from 679€

Great 4.4rating (14)

Natuwa Eco-Guardian: Wildlife Rescue &Conservation

2 - 12 weeks  ·  Age 18 - 50+

rating  Great 4.4  · 
  Verified by Volunteer World
  Very high response rate


  • Engage in essential conservation efforts at NATUWA, directly aiding a diverse array of Costa Rican wildlife, including jaguars, sloths, macaws, deer, monkeys and many more.
  • Experience Costa Rican culture first-hand at NATUWA, enhance your Spanish, and become part of the local community, engaging in conservation practices that benefit both wildlife and people.
  • Forge lasting bonds with other nature-passionate volunteers, sharing knowledge and experiences while working together at the sanctuary.
  • Use your free time to discover Costa Rica's unique landscapes, from pristine beaches to stunning rainforests, fostering a deeper appreciation for the biodiversity you're helping to protect.
  • On-the-Ground Professional Development: Enrich your resume with international wildlife rescue and rehabilitation experience, acquiring valuable skills that will stand out in your career path.

Especially suitable

Age 18+

About the program

NATUWA is a sanctuary dedicated to protecting and rehabilitating Costa Rica's wildlife, nurturing a diverse array of species back to health within a lush natural habitat.

NATUWA Wildlife Sanctuary


NATUWA Wildlife Sanctuary in Aranjuez, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica, is a haven providing refuge and protection to wild animals impacted by human activities such as hunting, habitat removal, and deforestation. These actions render species vulnerable, causing significant ...

About the program

NATUWA Wildlife Sanctuary


NATUWA Wildlife Sanctuary in Aranjuez, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica, is a haven providing refuge and protection to wild animals impacted by human activities such as hunting, habitat removal, and deforestation. These actions render species vulnerable, causing significant damage to natural ecosystems and often displacing animals from their natural habitats.

Many of these displaced animals find the care and rehabilitation they need at NATUWA. Our sanctuary allows these dislocated animals to return to their natural habitat. Unfortunately, human actions make reintroduction challenging, and this is where our volunteers become crucial.

Volunteer Contribution at NATUWA Wildlife Sanctuary

At NATUWA, your role as a volunteer is indispensable to our conservation mission. You will work closely with our local Costa Rican workers, playing a crucial part in the daily care of our diverse animal residents. This includes feeding, cleaning enclosures, and providing enrichment for a wide range of species, such as six species of macaw, umbrella cockatoos, amazon parrots, parakeets, Eclectus parrots, various monkey species, peccaries, deer, tapirs, ocelots, and jaguars.

Your dedicated efforts are essential in restoring the health of our numerous residents, approximately 500 animals, many of whom require extensive care as they cannot return to the wild. While our primary focus is providing the best quality of life for these animals, such as jaguars and sloths, your work supports any emergency interventions that might enable certain animals to be reintroduced into their natural habitat. The significant workload at our sanctuary contributes to each volunteer being incredibly valuable to us.

  • Animal Care and Maintenance: Engaging in direct animal care, you will help maintain the well-being of our animals by performing tasks like cleaning enclosures and following specific nutritional guidelines set by our in-house nutritionist. This ensures that all animals, from the vibrant macaws to the majestic jaguars, receive the highest standard of care.
  • Monitoring and Prevention: As an eco-guardian, you will better understand our animals' behaviors and needs. Your close observation skills will aid in the early detection of health issues, allowing for timely intervention and care from our veterinary team.
  • Environmental Enrichment: Your involvement in environmental enrichment is essential in fostering natural behaviors and mental stimulation for our animals. This aspect of your role helps create a more dynamic and naturalistic environment for them.
  • Economic and Community Impact: Your participation as a volunteer extends beyond animal care. Your financial contribution by joining our program supports the sanctuary's operations and the livelihoods of our local staff and the broader community. This creates a ripple effect of positive change, benefiting the area's human and animal residents.

Volunteering at NATUWA is an opportunity to make a significant impact. You will contribute to the direct care and rehabilitation of wildlife and support the broader mission of environmental conservation and community development. This experience promises to leave a lasting impression on both the sanctuary and you as a volunteer.

Educational and Cultural Experience:

Our sanctuary collaborates with local universities, providing a rich educational experience. Costa Rican students often come to NATUWA to complete their graduation thesis or business practices in ecotourism. This offers a fantastic opportunity for volunteers to immerse themselves in Latin American culture, learn from students, and contribute to meaningful conservation projects.

Local Community Engagement:

NATUWA is nestled in the peaceful country town of Aranjuez, known for its friendly locals and dirt roads. Volunteers are encouraged to engage with the community, bring games like footballs and frisbees, and participate in local soccer matches. The sanctuary's proximity to a small supermarket and a grass soccer field allows volunteers to integrate seamlessly with the local lifestyle.

