Bury St Edmunds: Students experience ‘life-changing’ trip to Madagascar

STUDENTS from a Bury St Edmunds school have enjoyed an eye-opening trip to Madagascar where they surveyed jungle and coral reefs for a variety of animals.

Fourteen students from the former year 11 and 12 groups at County Upper School stayed on the Indian Ocean island for 16 days over the summer accompanied by teachers Beth Hamlett and Nadine Payne who organised the trip.

Miss Hamlett, who teaches biology, explained how the trip was organised through a company called Operation Wallacea, which enables students to join research projects around the world.

While in Madagascar the County Upper team worked with scientists in jungle and the sea to spot and identify different species.

Miss Hamlett said some of the most exciting spots included a rare leaf-tailed gecko.

Of all the animals, student Tom Chadwick, 17, from Mildenhall, said he was most excited about seeing lemurs, of which there were eight species in the area.

“They were everywhere. It was wonderful. You could just see and hear them.”

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Students also gained a PADI open water diving qualification and met with the Madagasy people learning about their culture.

Mr Chadwick said: “I thought it was wonderful. I had a brilliant time. I study A-Level biology and ecology was something I had heard about, but had never really experienced.”

He added: “I don’t think I would’ve had the chance to do it anywhere else.”

Mrs Payne, who teaches biology and chemistry, said they had the options of going to places like Cuba or Egypt, but they thought Madagascar would really take the students out of their comfort zone and was somewhere they could see a range of habitats.

“They have all really taken something from it and without being over-dramatic it’s changed their lives, pretty much, about how they see things.

“A lot of them have come away with how people live in the country.”

She said Madagascar was the second poorest country in the world.

Students fundraised to go on the trip through various activities such as a fete and quiz night.