Volunteering at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary gives you the opportunity to actively participate in our wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation program here in Costa Rica. As a volunteer, you are able to work with a range of injured and orphaned primates, mammals, birds and sometimes even reptiles. You will assist the team with daily animal husbandry tasks, such as cleaning enclosures, preparing and providing food, maintaining enclosures, and designing and collecting materials for environmental enrichment. You will meet lots of like-minded, new people and have opportunities to explore the local area, walk-in pristine wilderness and experience genuine Costa Rican culture.
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary accepts volunteers from all over the world, who can commit to a minimum stay of 1 week and a maximum of 3 months. We also accept day volunteers (non-residential) who can commit to a minimum of 5 days (see RATES AND LODGING page for details).
We invite local residents to volunteer at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary for a minimum commitment of one regular morning per week, on a permanent/long-term basis.
- You must be 18 to volunteer at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary. Volunteers between the age of 16 and 18 are welcome to apply but you will be asked to participate in a Skype interview and acceptance is not guaranteed.
- Duration of stay:
The minimum stay requirement is one (1) week and the maximum is three (3) months depending on skills, experience, qualifications, and availability.
- New volunteer check-in days are Wednesday and Sunday. Please plan your travel to arrive at the Sanctuary on a Wednesday or Sunday before 8 pm. Orientation will take place the following day.
- Basic English or Spanish is required.
- Physically able to perform the required tasks.
- Medical travel insurance.
An up to date tetanus vaccination is essential for all volunteers. We advise all volunteers to check the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Website for other country specific recommended vaccinations. Although there is no risk of Yellow Fever in Costa Rica, proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination is required by the Costa Rican government when entering from a country where Yellow Fever is present. A list of these countries is Available Here.
Why we need volunteers
Team Alturas is always in need of assistance with daily operations and animal husbandry tasks, as there is always a lot to do! We regularly receive injured wildlife that need emergency veterinary treatment but we must also attend to the needs of the resident wildlife permanently living in the sanctuary. Additionally we take care of the rehabilitation needs of the animals due for release back into the wild. This means we need to be very organized and efficient, so extra help from volunteers is always welcome!
Where your contribution goes
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is funded solely from volunteer donations, public tours and private donors. 100% of the volunteer fee goes directly towards the daily operational costs of the sanctuary, support of the volunteers and the care requirements of the wildlife.
Why volunteer at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary?
- Gain practical experience caring for captive sanctuary residents and wildlife being rehabilitated in preparation for release into the wild;
- Learn about the behavior, biology and ecology of Costa Rica’s native wildlife species;
- Gain skills and experience in captive wildlife management, husbandry, enrichment and welfare;
- Enjoy the beautiful beaches, ocean and pristine rainforests through a range of leisure activities, such as snorkeling, ocean kayaking, zip-lining and jungle tours;
- Experience the Costa Rican food and culture through a range of organized social activities;
- Meet new people who are as passionate about animals and conservation as you are;
- Enjoy living at a safe and secure wildlife sanctuary with a live-in volunteer coordinator who will assist you to settle in, make friends, and enjoy your volunteering experience;
- Contribute to a non-profit organization that puts 100% of the program fee towards the animal’s care and welfare.
About the work
Every day will differ, but general daily volunteer tasks may include:
- Preparing food and feeding animals
- Cleaning and maintaining enclosures
- Collecting, creating and providing environmental enrichment items
- Assisting with enclosure design and construction
- Grounds maintenance
- Assisting with public tours and education sessions
- Preparing educational materials
- Assisting with clinical operations (dependent on skills/qualifications)
- Assist with data collection and research (dependent on skills/qualifications)
- Assisting with marketing, social media, fundraising and community events
Those who commit for 1 week will work in our sanctuary while those committing for 2 weeks will have the opportunity to work in the sanctuary and rehabilitation side. Activities you will be taking part in will include, but not be limited to;
- Cleaning enclosures
- Feeding our animals
- Creating and administering enrichment
- Site maintenance
- Browse collection
- Enclosure development
Those who can commit to 3 weeks or more will be able to experience the same as above, as well as assist with:
- Diet preparation
- Orphan care and night feedings
- Opportunity to release an animal (dependent on the animals in our care)
You do not need wildlife or veterinary experience to become a volunteer at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, but if you have particular skills or experience, you are always welcome to support us in your field of knowledge. We are also keen to have volunteers with experience in education, construction, social media, marketing, fundraising and research.
Volunteering hours are from 7:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, 5 days per week. In between daily volunteering duties, you are free to do as you wish and will have the option to join in with organized social activities on certain days. You will have 2 days per week free, depending on your personal schedule, to explore the local area, visit the beaches, or just relax at the sanctuary.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of work do volunteers do?
Volunteers mostly prepare food, feed the animals, clean enclosures and make and collect environmental enrichment for the animals. They also help with grounds and enclosure maintenance. Other tasks include educational activities, data collection, social media and marketing, veterinary assistance but these are dependent on season, skills and requirement.
Animal handling is carried out for procedural purposes only and animal contact is therefore minimal in order to maximize rehabilitation and release success rates.
How can I get there?
San Jose International Airport is the closest International Airport to the Sanctuary. Depending on your arrival time in San José, you might have to stay overnight in San José and travel to our Sanctuary the next day. You need to arrive at the sanctuary before 8 pm. If this is not possible, please arrange overnight accommodation.
