Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary

Contribute to conservation efforts in Costa Rica with jungle cats, monkeys, sloths and much more as a volunteer at the Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary!

Standing on the edge of the bustling capital city of San José lies the oldest animal sanctuary in Costa Rica. This sanctuary's unique approach to wildlife conservation has led to thousands of animals receiving a second chance at life after being rescued from the clutches of habitat destruction, poaching, and the exotic pet trade. Sadly, due to the prevalence of wildlife crime throughout Central America, the Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary sees an influx of over 2,700 wild animals annually who seek refuge here. 

From sloths and jaguars to birds, reptiles, and primates, the sanctuary's cutting-edge rehabilitation facility, fully equipped veterinary hospital, acclimation enclosures, and two separate release sites have successfully reintegrated countless animals back into their natural habitats. For those who are too injured, habituated or traumatised to be released, the Lifetime Care Sanctuary provides a forever home. 

As a volunteer, you can play a vital role in caring for hundreds of animals, from feeding and behaviour monitoring to creating engaging enrichment. You can be part of many successful rehabilitation stories and ensure that Costa Rica remains an ecological wonderland. Join this incredible project fighting wildlife crime and make a meaningful and unforgettable impact within the forests of Central America.

Standing on the edge of the bustling capital city of San José lies the oldest animal sanctuary in Costa Rica. This sanctuary's unique approach to wildlife conservation has led to thousands of animals receiving a second chance at life after being rescued from the clutches of habitat destruction, poaching, and the exotic pet trade. Sadly, due to the prevalence of wildlife crime throughout Central America, the Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary sees an influx of over 2,700 wild animals annually who seek refuge here. 

From sloths and jaguars to birds, reptiles, and primates, the sanctuary's cutting-edge rehabilitation facility, fully equipped veterinary hospital, acclimation enclosures, and two separate release sites have successfully reintegrated countless animals back into their natural habitats. For those who are too injured, habituated or traumatised to be released, the Lifetime Care Sanctuary provides a forever home. 

As a volunteer, you can play a vital role in caring for hundreds of animals, from feeding and behaviour monitoring to creating engaging enrichment. You can be part of many successful rehabilitation stories and ensure that Costa Rica remains an ecological wonderland. Join this incredible project fighting wildlife crime and make a meaningful and unforgettable impact within the forests of Central America.

Food Prep & Animal Feeding @ Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary
Food Preparation & Animal Feeding
With close to 3,000 wild animals calling in at the sanctuary each year and approximately 800 non-releasable animals to care for daily, volunteers are essential in the kitchen, preparing and serving meals to animals across the centre. As many of the animals come from the pet trade or arrive sick or injured, volunteers help to provide specialised diets to aid recovery. You'll also learn how to forage wild foods for baby sloths and howler monkeys in the rehab centre, helping them adapt to their future diets upon release!
Animal Enrichment @ Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary
Animal Enrichment
Enrichment plays a vital role in promoting the overall well-being of animals, both physically and mentally. For animals being considered for release, enrichment is a valuable means of honing the skills necessary for them to survive in their natural habitat. You'll devise puzzles and activities that help alleviate stress and boredom and encourage natural behaviours, keeping the animals happy and healthy.
Veterinary Clicker Training  @ Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary
Veterinary Clicker Training
At the Lifetime Care Sanctuary, clicker training plays a crucial role in preparing animals for veterinary examinations. This positive reinforcement-based approach helps animals learn to cooperate during medical assessments, reducing stress and anxiety. Volunteers, guided by experienced staff, have the opportunity to participate in these clicker training sessions! You may even have the chance to work with Guapo, the jaguar!
Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary Endangered Breeding Centre
Assist at the Endangered Breeding Centre
Lend a hand at the Endangered Species Breeding Centre, where you'll help to care for over 100 breeding pairs of scarlet macaws. Volunteers help with feeding and creating enrichment but also have the unique opportunity to help during breeding and fledging season, where you'll assist in checking nest boxes for eggs and chicks, weighing and measuring the chicks, and conducting brief health assessments under supervision. You'll also learn to identify various types of breeding behaviour and help monitor the breeding pairs throughout.
Behaviour Monitoring @ Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary
Animal Behaviour Monitoring
Volunteers help to gather valuable data for behavioural research and monitor the animal's overall well-being. You'll closely observe the animals, recording their behaviours and interactions. This data is essential for enhancing their care and quality of life while also advancing the understanding of wildlife behaviour, which is crucial to conservation efforts, especially for those in the Endangered Species Breeding Centre getting ready for release!
Free Time @ Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary
Free Time
Volunteers have two days off each week in Costa Rica, providing a prime opportunity to explore. San Jose, the capital city, offers cultural experiences and vibrant nightlife, while the country's natural beauty includes stunning beaches, ancient volcanoes, and wildlife-filled jungles. Activities like white-water rafting, zip-lining, hot spring relaxation, snorkelling, and beach visits await! (Please note, these activities will come at an additional cost).

