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South America Inside

Volunteer at a Natural Reserve

Take care of exotic animals at a wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica! Assist with farming activities in the middle of breathtaking nature.

The Project

This volunteer project takes you to Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast to work at a natural reserve and animal rescue center. The project’s ground covers approx. 400 hectares of land and is located about 20 km north of the city of Parrita, in-between the beach towns of Jacó and Manuel Antonio.

The engagement at the center in Costa Rica began more than 20 years ago. It was opened because many hectares of land were destroyed a number of years ago, driving many different types of animals out of their natural habitat. A 10-year-plan was established with the goal to reforest over 40,000 species of trees and bring back wild animals to the area. The rescue center was created to care for the many animals that were found wounded or starved due to the loss of their natural hunting grounds. Others had been saved from captivity, and now need to be nurtured back to health and kept safe.

The Center's Goals

The center's aim is to not keep any animal longer than 6 months before it is released back into the wild. During the recovery period, the animals are given veterinary care and rest. 30% of the animals are physically ready to be released between 1 and 3 months. This reintegration process does not only include freeing the animals into a safe area, but also further observation to ensure that they can make it on their own. Half of these animals sadly experience problems when re-accustoming themselves to the wild; they sometimes need up to a whole year to fully resettle and survive without help. Employees and volunteers accompany the animals on their way to an independent life, including hunting training and reimbursing basic instincts such as fleeing and protecting themselves from humans or predators. 

There is an 80% success rate in releasing animals back into the wild. The other 20% of the animals are not able to rehabilitate themselves back into their natural habitat and would die without further human assistance. The agency oversees the work of the center to ensure that absolutely everything possible is done to reintroduce all animals back into their natural habitat.

The center is financed by an eco-friendly hotel which was built on the center's grounds and attracts a lot of visitors. 

Your Tasks 

During the project, you will work with other volunteers and workers at the center in a fun environment. As a volunteer, you will have many different tasks that depend on which section you are stationed at.

On a typical day, you will prepare food for the animals, maintain the grounds (cleaning trails), cleaning and maintaining the animal cages, going on rounds around the center to spot new wildlife and give them fresh fruit. Other day-to-day activities include fertilizing soil, cleaning the butterfly lab, collecting eggs, watering plants, cleaning feeding areas, and providing fresh water to animals. 

There are also activities which you will be involved with less frequently, such as visiting different plantations and harvesting bananas, papayas, watermelon, cantaloupes, and other fruits. Another task might be helping with monthly vet check-ups and constantly monitoring all animals to notice any changes in behavior.

Climate

The dry season (December-April) offers consistently dry weather on the Pacific side of the country, although there is still occasional rain. The rainy season (May-November) throughout Costa Rica is often characterized by morning sun and afternoon rain. However, Costa Rica’s tropical climate and varied terrain makes the country a good travel destination year-round.

What to Bring

  • Comfortable work clothes, camouflage/earth-colored/tan colors (nothing colorful) 
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Sandals
  • Sun and mosquito protection

Please Note

There are no special vaccinations required, but be sure to check in with your doctor for additional advice.

If you are interested in joining this program with your family, please keep in mind that the youngest family member should be at least 14 years old.

Suitable for

Singles
Couples
Families
Groups
50+

Typical day

The daily work at the wildlife sanctuary is all about protecting wildlife. There is a variety of work tasks, and you will learn a lot during your time as a volunteer in Costa Rica. The numerous duties can be divided into the following sectors:

Animal Care (daily tasks)

  • Food preparation for the animals (cutting up fruits and vegetables) 
  • Cleaning the kitchen where the food for the animals is prepared 
  • Cleaning drinking troughs and feeding areas 
  • Separating ripe fruit from green fruit in the storage areas 
  • Distributing the fruit on the trails and in the rescue center 
  • Providing fruits for the monkeys in baskets on the terrace 
  • Put fresh water in the birds’ cages 
  • Cleaning the Cayman enclosures (once a week)
  • Cleaning of animals’ living areas

Monitoring Jobs

  • Volunteers go on weekly control rounds on property trails to spot animals and give them with fresh fruit
  • Whenever a new wild animal is spotted, the volunteer who has seen it needs to call it in and, if possible, take a picture
  • Saddle up the horses to visit different trails 
  • Visit the “Observation” area to check on the animals and monitor their behavior

Farming Area

  • Prepare the soil for farming, remove weeds, water plants, and apply fertilizer

Butterfly Garden

  • Repair holes and possible escape areas 
  • Clean all the spider webs and remove weeds from garden 
  • Collect eggs, transfer nymphs to the lab and provide them with food 
  • Daily cleaning of the lab 
  • Daily cleaning of the butterfly garden’s pond 
  • Daily cleaning of the nymph station area

Greenhouse

  • Watering the plants in the greenhouse 
  • Planting special types of trees and plants 
  • Preparing dirt and filling up pots and bags 
  • Controlling ants and other insects

Cleaning the Stables

  • Clean the stables and wash the floors daily 
  • Clean the feeding areas in the stables 
  • Provide fruits
  • Maintain safe stables

