Madagascar, the fourth biggest Island in the world, the only country with an endemic Lemur population and home to 5% of all the worlds flora and fauna and is therefore a place rich in biodiversity – it is here I will be spending the next 10 weeks. Strangely enough however, none of these are the reasons I chose to spend part of my gap year here.

My name is Ellie, I am from County Durham in England, I am 19 and I am taking a gap year before I attend Bangor University to study Geological Oceanography this September. I have been planning on taking a year out since forever and I knew I wanted a variety. I started off with some criteria – what did I want to achieve? The plan was to do some conservation, some community work and learn a new skill whilst having fun, experiencing different cultures, challenging myself and meeting new people. I first contacted The Leap way back in 2016 and found them to be the most approachable and friendly organisation I had come across, then ensued the exchange of numerous emails between myself and the team and I was recommended the Madagascar trip as this covered all my criteria. After further research I concluded that yes, this is the project for me! Since then I have been working non-stop to fundraise for my trip and I am sure it will be well worth it!

As you would expect, I am very excited to start the project not least due to the incredible wildlife and landscape but also the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals from different backgrounds. I am eager to make a difference through community-based projects of teaching and construction and also contribute to environmental schemes to help preserve, conserve and better understand the wildlife in these habitats. Naturally, with so many new experiences come new challenges. Prior to this year I have flown once which therefore presents a rather considerable challenge, and a necessary one at that, however hopefully with our newly found team we’ll manage to commute the 5000+ miles to reach our destination, or so you would hope. Burning is a concern of mine also, as a particularly pale red head I will be armed with factor 50 for the majority of my stay in Madagascar, you can be assured. Besides that, the general apprehension of spending potentially 10 weeks with relative strangers is both endearing and disconcerting however I don’t doubt that it will be interesting at least!

For now, I’ll be packing, unpacking and repacking my bags to check I have all my kit including the essentials i.e. bug spray, sun cream, camera etc. whilst I avoid going outside until the bitterness of the Beast from the East thaws out. See you in Madagascar!