Please be aware that this project is based at a wildlife sanctuary, and while sloths are resident here, there are numerous species of animals which also require care. You will spend time volunteering with a variety of animals (such as monkeys, anteaters and birds), so please come with an open mind and a willingness to work with a range of species and not just sloths.
You will complete a variety of enrichment activities which help to exercise the animals' wild instincts and give them the skills they need to survive in the wild. These can be both environmental and nutritional. For the environmental enrichment activities, you will head into the rainforest to find the leaves of native trees and palms to make the animals’ enclosure as close to their natural habitat as possible. For nutritional enrichment, you will come up with a variety of ways to teach the animals to forage for their food, much as they would in the wild. This is a crucial and exciting activity that gives you the chance to show your creative side!
Food Preparation & Distributing
You will spend time collecting, preparing, and then distributing food and water to the animal residents at the sanctuary. You will do this alongside a trained animal caretaker who will ensure that you approach the enclosures in the correct manner and have prepared the correct food for the right animal. This is vital as certain animals will be on special diets and so the correct nutrition plan must be followed.
To ensure that all the animals at the centre have a suitable environment in which to live, you will help to clean their enclosures on a regular basis (typically once a day). You will carry out this activity under the guidance of an animal caretaker, who will ensure that the correct procedures are carried out for the safety of both yourself and the animals.
Rescue & Release
With almost 200 animal rescues and releases taking place each year, the sanctuary team certainly have their hands full! When either of these events takes place, you may have the chance to join the team and witness them in action. This could be anything from rescuing a monkey that needs medical attention to releasing a sloth back into its wild forest home!
Boot Camp & Nursery
A visit to the on-site ‘boot camp’ and sloth nursery is an excellent opportunity to learn about the vital work being undertaken at the sanctuary, right from the rescue of the little ones through to the rehabilitation of injured or habituated sloths. This is your chance to see these animals up-close and improve your understanding of what it takes to truly aid their conservation.
Once per week, you will head out in search of a sloth which has previously been rehabilitated by the project team and released into forests around the sanctuary grounds. This sloth was fitted with a radio collar which allows you to track it using telemetry, and once you have located it, you will make behavioural observations from a safe distance.
One day a week, you and your group may opt to visit the local marina. Here, you can enjoy a delicious meal by the ocean, spend time checking out local shops, or simply enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk! (Please note that this is not a guaranteed part of your itinerary; similarly, you are able to opt-out of this excursion if you wish.)
Each week you will get one day off. You can spend your day relaxing by the onsite pool, exploring the local area, or, if you are feeling more adventurous, you could organise a day trip kayaking, parasailing, zip-lining or visiting the local national park (although these will come at an additional cost).
Below is an example of a 2-week itinerary, but as this project is based at a wildlife sanctuary, the daily itinerary can often change depending on the needs of the sanctuary and the animals present at any given time.
For families, it is possible to join this project for 1 week. Please enquire for more information.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
After arriving at the project site, you will be given time to settle in and meet the other volunteers. Depending on your arrival time, you may also take a tour of the wildlife sanctuary and facilities, including the kitchen, pool, restaurant and laundry room. In the evening, you will enjoy a delicious meal and spend your time getting to know your fellow volunteers!
Day 2-14 - Project Days:
Each day, you will take part in two activities (all of which can be viewed under the 'Activities' tab). Your first will begin after breakfast at 8:00am and take you all the way to lunch. After having lunch as a group you will then take part in your second activity, usually between 1:30pm and 4:00pm. Each evening you will then have time to relax after a day's work with the rest of your group and enjoy dinner. During this time you will also have a day off where you can explore the local area and also a day where you will visit the local marina with your group.
Day 15 - Fond Farewells:
Today is your final day on the project, which sadly means it is time to bid farewell to your fellow volunteers, the staff and all of the animals at the sanctuary! You will have a lovely send-off with time to share any favourite memories or photographs with your group, and of course enjoy a delicious meal before transferring back to the airport (either by taxi or by bus).