Operations and maintenance

  • Help clean and repair the premises 
  • Clean trails and the green areas around the rescue center 
  • Clean the drains during the rainy season (remove leaves and dirt) 
  • Pick up leaves and sticks in the green areas 
  • Help in the construction and repair of the cages 
  • Paint fences and other areas 
  • Making and installing signs for the rescue center 
  • Planting trees and flowers 
  • Reforestation

Other Activities

Aside from your assigned daily duties during your volunteer work project in Costa Rica, volunteers also engage in other activities:

  • Once a week, volunteers submit an information card with different facts from one of the animals at the rescue center. 
  • The volunteers will visit different plantations and harvest bananas, papayas, watermelon, cantaloupes, and other fruits.
  • Together with other center employees, volunteers will help with monthly vet check-ups and constantly monitor all animals to notice any changes in behavior. 

Once a month, the center holds seminars for local students to raise awareness for the importance of environmental and animal protection. Volunteers will either visit the local school, or classes will take a field trip to the center.

 

Details on Arrival

This program starts on any day of the week, and you can enroll at any time with at least 4 weeks' notice.

Program Requirements

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). Of course, there is an exception for children that are accompanied by their parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak Spanish (basic level)
Health Declaration
required
Education Requirements
at High School level
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
No special skills required. If you love animals and like to be in nature, this experience will be perfect for you.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 08:00 - 16:00

Any questions? Just ask. We at South America Inside are happy to help you.

Contact Project Coordinator

Free-time activities

In your spare time there are many different activities to choose from, such as hiking the nearby mountain trails, horseback riding, and a lot more. You are also close to the town of Parrita, where you can go to bars and socialize. 

In order for the volunteers to feel really comfortable during their time in Costa Rica, the project leaders offer a variety of activities.
Every Wednesday afternoon, volunteers and project leaders take a trip to the beach town of Jacó. Sundays, they drive to the beach at Manuel Antonio, where volunteers have the chance to experience Costa Rica’s “pura vida”, swim in the ocean, and get a nice tan. If the leaders are very pleased with the group, they arrange a shuttle on Friday nights so that the volunteers can experience Jacó’s nightlife.

Water Sports
Swimming
Concert/Music
Diving/Snorkling
Climbing
Hiking
Sports
Riding
Yoga/Meditation
Contact & Reservation
$342
/week
$342
/week
2 - 25
weeks
2 - 25
weeks
18+
age
18+
age
Airport Pickup
Housing
Food
Internet
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Included Services

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Quality Assurance
High ethical standards & transparent social impact
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We refund your fees if South America Inside cancels your trip
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Services by South America Inside

  • Consultation from our experienced staff
  • Translation of application documents
  • Volunteer Program Placement
  • Orientation session upon arrival
  • Orientation kit
  • Local support
  • 24-hr Emergency Number
  • Accommodation in Volunteer House (dormitory)
  • Full-board (3 meals/day)
  • Washing Service (bed linen and clothes)
  • Overnight-stay(s) in San José upon arrival
  • Airport pick-up in San José
  • Transfer to San José Accommodation-Bus Terminal for journey to project site
  • Advice regarding adequate travel insurance
  • Flight booking service (optional and free)
  • Certificate of Participation

Airport Pickup at Juan Santamaría International

Yes, you will be picked up from the airport and taken to your overnight accommodation in San José.

Accommodation

Embrace a wildlife adventure in Costa Rica! Participants of this volunteer project live directly in the Costa Rican nature; the accommodation is a volunteer house with shared dorms and bathrooms located directly on the grounds of the center. 

Additionally, this project includes a cleaning service, meaning that the center employs staff to clean the volunteer house once a week, change sheets, and wash the volunteers' clothes.

We would like to point out that in Latin America, especially in the remote areas where many of our volunteer work projects take place, Internet and/or cell services do not always work reliably.

Dorm Room Guesthouse
Food & Beverages

Full-Board is provided (3 meals per day).

Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.
Costs (Prices in USD)
2 weeks (min. stay)
$890.00
3 weeks
$1,110.00
4 weeks
$1,330.00
25 weeks (max. stay)
$5,950.00
Average fees
$342.00/week

You can volunteer at the project site in San Jose/Costa Rica between 2 weeks and 25 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. South America Inside will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
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 (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with South America Inside during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Get ready to volunteer in Costa Rica

Check out first

Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for Costa Rica. Please check the visa regulations for Costa Rica.
Travel Seasons
Find out the best time to volunteer in Costa Rica and receive information on weather and climatic conditions.
Living Costs
Living costs vary with each destination. We give an overview of what you should plan as an estimated budget to volunteer in Costa Rica.
Budgeting
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Costa Rica.

What's next?

Airport
The nearest airport is Juan Santamaría International (SJO) in San José. We assist you to find cheap flights to Costa Rica.
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.
Vaccine Checker
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.
Free-time
What can you do in leisure-time in Costa Rica while you are not working at your volunteer opportunity?
Parrita, San Jose, Costa Rica zoom="6"

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