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. These enrichments 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. During nutritional enrichment, you will come up with ways to make the animals forage for their food, much as they would in the wild.
As a volunteer, you will help to observe the behaviours of the animals at the project site to ensure that the stress of moving enclosures or being introduced to other rescued animals is not too much to bear. You will work with sloths and other animals and be tasked with observing any changes in animal behaviour. Please note that you will be assigned to one animal, so you will be able to more accurately observe any changes in their behaviour. You may be asked to record this data, if necessary.
The project is currently working on reforestation on a plantation 1.5 hours from the project site itself. On this plot, trees are planted to provide food, shelter, and a safe corridor for the local animals to use. You will be working in teams of three to plant the trees which will provide a safe haven for the local wildlife. Please note that this activity is sporadic and dependent on the season, so is not a guaranteed part of your itinerary.
Food Preparation & Distributing
You will spend time collecting, preparing, and then distributing food and water to the animal residents at the centre. 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.
Educational Research & Reports
A big part of this project is working to teach others about the importance of conservation, and this is something volunteers will be expected to partake in. You will have the chance to gather information on a topic you are passionate about and then share it with tourists and visitors in an attempt to help spread awareness.
To ensure that all of the animals at the centre have a hygienic and suitable environment in which to live, you will help by cleaning the enclosures on a regular basis (typically once a day). Cleaning will be done alongside an animal caretaker resident at the project site, to ensure safety and correct procedure.
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 stores, or simply enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk! (Please note that this is not a guaranteed part of your itinerary; similarly, you may be able to opt out of this excursion.)
Volunteers are entitled to one day off per week (your own day off will be allocated to you by the project staff once you have arrived). You can spend your day relaxing by the pool found at the project site; alternatively, you can spend your day exploring! Some fun suggestions of things to do outside of the project include a visit to the beach; kayaking; parasailing; ziplining; or even paying a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park, which is considered as one of the most beautiful parks in the world. (Please note that all excursions and transportation on your day off are at your own cost.)
Please note that this itinerary is subject to change, and what follows is a rough guideline.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
After arriving at the project site from the airport, you will be given time to settle in and meet the other volunteers. Depending on your arrival time, you may be shown around the project site, including the laundry room, kitchen, pool, and all of the other facilities. Enjoy a delicious evening meal, and spend some time getting to know your fellow volunteers!
Day 2-14 - Project Days:
After breakfast, you will begin work at around 8.30am, undertaking a series of vital and exciting activities such as enrichment and behavioural observation. The latter part of the day (3:30 until 5:30) may be spent walking the animals: each volunteer may be allocated a specific animal for the walks, but this is discretionary. The day’s activities will vary depending on what is most needed at the time, but they can include anything you see mentioned on the activities tab above.
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! You will have a lovely send-off with time to share any favourite memories or photographs with your group, and of course to enjoy a delicious meal of your choosing.
For information on getting to the airport, please check the 'Getting There' section in the 'Details' tab above.
Dates, Availability & Price
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.
To secure a place on this project, a deposit of £195 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
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 Oct 16, 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 with up to 8 other volunteers of mixed genders and ages. You may be allocated a top bunk, so you must be comfortable ascending and descending the bunk bed ladders. There is a shower in this building, separated by a rounded, stone-wall partition with a curtain, and there is 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 stock the fridge with your own drinks and snacks. There are lockers in the volunteer accommodation but take your own padlock just in case!
If you wish to upgrade your accommodation during your stay, then one of the private cottages on-site may be available for an additional cost. For a solo traveller, the cost to upgrade is £106 per night for 2 weeks; for a couple, the cost to share a cottage is £85 per person per night; for groups of 3 or more, the cost to share a cottage is £65 per person per night.
Each cottage has its own private bathroom facilities (toilet and shower), as well as double beds as opposed to the bunk beds found in the main volunteer house. The cottages 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. Please enquire with us to check availability.
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 will change on a regular basis as to ensure variety. Lunch is prepared for you by a member of project staff, however, we do ask that you clean up after yourself!
Breakfast and dinner are both to be prepared by the volunteer, but sufficient food is provided, and you may be invited along for the weekly shop to stock up on supplies! There is a large kitchen which volunteers are free to use.
Clean drinking water and a variety of juices are available to drink throughout the day at the project site, but please note that whilst alcohol is not prohibited, it is not provided. You may also purchase soft drinks on-site.
Please note that the project can cater for vegans, vegetarians, and those with allergies, but please let us know before you travel so that we can inform the project team and they can get the appropriate ingredients in.
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 an array 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 Hep A vaccination and a tetanus shot 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 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. Otherwise, all activities will be the same year-round.
You will need to arrive into San Jose airport in Costa Rica, located around 3 hours from the project site. Transfers are not included within the cost of the project but can be arranged for you at an additional cost of $150 each way – please let us know well in advance so that a trusted transfer can be arranged. If you need a transfer from a hotel/accommodation as opposed to San Jose Airport, the transfer fee will cost $170 (single journey). Alternatively, there is a regular bus service between San Jose (bus station) and Quepos; this service usually takes between 3-5 hours and costs approximately $10 at present (this may change based on fluctuating currency rates). You will then need to get a taxi from Quepos bus station to the project site; this will cost an additional $20. Please contact us for further information on scheduling and pricing.
Please note that other taxis from the airport, or those which you flag down, are likely to cost more – the drivers of these taxis are at liberty to charge extra, so we strongly recommend that you pre-arrange transfers with an agreed price.
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 you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flight page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
British nationals do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. For other nationalities, please check with your local embassy as the requirements to enter Costa Rica may vary from country to country. Your passport should have at least one day’s validity from the day you are leaving Costa Rica, but if you hold a passport other than a British one different regulations may apply. You will also need to provide evidence of onward travel plans to ensure your entry into the country.
Currency and Exchange Rates
The currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colón. The exchange rate is around 10 CRC = 0.01 GBP, 0.05 USD, or 0.07 EUR. Please note that exchange rates are subject to change, so please check www.xe.com.
You can, however, use the American Dollar throughout Costa Rica; these are dispensed from cash points throughout the country. We recommend taking dollars with you to use at the project site if you wish to purchase canned drinks, however, do be aware that in Costa Rica it is not unusual for restaurants, store cashiers and so forth to round USD up, effectively charging extra for your purchase. With that in mind, it is suggested to take Colones with you for spending in the local town.
What’s included in the price of the project?
- A monetary contribution to the project itself
- Full orientation and support from the project managers
- Accommodation and meals as indicated
- All activities on the project site
- Laundry facilities (once a week)
- Access to a swimming pool
What’s not included?
- Airport transfers (can be arranged at an additional cost payable on arrival)
- Visas (if needed)
- Snacks and alcoholic beverages
- Outside leisure activities