Location: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica
Project: Wildlife Rescue, Rehabilitation and Conservation
Duration: 4 week (min)
Cost: $350 + Accommodation and Food
Programs: Volunteer, Internship & Local
What’s included: 1 week accommodation and breakfast only at La Ceiba.
Project details: Assist with animal husbandry tasks – cleaning, enrichment, food preparation and distribution, maintaining enclosures and grounds.
If you have the time to volunteer for a month, I highly recommend the Jaguar Rescue Centre in Costa Rica. After heading to Costa Rica twice in one year, I was determined to head back and volunteer once again. This time it would be longer and on the Caribbean side. After reading many reviews and applying directly with them I was to head back and care for sloths, monkeys, ocelots, raccoons, birds and many others. Despite the name ‘Jaguar’ Rescue Centre, there were no jaguars, but many amazing native Central American animals I have never encountered, and would fall in love with. I had no idea that rehabilitating a Toucan would become one of my favorite activities or how sneaky a Greater Grison can be. And I’ll never underestimate the menacing behaviors of a baby squirrel or raccoon again. The highlight for many would be taking care of the sloths, but for me it was taking the monkeys to the forest or building enrichment for them. I loved everything about the project and even extended my stay for 2 weeks.
This program is great for those who want to work hands on with animals, and the one week you work at La Ceiba, (a more remote rescue centre located nearby that is mandatory) is great for those seeking a more natural no touch experience that I think is amazing.
Facility: The Jaguar Rescue Centre facility is a good size. There are many different sections that house a variety of species and the outer non caged grass and forest areas for certain animals to enjoy during the day. The centre has a good sized vet clinic and rehabilitation area, a kitchen prep area, laundry and enrichment storage. La Ceiba has massive land and rivers for the pre release animals to enjoy and it takes some time to see it all.
Tourist Trap: Yes and no. There are daily tours and sometimes busloads. Despite this, the visitors are not to go near the animals and it is very well organised. As I find the cost for this volunteer project to be very reasonable, I believe the tours are important to help fund the sanctuary.
Hands on: You will be working hands on with many of the animals, but they are not petting or selfie times. You will have to move sloths, carry monkeys, and have a variety of other animals on you. Again, these are not photo or cuddle opportunities. Despite some of the animal’s cuteness they can be very dangerous, dirty and annoying at times.
Volunteer duties: The days are somewhat long with 2 break times. The work load is best suited for someone who doesn’t mind getting dirty and with good physical strength. Feeding, animal handling, cleaning and reorganising enclosures, enrichment, laundry, dishes and site maintenance.
Enrichment: A major job each day is enrichment. Usually it is heading out of the sanctuary to collect trees, plants and flowers for the enclosures or to give as food or make toys. Another enrichment task could be just spending time with the animals observing them or keeping them company.
Overall: Although it was more hands on then I felt it needed to be, I still really enjoyed my time and a lot of good does come from the centre in the ways of re-releasing. The sanctuary does so much for the rescued animals and is great to the volunteers. This was a very well organised program and although there were tours, they did not get in the way of the work load.
Daily Duties: You start at 7am for a meeting and then given a designated area in which you will work. After a break you be assigned another task until lunch. After lunch another job will be assigned to you. There are a variety of jobs – some easy, some not, but not all are working with the animals. Animal care will go to those that have skills or that have been shown how to work with the animals. Work days usually end before 4pm.
Accommodation: There are 3 options; you can stay at the volunteer house next door for $20 a night – but you must prebook this to see if there is space. You can book through a 3rd party organization that will set you up with room, food and airport pickups. Or you can find your own house or hotel to rent. If you need a hotel before or after the project I recommend Adventure Inn or Country Inn and Suites by Radisson.
Transportation: You will need to make your way there and back – I used Caribe Shuttle and found it to be a great service. The location is fairly central to many restaurants and grocery stores, but renting a bicycle is mandatory if you are not staying at the volunteer house. You might want to rent a bike to go to the large grocery store, evening outings or exploring, but there is a taxi driver that the volunteer house uses.
Food: If you are staying at the volunteer house you will be sharing a kitchen and need to prepare all your meals. Grocery stores and restaurants are nearby.
Days off: You are given 2 days off on a weekly schedule and this can vary. There is plenty to do nearby and on tours. I even hopped over to Panama for a quick getaway. Wifi can be dodgy depending on how many people are using it.
What to pack: Rain jacket, pants, long sleeves, tank top and shorts, runners or boots. Mosquito spray, flashlight and whatever else you would pack for a trip.
For more information on the project click here