn will receive 20 thousand squared meters of forest to rehabilitate (August 2017). Read more…
  • With thanks to a donation of over $2000 from ex-volunteer Chandler Renz, renovation work was carried out at the Church school in Ampang – the classrooms were re-floored and painted and a double toilet block was built.
  • Renovation work at Ampang Premiere school has been completed – the school building was painted inside and out and a fence was built around the school’s flagpole (April 2017)
  • A school was built in Andrekarekabe (January to March 2017).
  • A dam was built to supply running water to Andrekarekahely and Andrekarekabe (December 2016).
  • The basketball hoops in Ampangorina were repaired and the court was repainted.  A tournament was then organised and took place to celebrate the revamped court. (December 2016).  Read more…
  • The school roof in Ampangorina was repaired and tables and chairs were painted (December 2016).
  • A bridge was built to improve access to the village of Ampangorina during the wet season (November 2016).  Read more…
  • Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute has built five toilet/shower blocks (each block has 2 toilets and one shower) in total – 2 in Andrekarekabe (completed September and December 2016) and 3 in Andrekarekahely (June, August, and September 2016).  Read more here and here
  • Porches were fixed in a local shop in Andrekarekabe (October 2016).
  • Playgrounds, including swing sets, were built in Ampangorina and Andrekarekabe (August 2015 and February 2016).
  • The primary school in Ampangorina was painted inside and out (January 2016)
  • Just under $10,000 dollars was raised for community development projects through fundraisers, GoFundMe and personally – ongoing
  • School desks were renovated at Andrekarekahely Primary School (January 2016)


  • Two cars were striped and dropped to form part of our newest artifical reef, The Parking Lot. Read More…
  • A new artificial reef, consisting of a series of transplanted soft and hard corals implanted on boulder-like dome structures has been built, on the sand parallel to the reef, and in stacks close to the reef, creating ‘an orchard’ of growing new coral. The corals were obtained with the assistance of friends of our partner organisation, CNRO and Nosy be Aquaculture. In March the first set of corals were put in with a ceremony of approval of the Fisheries Minister of Madagascar and 100 of his close friends.
  • Beach cleans regularly take place during spring tides and all divers are encouraged to pick up litter during their surveys.
    A second artificial reef, known as ‘Mad-hatter’ was installed in January 2017. Survey have since begun on both artificial reefs.
  • The house reef in front of Turtle cove and two neighbouring beaches were protected and became a no fishing or anchoring zone (November 2016).  Read more here and here
  • 7 structures were installed in an artificial reef (2014).  Read more here and here
  • Staff and volunteers went on a trip to Mitsio Islands with CNRO (Centre Nationale Research Oceanographic) (2014) for a governmental biodiversity survey in a case against oil drilling in North Madagascar. The trip was a success and resulted in a report on marine biodiversity in the area being given to the government.  As of yet, no drilling has happened in that area.


  • Started our Bamboo Straw Initiative where our volunteers harvest, cut and sterilize bamboo shoots. These straws are then offered to local restaurants and establishments with the hopes of eradicating the island of single-use plastic straws. Read More…
  • In a ground breaking development MRCI concludes an agreement with the village of Ampasinomby to establish a first of its kind agroforest on Nosy Komba (August 2017). Read more…
  • In June 2017, the forest programme began their initial phase of Lepidoptera surveys. Several capture-and-release systems, each comprised of four baited traps, have been set up across different habitat types on Nosy Komba.
  • Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute hosted an international researcher studying parasitic wasps and discovered new species here that had never been known before (June 2015).  Read more…
  • Over the last 3 years, we have also discovered 20 new species of birds, reptiles and amphibians on the island that weren’t known to be here before.


  • Successfully rebuilt Maradouko school which was devasted by cyclone Enawo and held a celebratory reopening that was attended by a number of community leaders and officials (March-May 2018) Read More about the build Here and the reopening day Here.
  • The beginners class in Ampang now has 18 regular students, with new students joining each week. The class is going from strength to strength and students making real progress in their learning.
  • With thanks to volunteer Taylor Schellenberg, $700 was raised to provide schools on Nosy Komba and Nosy Be with sports equipment (January 2017).
  • In January 2017, a football tournament was organised with 3 teams from local villages and a team from the volunteer camp.
  • After requests from students, tests were developed for the Ampang beginners class and the teenagers class in Antitorana.  All students performed well.
  • Extra-curricular activities have taken place to enable volunteers to interact with their students outside of the classroom.  These “community picnics” have been a great success.
  • Two Malagasy Sakalav to English dictionaries have been produced.
  • 8 adult’s classes and 11 children’s classes have been set up to teach English on Nosy Komba and Nosy Be – ongoing.
  • Monthly environment days are held to educate local communities on relevant environmental issues.
  • Many students are taught English, leading to many employment opportunities in tourism.

 Future Goals

  • Expand the reef surveys to include more transects at different reef sites around Nosy Komba.
  • Assess the population of potentially damaging species within the MPA, such as Diodema sp. urchins.
  • Publish scientific papers on the establishment of the orchard and turtle population within our MPA.
  • Establish a women’s class in Ampangorina.
  • Refurbishment work at Maradouka school.
  • Replant the area of the forest destroyed in the fire in October 2016.
  • Organise more community sports tournaments.
  • Build a path around camp to improve access for locals during the wet season.
  • Build a school in the nearby village of Andrekarekabe where we will then provide English classes for the village.
  • Provide fresh water to the village of Ampasanombe, this will require putting in a system of water pipes and taps.
  • Work with reforestation charities to try and mitigate the effects of felling and land clearing on Nosy Komba in an ecologically sensitive way.
  • Raise community awareness on the importance of reducing plastic usage and keeping plastic litter out of our seas to protect the reef.
  • Publish a long-term monitoring report on the effectiveness of the new MPA.

Read more about our various achievements in Madagascar here…