Living Arrangements:

Volunteers stay within the sanctuary in housing that provides a unique living experience. We require volunteers to wear pants and rain boots for work (available for purchase here for around USD 15). Although bedsheets are provided, bringing a mosquito net for a twin-sized bed is recommended for comfort.

Food and Expectations:

We provide and cook all meals for our volunteers, focusing on a wholesome diet that supports your work here. We expect a positive attitude and a willingness to contribute to our shared goals.

Join Us:

Hear our past volunteers about their life-changing experiences at NATUWA and see how you can make a difference. Make your application in Volunteer World to learn more and participate in this vital conservation effort.

Typical day

Our volunteer project at NATUWA is distinctively active and fulfilling compared to other opportunities in Costa Rica. With over 500 animals relying on our care, we always need extra hands! This project is ideal for those motivated and passionate about animal care and conservation. While the schedule ...

Typical day

Our volunteer project at NATUWA is distinctively active and fulfilling compared to other opportunities in Costa Rica. With over 500 animals relying on our care, we always need extra hands! This project is ideal for those motivated and passionate about animal care and conservation. While the schedule is full and demanding, the work is profoundly rewarding and makes a real difference.

Daily Schedule:

  • 6:00 AM - 8:00 AM: Start the day with the morning feeding routine for our animals. Initially, you'll have guidance, but after a 3-day introduction, you'll progress to light supervision.

  • 8:00 AM - 8:15 AM: Breakfast time! A moment to fuel up for the day.

  • 8:15 AM - 10:30 AM: Engage in various daily tasks (detailed list provided below).

  • 10:30 AM - 10:45 AM: A well-deserved juice break.

  • 10:45 AM - 12:00 PM: Continue with your assigned daily tasks.

  • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM: Lunch break. This is also your time to connect with the world via WiFi or enjoy a rejuvenating nap.

  • 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM: Afternoon feeding session for our animals, with light supervision following your initial training period.

After the afternoon feeding, volunteers can spend their time as they wish until dinner, which is served at 6:00 PM.

List of Daily Tasks:

Your tasks include cleaning beneath animal feeding stations, ensuring animals have fresh water, washing enclosure floors, assisting in animal transfers, maintaining the sanctuary, feeding baby animals, sorting macadamia nuts, providing fresh-cut grass for our mammals and other essential tasks to support the well-being of our wildlife.

Free-time activities

As a volunteer at NATUWA, your adventure extends beyond our sanctuary. Every week, you are entitled to a free day, offering you the perfect opportunity to relax and explore Costa Rica's stunning landscapes and vibrant culture. Coordinate with our staff to organize group outings to some of the most ...

Free-time activities

As a volunteer at NATUWA, your adventure extends beyond our sanctuary. Every week, you are entitled to a free day, offering you the perfect opportunity to relax and explore Costa Rica's stunning landscapes and vibrant culture. Coordinate with our staff to organize group outings to some of the most iconic destinations in the country. Whether it's the sun-drenched beaches, serene rivers, majestic mountains, or other remarkable locales, an abundance of experiences is waiting for you.

For your convenience, private cab services are available to transport volunteers from various locations, including from Juan Santamaria International Airport to NATUWA. A ride from Puntarenas to the sanctuary typically costs around US$35, but prices may vary depending on your starting point. For those arriving directly from the airport in Alajuela, the fare to NATUWA is approximately US$120. We recommend consulting with our staff for the latest information on service costs. To make travel more affordable, we can also help arrange shared transportation services, reducing the individual expense.



Minimum Age: 18 years

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.

Language Skills

You need to speak English (basic level) or Spanish (basic level)

Required Documents

-Travel insurance and a negative COVID Test with no more than 48 hours.

Nationality Restrictions

No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.

Other Skills

1. Commitment to Animal Welfare. 2. Teamwork Skills. 3. Adaptability and Flexibility. 4. Physical Strength and Stamina. 5. Communication Skills. 6. Basic First Aid or Veterinary Skills 7. Cultural Sensitivity and Language Skills 8. Patience and Dedication 9. Environmental Awareness and Conservationist Mindset The skills and qualities listed above are desirable attributes that can enhance a volunteer's experience and contribution to our sanctuary.

Time Commitment

Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 06:00 - 15:00

What's Included

What's Included

Services by NATUWA Wildlife Sanctuary

Three meal times, Wifi, cleaning common areas, bed linen, electricity, water. 
Accommodation in student residence, shared rooms, quadruple rooms in single beds of two.

Laundry service has an additional cost.

This price does not include additional costs, public transportation, cabs or personal expenses outside NATUWA.


