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Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary Volunteer (Natuwa)

Do you love wildlife and feel called to help rescue animals? Would you like to live your volunteer abroad dreams in the beautiful jungles of Costa Rica? Then join us to do just that and more!

Costa Rica is a wildlife lover’s dream. This small Central American gem is home to sloths, monkeys, macaws, toucans, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, frogs, snakes, and a whole lot more. All these amazing creatures await you among stunning scenery and friendly, welcoming people.

These amazing animals are in peril due to human encroachment into their natural habitat. Some lose their homes, while others are electrocuted by power lines or hit by cars. Some develop diseases from being fed by humans, and worse yet, others are captured from the wild and sold into the illegal pet trade.

Volunteer at a Costa Rica wildlife sanctuary that rescues and rehabilitates animals that have been injured, orphaned, or are victims of the pet trade. For those that can’t be released, they offer them sanctuary. Help provide daily care to the animals, assist in the rescue and release process, plant trees, learn how to respect wildlife, and more!

Do you want to fulfill your passion and love for animals and help create a better future for these abused creatures? Then contact IFRE today to help save the animals of Costa Rica!

Take a minute to complete the form and we will be in touch.

Projects

At IFRE’s Costa Rica wildlife sanctuary volunteer program, you’ll find yourself getting involved in a variety of exciting projects. Here are some of the activities you can expect to participate in:

Rescue and Rehabilitation

Many animals in Costa Rica end up becoming injured or orphaned, and they need immediate medical intervention to save their lives. Join the rescue team as they take incoming emergencies and support animals as they move through the healing and rehabilitation process towards their eventual release back into the wild.

Zoo keeping

The sanctuary is home to 450 animals, and they all depend on Costa Rica wildlife volunteers to provide them care. Some of your main duties will be ensuring the animals enjoy a high quality of life by providing fresh food, water, and cleaning their enclosures daily.

Environmental Enrichment

For the animals who can’t be released due to chronic human habituation or being unable to care for themselves, their enclosure in the sanctuary becomes their whole world. It will be your job to provide environmental enrichment in the form of natural vegetation, and also things you design and place in the cage to help stimulate the animal, keep them alert and entertained, and simulate their natural environment.

Macaw Conservation

The sanctuary has its roots in its extensive work with the magnificent Macaw, and they currently have more than 200 birds of both the endemic Scarlet Macaw, and non-native species like the Blue and Gold and Hyacinth Macaws. This project breeds Macaws for eventual release to rebuild the wild population, and they also do work to restore the macaw’s natural habitat and give this species a place to thrive.

Ecological Restoration

While volunteering at this Costa Rica wildlife sanctuary, you’ll have the chance to help plant a native forest reserve. You’ll be planting trees like beach almonds, jobos, guasimos, and senizaros, providing homes, food, and refuge for many different species of animals.

Maintenance of Enclosures and Property

In a tropical climate, things break very quickly, and there is no end to the upkeep needed in the wildlife sanctuary. Help mesh enclosures, put in new branches and play structures for animals to climb on, paint signs, and pitch in on some of the hard work that is needed to keep things running smoothly.

Give Tours

Offering tours to the public is an amazing chance to educate people on how to respect wildlife and spread the word for the ethical and responsible treatment of animals. Volunteers will help give tours of the sanctuary and talk to guests about things like not feeding wildlife, the horrors of the illegal pet trade, and other important topics as part of the sanctuary’s educational outreach program.

Help Feed Baby Sloths

Sloths are often orphaned by their mothers and need dedicated care day and night to raise these fragile babies, nurse them back to health, and teach them what they need to know to one day go off on their own back into the trees. Assist in the wildlife nursery feeding baby sloths and other delicate orphans that need specialized care.


The sanctuary’s primary goal is to make people aware that wild animals should be left in the wild and never removed from their natural habitat. They do not promote the domestication of any animal.

You should never think of the animals you will work with at this project as pets or treat them as such. Even for those that have the misfortune of never being able to go free again, you must understand and respect their wild nature.