Dates, Availability & Price
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.
You can join this project on any day of the year, so if you would like to join on a date that is not listed below, please enquire and we can book your place for you.
For families, we are able to offer a 1-week duration. Please enquire for more information.
Additionally, you may be interested in joining this project as an intern. We have various placements available, from veterinary clinic internships to 'zookeeper' opportunities. Take some time to read about our placements by clicking here and, should you wish to take part in an internship, please complete the enquiry form with a reference to the particular program you are interested in joining. Most of our internships require a stay of 12 weeks, so do bear this in mind when you enquire!
Updates & Outcomes
This project was founded back in 1999 by two nine-year-old girls with the help of one of their mothers, and it certainly had humble beginnings. Life began for the project at a small roadside shop, where the two young founders, Janine and Aislin, sold painted rocks to help raise money to protect the rainforest. From there, the project began to evolve, and it eventually became the project you see before you today!
The project has taken huge steps towards achieving all of the conservation goals they have for the area: so far, the project and its volunteers have installed over 130 aerial monkey bridges, planted more than 7,000 rainforest trees, and in 2016 they began planting 94,000 more! The wildlife rehabilitation centre on-site was founded in 2005 and it treats and releases almost 200 rescued wild animals each year. The wildlife sanctuary, which was opened in 2010, provides a safe home for those animals that are unable to be released back into the wild due to injury or other issues.
Without this sanctuary, injured and threatened wildlife in the local area would have nowhere to go for help, and your work as a volunteer plays a very important role in providing a better life for the animals in Costa Rica.
- posted on 16/10/2018
- by Leanne Sturrock
The 20th of October marks one of the cutest days in the animal calendar - International Sloth Day! And although sloths may easily be one of the most adorable animals on earth, their lives are certainly not as laid-back and simple as they may seem. Take a look as we discuss the meaning behind this significant day as well as the importance behind sloth conservation.
If you're interested in a career in animal conservation or the veterinary field then why not consider taking part in a 12 week internship at a multi-species wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre in Costa Rica?
Learn about International Sloth Day 2017 by checking out our awesome infographic, and see if you could become a sloth volunteer!
Is this trip for you?
During your time on the project, you will be staying in a volunteer house on the third floor of a stand-alone building. This will be with up to 8 other volunteers of mixed genders and ages. The beds are all bunk beds, and as such, you may be allocated a top bunk, so you must be comfortable going up and down bunk bed ladders. There is a shower in this building, separated by a rounded, stone-wall partition with a curtain, and also a toilet separated in the same manner. These are shared facilities.
The volunteer house comes complete with a kitchen and dining table, and you are welcome to store your own drinks and snacks in the fridge. There are also lockers in the volunteer accommodation to allow you to store any valuables.
There is also the option to stay in one of three private cottages on-site for an additional cost (and depending on availability). Each cottage has two double beds and private bathroom facilities (toilet and shower). They are situated close to the project's restaurant area and swimming pool, and are a great option for couples or families looking for an added level of comfort and privacy.
If you wish to stay in a private cottage during your time on the project, the additional cost for a solo traveller is $95 per night, for a couple is $61 per person per night and for groups of 3 or more is $41 per person per night.
Lunch is the main meal of the day at the project, and this large, buffet-style meal will typically consist of rice, beans, salad, and vegetables, with the other parts of the meal changing on a regular basis as to ensure variety. Lunch will be prepared for you by a member of the project staff, however, we do ask that you clean up after yourself! Breakfast and dinner are both prepared by the volunteers in the large on-site kitchen. Sufficient food will always be provided, and you may be invited along for the weekly shop to stock up on supplies!
Clean drinking water and a variety of juices are also available to drink throughout the day at the project site, and you are also able to purchase soft drinks.
We are able to cater for vegans, vegetarians, and those with allergies, but please let us know before you travel so we can get the appropriate ingredients.