The following is an example itinerary of a 2-week stay starting on a Friday, with 1-week stays and longer durations also available. As the project is based at a wildlife sanctuary, itineraries and all volunteer activities are subject to change depending on the needs of the sanctuary and the animals present when you visit.

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
Upon arrival at the sanctuary, just a 20-minute drive from the airport, you'll have the chance to get comfortable, familiarise yourself with your accommodation, and meet your fellow volunteers. Depending on your arrival time, you might have time to explore the sanctuary's beautiful surroundings before enjoying dinner and preparing for your volunteering experience ahead!
Day 2-14 - Project Days:
These are your dedicated project days, filled with a variety of activities, spanning from animal care to crafting exciting enrichment. You'll work across the Lifetime Care Sanctuary, Endangered Species Breeding Centre and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre for a well-rounded, rewarding conservation experience. You'll also have the opportunity to take two days off each week to relax and explore the wonders of Costa Rica!
Day 15 - Departure Day:
Sadly, today is your final day at the sanctuary. You’ll say your goodbyes to fellow volunteers, the staff and the animals before transferring back to the airport to catch your flight home or to continue your onward travel plans.

To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date. (All prices listed are inclusive of the $245 deposit.)

Duration Price
Please choose a trip using the select menus to the left.
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Volunteer Accommodation

Volunteers stay in a shared three-bedroom house with two bathrooms and a kitchen located within the sanctuary. The bedrooms feature bunk beds with bedding, bath towels, a net screen, and ample lockable closet space. Wi-Fi is accessible 24/7 in the accommodation, restaurant, outdoor café, rehabilitation centre, and various locations within the Lifetime Care Sanctuary. Finally, you'll have access to the sanctuary's theatre, swimming pool, and games room, where volunteers partake in a range of game night activities.

Meals & Beverages

Three daily meals are provided during your stay: breakfast is self-prepared and includes cereal, eggs, fruit, milk, and hot beverages, while for lunch and dinner, you can easily order from the onsite restaurant, with vegetarian and vegan options available. The menu offers a variety of dishes such as burgers, salads, soups, and fajitas, and if you have specific dietary needs, please inform us when booking to ensure the sanctuary is fully stocked for your visit! Additionally, within the Lifetime Care Sanctuary, there are other dining options (that come at an additional cost), including an à la carte restaurant, ice cream shop, snack shop, and an outdoor café serving ice lollies and amazing Costa Rican coffee!

When is the best time to volunteer?

As this project is based at a wildlife sanctuary with new animals arriving regularly via the active rescue centre, there are animals here year-round, meaning there is no best time to volunteer regarding wildlife. The weather, however, can impact some people’s decision, and there are two distinct seasons which are explained in more detail below:

December - April: These months are known as the dry season, which is usually the most popular with tourists due to less rainfall and increased wildlife visibility. 

May - November: While considered the rainy season, these months are still warm, and the rain typically falls in the afternoons or evenings. The forests are also at their most full during this period.

Average Monthly Weather in San Jose, Costa Rica

Getting There

You will need to fly into Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) on your project start date arriving between 8am - 8pm. You'll be met at the airport by the driver and take a private transfer to the project site, approximately 20 minutes away.

If you will already be in San Jose on your start date, we can arrange for you to be collected from a hotel close to the airport.

Visa Requirements

Most nationalities, including British and American citizens, do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica and will be granted entry for up to 90 days on arrival. You will, however, need to provide evidence of onward travel plans such as a flight ticket or bus ticket exiting the country. As entry requirements can change, we recommend checking with your local embassy regarding visa requirements prior to travel.

Fitness & Skills

You will take part in a range of activities on this project, including construction and maintenance tasks; therefore, a moderate level of fitness is recommended, though no specific skills are required. All we ask is that you arrive with a willingness to get involved and work as a team, have a deep respect for wildlife and that you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty!

Vaccinations

To take part in this project, you must provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or be willing to take a test on arrival. A tetanus vaccination is also recommended but all other vaccinations will depend on your medical history, and so we recommend consulting your GP/Doctor regarding your own needs.

If travelling from a country where Yellow Fever is present, proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination is required by the Costa Rican government to enter the country.


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What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day
  • Airport transfers
  • Use of the on-site laundry facilities
  • A donation to the project
  • Wi-Fi

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas
Where you can go
Contact Info
UK Office
The Great Traveller Ltd,
3 Dairy Yard
Star Street
Ware, Hertfordshire
SG12 7DX
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
   Mon-Fri 8:30am–5:30pm
   Sat 10am-4pm

T: +44(0) 208 885 4987