First of all I'm so sorry for missing out the past few weeks, but it shall all be explained here.
So, I'm back in the UK! Even though I was meant to stay in Madagascar for another 3 weeks, I am now instead sat at home in my room and enjoying time with my family! Simply put, over the weekend of the 14th March we were relaxing in a hotel pool in the nearby town of Mangily, when a rumour passed around us volunteers that Madagascar might close its borders. Most of us viewed it as us having to stay a little longer in the country, as well as the vast majority of the group were people who had just arrived a month ago who were ready to spend 5 more months there. So we continued on with our weekend.
On Sunday it was official, Madagascar was closing its borders for all those leaving and entering the country. For 30 days starting from that upcoming Friday. Apart from one staff member who was heading home in two weeks, who had decided she wanted to leave before the deadline, most of us volunteers were happy to stay.
When we returned to camp a camp meeting was announced for Monday morning. And when that came, everyone gathered, all of the volunteers and staff, even the in-country director, Emma. In this camp meeting she announced that Reef Doctor was ceasing all volunteer activities. We had to book flights that morning and get ready for a drive from the south of Madagascar to its capital city where their international airport was. Her main reasoning was that the lockdown could be indefinite, though starting at 30 days, she estimated it could last up to 3 months. In addition, Madagascar does not have the best healthcare system, so she did not want us to be away from home in such a situation without proper medical support.
It was a hectic day, with trying to book flights as companies rapidly hiked up their prices, to packing up my suitcases. At 3 in the morning the next day we all bundled up into a hired taxi-brousse, ready for our cross-country journey. I don't really remember much of it as the time was mostly spent snacking and listening to podcasts! But after nearly 27 hours in the brousse, we finally arrived in Antananarivo. My flight was booked for Thursday with a couple other people, most were leaving, so the day was spend with many a tearful goodbye. The flight back was uneventful, though I did stop in Ethiopia, which was really cool, as I'd never been there. Even if it was nighttime and I stayed solely in the airport.
I finally arrived home on Friday, at 6 in the morning. Very tired after a long journey, but happy to see my mum and brother waiting to pick me up at the airport. It's been a few days since I've got back home, and I've nearly finished unpacking. It's a shame that with all this crazy stuff going on that I can't meet up with my friend that I haven't seen in nearly 6 months, I'm still so glad that I managed to have this awesome experience in Madagascar! It feels like a dream but I've managed to make some friends for life out there, and the things that I have done and learnt will stick with me forever. Thank you, Reef Doctor.
P.S. I got my divemaster!