If your intention is to hug, kiss, cuddle, or talk to wild animals, this is NOT the Costa Rica wildlife sanctuary volunteer project for you, and you should know these behaviors will not be permitted. Such activity is illegal in the country of Costa Rica, is not good for the wildlife, stresses the animals, may lead to their inability to be released back into the wild, and is dangerous for everyone involved.

If, instead, you are seeking to join a meaningful project working respectfully with wildlife and making a real difference in the lives of animals, this is the perfect project for you.


Volunteer Responsibilities & Impact

Your primary task as a Costa Rica wildlife sanctuary volunteer will be helping care for the animals in the sanctuary and performing the daily zoo keeping tasks of feeding and cleaning, offering environmental enrichment, and helping maintain the enclosures.

You will also help in the rescue and rehabilitation process, plant trees, work with Scarlet Macaws, do educational outreach by giving tours, and help feed and care for the baby sloths and other orphaned wildlife in the nursery. You will get involved at all levels and should be ready to pitch in and help wherever it is needed.

Your time will impact and change your life forever. You will work up-close with extraordinary animals who will touch your heart, and who desperately need your help on their journey back into the wild.


Skills and Qualifications:

You don’t need to be a biologist to help save the animals of the rainforest! Animal lovers from all backgrounds can join our wildlife sanctuary volunteeringproject in Costa Rica, so long as you are at least 18 years of age, passionate about wildlife, and willing to work hard making a difference.

You will need to show a profound level of respect for the animals at all times, and carefully follow the instructions of the project staff to ensure neither you nor the wildlife is put in danger. If you do have special skills or a background in a related field, we welcome you to let us know and share your passion with us!


Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary volunteer: Dates and Fees

Program Dates

IFRE programs begin every Monday year-round. If you have travel constraints, you can still start your chosen program on any day of the year.

Our Fees

Since 2006, IFRE has been the most trusted and respected volunteer abroad organization in the world, and also the most affordable. We’re dedicated to providing the highest quality volunteer programs at the lowest fees, which make it possible for everyone, especially students, to volunteer internationally and make a positive impact in the lives of others.

We believe in 100% transparency. Rest assured, we never use middlemen. Your one-time registration fee of $299 covers our administrative costs. The low weekly fee is paid in the host country directly to your host family and project (via country coordinator), and includes housing, food, and minor expenses. IFRE is a non-profit organization, so your program fees are tax deductible.

Volunteer Program Fees (US$)

Duration Wildlife Conservation
  1 Week   $210
  2 Weeks   $420
  3 Weeks   $630
  4 Weeks   $840
  5 Weeks   $1050
  6 Weeks   $1260
  7 Weeks   $1470
  8 Weeks   $1680
  9 Weeks   $1890
  10 Weeks   $2100
  11 Weeks   $2310
  12 Weeks   $2520

Mandatory Comprehensive Travel Insurance $3.49/day »

How your fee is allocated?

No Spanish Language Program with the Turtle Conservation Project

Natuwa Airport pick up $100

Program Fees Cover:

  • Accommodation (host family)
  • Food (only breakfast and dinnery)
  • Program Orientation
  • In-country support
  • Personalized project
  • Pre-departure information
  • Certificate of completion
  • Fundraising ideas and letters
  • Discount for returning volunteers

Program Fees Exclude:

  • Visas
  • Airfare
  • Personal expenses on soft drinks and foods
  • Daily transportation
  • Airport return transfer

The volunteering overseas in Costa Rica program fees will cover expenses that will begin on the first day of the program (usually the first or third Monday of the month) to the last day of the program. If you arrive before the first day of the program or you decide you stay beyond your program’s last day, you will be responsible for the additional expenses, which would typically be around $30 a day for room and meals at a hostel.

Take a minute to complete the form and we will be in touch.

Accommodation and Meal

You’ll be living right there at the project site in the jungles of Costa Rica with your fellow volunteers from around the world. There are two housing options available. Most will stay in the dorm style accommodations shared with other volunteers built out of a shipping container with a large covered outdoor common space.

