Location: Dominical, Costa Rica
Project: Wildlife Rescue, Rehabilitation and Conservation
Duration: 1 week (min)
Cost: $600 +
Programs: Volunteer, Internship & Local
Whats included: Room and board -2 meals a day for 5 days.
Project details: Assist with animal husbandry tasks – cleaning, enrichment, food preparation and distribution, building and maintaining enclosures.
For years I’ve heard how amazing Costa Rica is. Eco tourism, waterfalls, surfing, yoga, volcanoes etc and then you throw in the wildlife! I knew it was a destination I would love to work in. The hardest decision was where and what volunteer project to do.
Costa Rica is home to hundreds of volunteer projects – whether planting trees or protecting the rain forest, working with turtles or monkeys, butterflies or birds, children or adults; there are bountiful volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica.
So how did I decide on Alturas? I missed working with monkeys and ocelots, I only had a short holiday over Christmas and it was budget friendly. They had a very detailed program
and Alturas did not appear as a tourist trap and had decent reviews. This sanctuary met all my criteria. I skipped the middlemen and applied directly through their website. https://alturaswildlifesanctuary.org/volunteer
Facility: Alturas’ facility is quite small in comparison to other sanctuaries. You can easily walk the sanctuary in 10 minutes. They have the main area which is home to various monkey and exotic bird species, sloths, racoons, ant eaters, ocelots and an assortment of adorable Central American species. There is another section that is away from the tour area for a more quite pre prep area to monitor health and determine whether they will be re-released. And then there is the isolation pre release area. A vet clinic, animal food prep kitchen and an education centre with the staff kitchen and dining area.
Tourist Trap: No. Although they do daily tours, the main source of income is volunteers and sponsorship.
Hands on: You will be in an enclosure with some of the animals while cleaning and preparing enrichment, but the contact will be very limited. There will be times you will have to move a sloth, or shake animals off of you while cleaning, but they are definitely not cuddly selfie moments.
Volunteer duties: The days are somewhat long with plenty of break times. The work load is best suited for someone who doesn’t mind getting dirty and with an average physical strength. Food preparation, feeding, cleaning and reorganizing enclosures, enrichment, and site maintenance.
Enrichment: A huge portion of the day is spent toward enrichment. This can be from collecting palms, creating natural toys, changing the enclosure, or building new platforms.
Overall: This was a very well organised program with a true focus on rehabilitation. Although on the smaller side, it was not crowded with volunteers or tourists in which it gave volunteering a more personal feel. I highly recommend and feel they need the support.
Daily Duties: You start at 7am and are given a designated animal area in which you will clean and deliver the food. Around 10 am you break and after that it is enrichment time until lunch at noon. Your break is for 2 hours and then more cleaning, enrichment, feeding, or a variety of work until you finish at 4pm.
Accommodation: There are 4 options, with varying prices. The volunteer house – 4 bedrooms/2 bathrooms and a kitchen. One private apartment with a double bunkbed, a bathroom and a kitchen. The hotel on the property or you can stay nearby and get yourself to work (You will need your own vehicle).
Transportation: The location is fairly remote and sometimes difficult to get to due to the very steep long drive up the hill. If you do not have a vehicle, you will need to take a taxi/hired car from an airport or hotel. Be aware it is a very steep and some cars are unable to get to the top. You can call the sanctuary or hotel and they can pick you up from the bottom. The volunteer coordinator will on occasion be taking you out for dinner and group organised activities on your days off.
Food: The sanctuary will provide groceries for your own breakfast and then provide a cooked lunch and dinner 5 days a week. On the days off you can prepare your own meals or be taken out as a group. The hotel also has a delicious restaurant.
Days off: As it is remote, unless you have a vehicle it is difficult to get around. There will be outings or you can just relax and enjoy nature. Wifi works well here.
What to pack: Rain jacket, pants, tank top and shorts, closed toe shoes or runners. Mosquito spray, flashlight and whatever else you would pack for a trip.
For more information on the project click here