You can travel to the sanctuary from San Jose by bus which costs about $14 and takes approximately 6 hours. We will then pick you up in Dominical/Uvita. We can also arrange transportation from San Jose to the sanctuary via private shuttle ($120) or a shared shuttle (between $45-$60) and takes approximately 3.5 hours.
Another option would be to fly from San Jose to Quepos (between $75 and $100 for a one-way flight, excluding baggage fee) and then by bus or taxi to Dominical.
Upon confirmation of your volunteering position, we can assist you with travel arrangements.
For information on accommodation options in San Jose, Dominical and Uvita, visit our FIND Us page.
Prices may vary and are subjects to change.
What should I bring?
This is a list of recommended clothing and equipment:
- Closed shoes or rubber boots, lightweight hiking or walking shoes with treads are best;
- Insect repellent, sunscreen, and a hat;
- Light waterproof jacket or poncho, especially for the rainy season (June - November);
- Working clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty e.g. shorts and tank tops/t-shirts, long pants, long-sleeved shirts (LAUNDRY FACILITIES AVAILABLE ON SITE)
- Casual clothes for after work or free days;
- Flip flops/sandals;
- Swimwear, sunglasses and travel towel;
- Flashlight/head torch;
- Adapter for charging electronics;
- Photocopy of passport;
- Bank/credit card (ATM’s are available- $US or Costa Rican colon are both usable currencies);
- Small first aid kit;
- Spanish phrase book;
What can I do in my free time?
During your stay with us, you will have enough free time to explore the local area. The sanctuary is located 7 kilometers south of Dominical and 13 kilometers north of Uvita and there are plenty of activities to do on your days off and restaurants/ bars to visit in the evening. We also organize weekly social activities so you can see and experience local beaches, bars, waterfalls, and wildlife. It is useful to know that a taxi to Dominical or Uvita costs between $15 and $20 each way. We assist with transportation where possible, but you must be prepared to use public transport when necessary.
On your days off, you may want to:
- Relax at one of the many beaches;
- Shop for souvenirs in Dominical or Uvita;
- Do one of the numerous water sports, e.g. surfing (or take a surf class), diving, fishing, SUP, snorkeling, kayaking etc;
- Visit the Whale Tail at Marino Ballena National Marine Park in Uvita;
- Visit Manuel Antonio National Park in Quepos;
- Whale watching (dependent upon season);
- Hike to or horseback ride to Nauyaca Waterfall;
- Visit and swim in the various other local waterfalls;
- See more wildlife in Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge or Parque Reptilandia.
We are more than happy to help you organize a trip or tour but you are required to pay the cost of these excursions yourself.
Are there phone and or internet services I can use?
There is WIFI located at the sanctuary and in all accommodation options. We will provide free calls to the U.S. and Canada from the hotel on a prearranged schedule if needed.
Are there laundry facilities available?
Yes, there is a washing machine and a tumble dryer available for use. Both can be used free of charge.
What will I eat? What if I have a special diet?
All meals are vegetarian with the occasional fish dish provided. Volunteers are required to prepare their own breakfast for the duration of their stay, the groceries will be provided. Lunch and dinner are prepared 5 days per week by our in-house chef. On the remaining two days per week volunteers are responsible for preparing all of their food needs.
Having a special diet is not a problem. The staple food in Costa Rica is easily adapted to suit most diets: vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free and even celiac diets can be accommodated. Just be sure to mention it on your application form.
Can I do an internship at the sanctuary?
We cater for interns on an individual case by case basis and can customize your internship to meet the specific needs of your studies. We will make sure you are provided with all the necessary documentation during and upon completion of your internship. Please be visit the Internship Section for more information.
What public transport is available in the area?
There are several daily buses that travel between Uvita and Dominical (about $2) and to other parts of Costa Rica. You may need to walk 1km down a steep hill to get to the bus. We will endeavor to collect you from the bottom of the hill upon your return but on occasion, you may be required to walk up it. A taxi to Dominical or Uvita costs between $15 and $20 one way and you must be prepared to use public transport when necessary.
How much money will I need for activities/transport?
This depends on how much you intend to do in your free time, what kind of activities you plan on doing, and whether you will do these by yourself or go on an organized tour. Buses are relatively cheap, but taxis and shuttles cost considerably more. You can expect to spend between $75 and ,$100 per week on transportation, social activities, food and nights out. If you intend to go on tours to National Parks and do water sports activities etc, this can easily double.
How can I pay?
We require a 20% deposit to book and secure your volunteering position. You must pay the complete balance 14 days prior to your arrival date. You can make these payments via Paypal or with a credit/debit card. Any cancellations 30 days before your arrival date will receive a full refund. Cancellation made between 30 and 14 days will be charged a $50 processing fee. Cancellations made 14 days or less before your arrival date will not receive any refund.
What days of the week can I arrive on?
New volunteer intake days occur on Wednesday and Sunday before 8pm. We can assist with accommodation options if your flight arrives a day or so before our intake days. You will receive a full orientation before you begin volunteering. This will either occur on your arrival day or the following day, depending on your arrival time, how you are feeling and how many other new volunteers are also arriving on that intake day.
Is there anything the sanctuary could use and I can bring?
There are always specific items that we need but cannot obtain in Costa Rica. If you are able to assist, please read the Alturas Wishlist.