There are no specific skills needed to take part in this project, but you do need to be passionate about animals and willing to get involved in a variety of activities. You will spend a lot of time on this project on your feet, walking from location to location and possibly carrying moderately heavy objects, so you will need to have a good level of fitness. It can be very humid in Costa Rica, so please bear this in mind when deciding if this is the project for you. If you are offered the opportunity to take part in reforestation, please be aware that this involves a lot of walking on uneven ground, as well as up and down quite a steep terrain. In the rainy season, this land overall can be quite treacherous, so be sure to take the correct footwear, as well as considering your own physical capabilities.
The vaccinations you require will depend on your medical history. We recommend that you consult your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would also recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website. Please note that volunteers with Measles or the Herpes Simplex Virus (with active sores) will not be able to work with the monkeys as the animals are very susceptible to viral infections. The project also requires that you provide proof of both the Hepatitis A and Tetanus vaccinations upon your arrival.
We are often asked whether or not volunteers will have the chance to touch or hold the sloths whilst on this project. Our answer to this question is, and will always be no, and this is for good reason.
We always need to keep the best interest of the animals in mind and human contact can have a harmful effect on sloths as well as other wildlife. Touching and holding sloths is detrimental to the possibility of their release and increases the risk of infections. The No Contact Policy also stands to protect these animals from accidental injury from inexperienced handlers. By having this policy, the sanctuary avoids unnecessary captivity and demonstrates respect for the wild nature of these animals.
Although you will not have hands-on contact with the sloths, you will still be able to observe them regularly and see how your contribution to their husbandry and enrichment makes a real difference in their lives!
When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?
As this project is predominantly based on the rescue and rehabilitation of animals year-round, there is no preferred time to volunteer when it comes to the animals you see. Certain animals will reside at the centre for life, and new animals arrive on a regular basis, so you’re guaranteed to see an array of species! However, weather can have an impact on both your involvement and the visibility of wild animals. The dry season runs from January through to the middle/end of April, and throughout this time the forests will be slightly barer due to a lack of rain, meaning fewer wild animals seen in the region. The rainy season in Costa Rica runs from May until December, and this is when the forests in the region really come to life. It will still be very warm between these months, with the rains typically falling in the afternoons or evenings, therefore you may find it preferable to volunteer between May and December when the forests are at their fullest and there are fewer tourists in the area.
The rainy season is also the most likely time for reforestation activities to take place, so if this is an activity you would like to take part in, we advise travelling between May and December.
You will need to arrive into San Jose Airport in Costa Rica, located approximately 3 hours from the project site. Transfers are not included in the cost of the project but can be arranged at an additional cost of $176 each way. If you need a transfer from a hotel/accommodation in San Jose as opposed to the airport, this can also be arranged but the transfer fee is $203 (single journey).
Alternatively, there is a regular bus service between San Jose (bus station) and Quepos, which is close to the project site. This service usually takes between 3-5 hours and costs approximately US$10. Upon arrival in Quepos, you would need to take a taxi to the project site, which will cost an additional US$20. Please contact us for further information on scheduling and pricing.
Where possible, it would be better if you could arrive into San Jose before 12pm; this way you will arrive at the project site before it gets dark and will be able to enjoy dinner with your fellow volunteers! If this is not possible, you must arrive by 3pm if you wish to take a transfer to the project site.
Most nationalities, including British and American citizens, do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica but will need to provide evidence of onward travel plans such as a flight ticket or bus ticket exiting the country. We do, however, recommend checking with your local embassy regarding visa requirements.
What’s included in the price of the project?
- Full orientation and support from the project managers
- Three meals per day
- All activities on the project site
- Laundry facilities (once a week)
- Access to the on-site swimming pool
- A monetary contribution to the project itself
What’s not included?
- Airport transfers (can be arranged at an additional cost payable on arrival)
- Visas (if needed)
- Snacks and alcoholic beverages
- Off-site leisure activities