There is also a traditional Costa Rican house with three bunk beds that is home to Costa Rica wildlife rescue volunteers who stay 4 weeks or longer. Both have Wi-Fi, and access to shared showers, bathrooms, and washing machines. As is typical in Costa Rica, there is no hot water and we suggest bringing along your own mosquito net.

You’ll be served three meals a day of typical Costa Rican fare. That amounts to a whole lot of rice and beans, salad, delicious fresh fruit, juices, and coffee. Meals are a great chance to bond with your fellow volunteers and make friends from around the world.


Free Time and Weekend Exploration

You’re headed to volunteer with animals in Costa Rica, so you’re going to want to get out and explore this amazing country. The sanctuary is somewhat remote (though a small store is only a kilometer away), so count on immersing yourself in the wild world around you and perhaps spending more time coming up with ways to enrich the animal’s lives and make them better while you’re there.

When you have days off, get out and explore other areas! The town of Puntarenas can be reached by bus every morning at 6 am, or by taxi for around $35. A port city home to 100,000 friendly Ticos and Ticas, Puntarenas has café lined walkways and beautiful beaches.

Puntarenas is also a fantastic spot to access many other exciting Costa Rican destinations. Check out the cool nearby beach towns of Santa Teresa or Mal Pais, go surfing at one of the best long-boarding waves in the world, Boca Barranca, or view a recovering population of Scarlet Macaws and other wildlife free in their jungle homes at Carara National Park.

Learn more about the exciting things you can do during your free time in Costa Rica.


Safety and in Country Support

Traveling abroad can seem daunting, but with IFRE you’re not doing it alone. Your safety is our number one priority. We have carefully vetted every aspect of your trip, and we’ve been doing this since 2006. Over 22,000 volunteers have had successful, meaningful volunteer abroad experiences with us, so you can count on us to do the same for you.

IFRE only works with trusted local partners. On your Costa Rica wildlife volunteer trip, you’ll have the guidance and support of our highly experienced and knowledgeable team of in-country staff. They will be there to help you every step of the way.

Read more about IFRE’s dedication to safety and our in-country support.

Take a minute to complete the form and we will be in touch.

Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary Volunteer: FAQs

You’re ready to head off on an adventure volunteering with a wildlife rescue in Costa Rica. Before you pack your bags, you probably have a few questions that need answered first. To make that part easy for you, here’s some information we think you should know about this project, and traveling with us:

Meet the Animals

Let’s face it. You want to make the world a better place, but part of your desire to volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary is because you’re an animal lover. This project is built of animal lovers just like you, and the amazing animals the rescue organization is helping save. You’re probably wondering what kinds of animals you’ll be working with.

While volunteering at this wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica, you’ll meet and help care for sloths, monkeys, jaguars, tapirs, parrots, toucans, ocelots, deer, and many more amazing animal species! The Scarlet macaw breeding and release program is a huge part of the project’s efforts, and the sanctuary is also home to 200 macaws.

If you’ve always dreamed of working with wildlife, this is your chance to make that dream come true in a rescue and rehabilitation setting in beautiful Costa Rica.

Will I be assisting the veterinarian?

Unless you have a background in veterinary medicine and viable wildlife skills to provide to the clinic if they need you, your efforts will be more concentrated in the sanctuary, helping rehabilitate animals after they have healed from trauma and have already undergone veterinary care from the medical team in the clinic. Wildlife rescue is a team effort, and even volunteers without any background or experience can find their own important role to play.

Will I be holding or playing with animals while volunteering in Costa Rica in a wildlife sanctuary?

Although there are sanctuaries and wildlife volunteer opportunities that teach volunteers that animals rescued from the pet trade should have or need human contact, this is not in the best interest of either the animal or the volunteer.

If an animal needs or desires physical contact, the ethical way to provide this is by offering a well-enriched and natural enclosure with animals of the same species with which the animal can interact, providing the animal with as natural of a life as possible within captivity.

