Overseas Volunteer Experience Stories

As many of you know, the volunteers and interns we get make our sanctuary what it is today, and we are so grateful for their hard work. We welcome volunteers from all over the world, with different educational backgrounds. We have started inviting volunteers/interns to write a small piece about their time at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary so that our readers can see first-hand what it’s like to be part of our team. Scroll down below to read the monthly inserts and get a better idea about life at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.

Anna Schobinger

Anna Schobinger

Hi, my name is Anna, I’m from Switzerland and I volunteered at Alturas for a month. I always wanted to volunteer with animals and at Alturas, I had the opportunity to work really closely with all kinds of species, even though I had no background in animal caretaking. It was so much fun feeding the animals and preparing new enrichment with the other volunteers. The work at the sanctuary is challenging but really rewarding and I learned so much from the amazing staff. I never expected to be trusted with highly important tasks like baby night feedings and it was an experience I‘ll never forget. Also, the sanctuary is located in a beautiful jungle where I got to see wild animals like monkeys, peccaries, and birds daily. On my off days, I explored the beautiful beaches and waterfalls in the area, which made the experience even better. The best part for me was when we had the chance to release animals back into the wild where they belong. The staff at Alturas does an amazing job and I can‘t recommend the volunteer program enough!

Eve Pawsey

Eve Pawsey
Volunteer Coordinator (June-September)

I first came to Alturas expecting to learn about the species found in Costa Rica and to explore part of the country. However, what I got was so much more than this. During my time as volunteer coordinator I was able to work as part of an incredible team of caring people who worked tirelessly to benefit the species that come into their care and strive towards rehabilitating every case. Not only was I working hands on with the animals in their care, but I was also meeting new people and exploring new exciting places. Being here allowed me to improve upon my managerial skills whilst I oversaw the ever-changing group of volunteers in the daily tasks and enjoyable outings organized by myself (such as trips to beaches and waterfalls). As well as this, I had a first-hand insight into the care and rehabilitation of a wide range of species and the workings of an animal-based non-government organization. Overall, I had an incredible experience working at Alturas wildlife sanctuary due to both the wildlife I was able to care for and the people who made my time there as special and insightful as it was. Until next time Alturas.

French Interns from the University of Nantes

French Interns

Marrianne Roux, Francois De La Marre, Leah Le Boterff & Sarah La Fontaine

We were lucky enough to have four veterinary interns from the University of Nantes, France stay with us for six weeks. Here is what sums up their stay...

Our six weeks can be resumed as the following: one billion fun titi monkeys, adorable sloths, amazing white face monkeys in the clinic and of course, crazy staff members!

Overall, we had the opportunity to work with an amazing team and with incredible animals, we probably won’t see again soon. As veterinary students eager to learn about wildlife we had the time of our life there! And once again, a huge thank you to all the staff and especially to Sandy and Rebeca for everything they’ve taught us and for their kindness.

Rene Sauer

Rene Sauer

I am from California, USA and have been volunteering at Alturas for about two weeks now. It has been an amazing adventure full of wonderful people and experiences! I have gained so much valuable knowledge in the short time I have been here, and not just about the vast diversity of wildlife in Costa Rica. All the staff and volunteers have unknowingly taught me so much about compassion, living in the moment and the value of hard work plus its rewards. Such a close quarters, education-based program has allowed me to thrive in my search for more knowledge regarding the animal kingdom. I am so wildly grateful for this once in a lifetime experience, I will never forget all the animals (including the humans) that I have grown to love and appreciate!!

Where I'm From: California, USA

Emily Vandenberg

Emily Vandenberg

Hi, my name is Emily and I spent 2 months at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary as a wildlife husbandry intern. Being from a small town in southern Ontario, Canada, I was a little nervous about coming to Alturas. I have never been to Costa Rica before and speak very little Spanish, but all the staff were more than accommodating. Their warm and friendly personalities made me feel right at home. They were very welcoming and answered all of my questions with a big smile on their faces.

During my time here, I learned a lot about the amount effort, patience and dedication it takes to work at a sanctuary and rehabilitation center. The work is challenging but rewarding and the rewards far outweigh the effort. In addition to the routine animal care, I was able to set up camera traps in the nocturnal animal enclosures. These camera traps would video record the animal's movement in the enclosure and their behavior.

Volunteer Duration: 2 Month Wildlife Husbandry Intern
Where I'm From: Canada
Read more: Emily Vandenberg

McKenzie Weisser

McKenzie Weisser

My time at Alturas has been an incredible experience. I came from the United States to do a 3-month veterinary internship here. The veterinary staff are amazing mentors that are passionate about what they do, and I’ve been able to learn so much from them. I’ve been able to gain experience in caring for orphaned animals as well as treating a variety of problems in many different species. If you’re interested in learning about wildlife and exploring a beautiful country, Alturas is the perfect place to volunteer!

Volunteer Duration: 3 Month Veterinary Internship
Where I'm From: USA

Maelig Potiau

Maelig Potiau

Volunteering at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary was basically the best choice I could have made. I am a Belgian student in Trade and Sustainable Development and I am currently volunteering here and also doing my internship for 3 months. I carry out so many different tasks, such as cleaning and building enclosure, feeding the animals and the babies during night time, releasing the healed animals, and so on … The crew is simply awesome and working here is such a joy every day! On my days off, I just go surfing in Dominical, grab a beer with friends/volunteers or even go to waterfalls, happiness guaranteed! What are you waiting for?! Just come and join us, you won’t regret it!

Volunteer Duration: 3 Month Internship
Where I'm From: Belgium

Lindsey Stern

Lindsey Stern

I knew I was in for something great when I came to volunteer at Alturas, but I didn’t expect it to be life-changing. Every day, I find myself amazed by the heroic work that is done here and I am grateful that I get to be a part of it. Recently, I was invited to witness, and partake in; the flight test of a hawk that had come into the clinic with a shoulder injury. After passing the flight test, it was agreed that the bird was ready for release. I was excited to watch him fly free, but I never expected to be asked: “do you want to do it?” As a bird lover, the opportunity to be the one to give the beautiful raptor its freedom was a dream come true. I was shown how to hold him properly and instructed to give a light toss upwards. The hawk eagerly left my hand and soared to a nearby tree where he perched and bobbed his tail. It is difficult and heartbreaking at times to work with animals that have been so deeply affected, and hurt, by humans. However, it is experiences like the release of the hawk that makes the difficulty worth it.

Volunteer Duration: Three month intern

Crystal (Veterinary technician)

Crystal Veterinary technician

My time at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary has been nothing short of amazing. I am finishing up a four-week stay and I am so thankful for all the friendships I have made and for the opportunity to work with such a diverse range of animals. I’m happy that I chose to do a veterinary internship with Alturas, which came with the responsibility of helping in the clinic, quarantine, sanctuary, pre-release and fostering. It’s refreshing to have many areas of interest at a volunteer program and I feel that I am going home with a better education on exotic animals. Every day the priority is caring for and feeding the animals and I’m proud to be volunteering for a sanctuary that works to provide each animals needs. I highly recommend others to volunteer with Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary and staying for an extended amount of time. You’ll get to experience the beautiful lifestyle, form connections with a wide range of animals and people, and get to explore the natural beauty of Costa Rica.

Volunteer Duration: 4 month veterinary internship
Where I'm From: USA