Currently, volunteer housing is in two separate buildings. The first building is a typical Costa Rica country style house with one room including three bunk beds, a fan, storage space, and windows. The house is typically reserved for long-term volunteers (4 weeks or more). The second building is a modified shipping container with three rooms. Each room of the container includes two bunk beds, a fan, and storage space for personal items. It is advised for volunteers to bring their own mosquito nets. Volunteers are expected to keep their areas clean and respect the property of others.

The bathroom and shower are located in a separate building adjacent to the container. No hot water is available for the showers.

Laundry is typically done by hand, but a laundry machine is available for free. Drying of clothes is done on clotheslines.

WiFi is currently available in the volunteer housing. Also, WiFi is available in the sanctuary gift shop.

Food & Beverages

The meals are typical dishes of Costa Rica. Almost every meal includes rice, beans, or salad. Juice or coffee is offered for every meal.

Example Breakfast Meals:
1. "Gallo pinto" with: egg, plantain, or sausage.
2. Cereal
3. Fruits (watermelon, banana, and papaya).

Example Lunch Meals:
1. Rice and beans with a meat
2. Rice and beans with spaghetti
3. Meat and vegetable soup with rice

Example Dinner Meals:
1. Rice and beans with a meat
2. Hamburger
3. Cold cut sandwich

It is very important that you inform us if you have any special diets or food allergies.

Internet Access

Limited access at the project site

What's NOT included?

What's NOT included?

Airport Pickup at Juan Santamaria International Airport

An airport pickup isn't included within the program fees either.

Flight Tickets

The nearest airport is Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose. We assist you to find cheap flights to Costa Rica. FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS

Travel Insurance

Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Costa Rica provides security and is a plus to have. GET A QUOTE


If you are intending to volunteer in Costa Rica you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Costa Rica. VACCINE CHECKER

Details on arrival

Volunteers may arrive at any time of day, any day of the week, any week of the month, and any month of the year! Transportation from the airport is not provided, but can be arranged - just let us know if you'd like help getting here!

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Program fees

2 weeks (min. stay) 679€
3 weeks 1,018€
4 weeks 1,358€
5 weeks 1,698€
6 weeks 2,037€
7 weeks 2,376€
12 weeks (max. stay) 4,074€
Average fees 340€/week

Program fees

340€ per week 2 - 12 weeks Age 18 - 50+

Payment methods

Visa Master Card Maestro American Express PayPal



2 - 12 weeks


The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.

Final Payment

Your final payment will be agreed with NATUWA Wildlife Sanctuary during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Meet your organization

NATUWA Wildlife Sanctuary

Great 4.4 rating (14 reviews)

Agency - founded in 1994

Verified by Volunteer World

  Very high response rate

Coordinated by


Spoken languages: Spanish, English

About the project

Natuwa Macaw Sanctuary is a place that provides refuge and protection to the wild animals that have been victimized by human actions.

Meet your organization

The Sanctuary

The Macaw Sanctuary NATUWA was created in the year 1994 by Costa Ricans Mainor Khayyan and Rodolfo Orozco for their grand admiration for the psittacidaes, like the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao), the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) and other wild parrots. In addition, the Sanctuary began as a result of their preoccupation with the constant threat that these emblematic birds face, the loss of their natural habitat and their extraction from the forest as pets. For these reasons there has been an incredible reduction in the population of native wild macaws in Costa Rica, further highlighting the importance of such a sanctuary of conservation.


The Macaw Sanctuary has the primary purpose to conserve native, wild macaws of Costa Rica and develop a captive management and breeding program to rescue, rehabilitate and reintroduce them into the wild, with support from the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), the National Police and volunteers from civil society. Additionally, the Sanctuary facilitates programs of ecological restoration, environmental education, ecotourism and wildlife rescue. 

The Macaw Sanctuary has been developing a native forest reserve to offer as a benefit to all the animals in the region, as well as those of the project. Since 2000, the trees we have planted have provided food, water and habitat to hundreds of macaws, parrots, sloths, iguanas and howler monkeys, both residents and visitors. Many migratory birds also temporarily visit this oasis to restore their energy and continue their continental journey. The vegetation of the sanctuary, with abundant almond beach trees, jobos, guasimos, senizaros also provides a permanent home for many animals in the area to find refuge.

The Macaw Sanctuary Natuwa recieves confiscated animals from the System of National Areas of Conservation (SINAC), National Police or Fire, and civil society volunteers. NATUWA supports the rescue, rehabilitation and liberation of the native fauna of Costa Rica.


The Macaw Sanctuary Natuwa has developed a guided, ecotourism experience for the Costa Rican society and international public. This personalized experience allows guests to make interesting observations and have their questions answered. During the guided tours, guests also learn about ecological themes focusing on the conservation of our forests and the protection of Costa Rican fauna.

Along the trails, visitors learn about the animal species that live in the Sanctuary – jaguars, macaws, tapirs, monkies, etc – their natural history and the actual problems that are impacting their extinction.