This is what you are doing every day with your zoo keeping duties while volunteering in the Costa Rica wildlife sanctuary! You can feel great knowing you are already giving the animals what they need from you and resist the urge to have physical contact with them.

Handling wildlife is not only illegal in the country of Costa Rica, it ruins any chance of that animal being able to successfully live in the wild, and the primary goal of this project is to release animals back into their natural habitat.

Even for the wildlife who remain in the sanctuary, handling animals spreads disease, reinforces problematic behavior, and puts the human who is handling them at risk. All wild animals bite, and you should keep this in mind while volunteering.

If you need to hold a baby to feed it while assisting in the nursery, avoid cuddling, talking to it, or encouraging behaviors which will make the animal less wild, hindering their progress towards a successful release.

Arrival and Departure

Our volunteers in Costa Rica in wildlife program will fly into Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. Send your final flight information to our in-country coordinator. We will set up your airport pick up according to your flight schedule.

IFRE doesn’t offer departure transport services.

Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary Volunteer: Visa

Securing a Costa Rican tourist visa is a must in order to volunteer in our wildlife sanctuary project in Costa Rica.You can simply pay a visit to the Costa Rican immigration office in your home country to get the visa. Depending on your nationality, Costa Rica also offers on arrival visa at the airport. You can have a 90-day tourist visa at first and can further extend up to 90 days while you are in the country. Visit Immigration site of Costa Rica for detail information regarding Costa Rica visa policy.

Vaccination

All international travelers should get up to date on their vaccines before heading abroad.

Since you’ll be working with wildlife, you might consider the Rabies vaccine. Although Rabies is nearly non-existent in Costa Rica, you will be at a much higher risk for being bitten by a wild animal so you need to keep that in mind. The shot takes three boosters, so should be started several weeks in advance of your trip.

Please consult a travel doctor who is knowledgeable about current health issues and epidemics in Costa Rica before heading off on your Costa Rica wildlife rescue adventure. You can also find the information on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Health Canadaor in Travelers' Health United Kingdom. You should be up to date on your routine vaccines, as well as Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid.

For further readings:

Vaccination

Volunteer Health and Safety

Safety tips for your volunteer abroad trip

Why volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica?

Volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary is an amazing opportunity to fulfill your love and passion for animals and make a huge difference in the health of the environment.

Help rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife

The animals of Costa Rica need your help! Participate in every aspect of wildlife rescue from the intake of emergency cases to the rehabilitation process to the thrill of a successful release.

Gain professional experience

If you are thinking of pursuing a career in a wildlife related field, this Costa Rica wildlife volunteer opportunity is an amazing experience working hands on in your chosen career path. Experience with such exotic wildlife in a sanctuary and rescue setting looks amazing on a resume, and you’ll learn so much!

Connect with animals in need

You are an animal lover and your heart goes out to the baby birds who lost their mother, the sloth who got electrocuted, the jaguar who was kept as a cub on a leash as a pet. You have empathy for these animals, and you can show them this by providing compassionate care and helping them on their journey to recovery.

Meet like-minded people

While volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica, you will meet amazing people from all over the world who are just as passionate about animals as you are. Learn about new cultures and go on adventures together! One of the best parts of wildlife projects are the friends you make from all over the world!

Travel to Costa Rica!

Costa Rica is a magical place, alive and full of so much beauty. What better place to do your part to help save the planet? Have an amazing time in this one-of-a-kind Central American destination!

Contact IFRE today to join our quest to help save the animals of Costa Rica!

Other Wildlife Projects in Costa Rica

There are many ways for you to make a difference for vulnerable wildlife in Costa Rica. You can

volunteer with a research project,

help save endangered sea turtles on the Caribbean coast or on the Osa Peninsula.

Contact IFRE today to learn more!

Wildlife Projects Worldwide

There are many threats facing the world’s wildlife all across the planet, and IFRE aims to do everything possible to end these problems. See the list below for some of our most popular wildlife projects in many different countries:

Take a minute to complete the form and we will be in touch.

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