The ecotourism program also serves as a bridge with the local community, providing job opportunities and economic support so that we can continue to rescue, maintain and rehabilitate the animals.

The tour is exclusively lead by a guide. Before entering the sanctuary, visitors recieve an explanation of the important rules: 1.) Do not touch the animals; 2.) Do not talk to the animals; 3.) Do not feed the animals; 4.) Stay on the trails, etc. These rules are in place as to not cause any stress to the animals and to make the visitor’s experience more enjoyable.

At NATUWA, we are all animal lovers. However, being an animal lover comes with a lot of responsibility. It is our responsibility to direct our love in a positive manner. Loving an animal does not mean hugging, touching, or showing affection to an animal, but rather having scientific knowledge of how to care for an animal in a way that will allow it to succeed in nature.

Volunteering at NATUWA is a wonderful and unique experience that is perfect for people of all ages and all backgrounds. Volunteers will be able to positively impact the animals of the sanctuary, learn and practice Spanish, meet new people from all over the world and experience a different culture.

We need YOU! Each volunteer has a huge impact on the lives of the animals. With volunteers, we are able to make progress on all projects large and small. Together, we can directly improve the lives of the animals in captivity and focus our attention towards our rehabilitation and release efforts. All of which you can be part of! For more information please visit

The Reproduction Program of the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) and Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) provides opportunities for the animals to learn the necessary skills for eventual liberation in their natural environments. These skills are only learned through limited interaction with humans, something that many of the confiscated macaws did not have prior. The macaws that are born at the Macaw Sanctuary Natuwa learned these important skills from their parents and other macaws at the project.

The Sanctuary has modern infrastructure for each animal that inhabits the refuge  either temporarily or permanently that goes beyond the requirements requested by Costa Rican wildlife laws.

Enclosures generate the ideal space to promote physical and mental health of non-releasable animals to live together in dignity while in captivity. We also have management infrastructure that allows the rehabilitation of animals that are most fortunate to be prepared for later release into the natural environment for which they belong.

Currently the Macaw Sanctuary NATUWA has:
1. Area for keeping animals
2. Neonatal care
3. Veterinary clinic
4. Quarantine zone
5. Food preparation area
6. Residential area
7. Large enclosures that allow uninterrupted flight (200m circumference)


Macaw Sanctuary NATUWA, is located in the Communities of Aranjuez and Pithaya, Province of Puntarenas.

  • Sanctuary Rules for volunteers.
  1. No smoking inside or outside the facilities (Very Important).
  2. Do not talk to animals.
  3. Do not feed the animals (outside feeding time).
  4. When taking pictures, the use of flash is prohibited.
  5. The use of any type of drug is prohibited.
  6. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed.
  7. Be respectful of the staff of the sanctuary (sexual harassment, racism, homophobia or xenophobia will not be tolerated).
  8. Do not allow strangers (outsiders) to enter the sanctuary.
  9. Follow the safety rules according to the activity (gloves, helmet, eyeglasses, boots, pants).
  10. Do not carry any electronic device during working time (Cell phones and camaras).
  11. Insect repellents containing DEET are strictly prohibited.

14 reviews · rating4.4

My time in Natuwa was amazing. The staff is friendly and the place is beautiful. I learned many things while I was there and had a really enjoyable time. The vet is really nice and tries her best to make every day different and interesting, all the while keeping it accessible to everyone (pre-vet ...
I really liked my stay at NATUWA. Made a lot off friends and it was a super experience. The work can sometimes be hard but overall I really enjoyed it. The food was fine, a lot of rice and beans but you can expect that when you are in Costa Rica. There could be a little bit more variation in the ...
Pascale Emmisberger rating3.6

2023 at Natuwa Eco-Guardian: Wildlife Rescue &Conservation

I really enjoyed my stay at the Natuwa Sanctuary. We were only around 12/13 volunteers, so the atmosphere was really familiar. There are plenty of beautiful animals to take care off. The work can be hard, when you are cleaning the cages or ranking leaves, so be prepared to work hard and get ...
Going to Natuwa was one of the best experiences i’ve had, the place is beautiful and they really take good care of the animals, everyone is working very hard so you must be prepared for that but its really good to have some discipline and a lot of activity that keeps you busy, i met amazing people ...
Our stay at Natuwa was fantastic, people in care of the place are extremely kind . But one horrible experience that should be improved is FOOD. We think that the owner is trying to save money and does not care about volunteers. We were given every day only rice and beans poorly cooked. We were ...
Natuwa wild life centre was very beautiful and the animals were amazing. Most employees were beyond Amazing(Aaron). But there was issues with one of the managers and they didn’t handle it well. She had a couple run ins with multiple volunteers including me, she acted as a bully and used her power ...


Americas > Central America > Costa Rica > Aranjuez, Puntarenas

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Spanish, English

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