Encar and Sandro have been traveling to Costa Rica since 1993 and decided to settle in Puerto Viejo in 2004. In 2008 they decided to set up the Animal Rescue Center after having witnessed the mistreatment and killing of local animals. They started out with reptiles, but the project really started when they received a baby jaguar in 2007. At that time there was no rescue center yet, but the locals in Puerto Viejo just knew they had a lot of experience with animals. The mother of the baby jaguar had been killed because local farmers suspected she had killed two goats. The baby jaguar was dehydrated and very sick. Encar and Sandro did everything they could to save it, but in the end the endangered baby jaguar died. Encar and Sandro decided to name their animal rescue center in honor of her, and so the (Jaguar) Animal Rescue Center was born.
The Animal Rescue Center works with a hands-on policy, which means direct contact with the animals is an important part of the work. Most of the animals have lost their mothers, or gone through traumatic experiences, and the center believes that direct contact is fundamental for the animals to build a strong defense mechanism to face their future successfully.
The center has two different locations:
1) Animal Rescue Center
The Animal Rescue Center is the actual center with lots of activities and visitors. Here volunteers have the chance to be interactive with both the animals as well as people, working in a team and obtaining lots of experiences. The work at the Animal Rescue Center includes cleaning and facility maintenance, diet preparation, taking care of the animals and observations within the Rescue Center. Every day the work will be with different species, but could also very well involve days where there is no work directly related to animals, but instead to the facilities or the kitchen where the meals are prepared for the animals.
2) La Ceiba Release Center
La Ceiba is a private reserve tucked away in the rainforest, there are 50 hectares of primary (untouched) that the center has purchased along with some investors as a way of conservation. It is located 4 km away from the animal rescue centre. Whilst at La Ceiba, you will be working with very enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff and will also have the opportunity to go out in the evenings to see the jungle by night. The release of the animals takes some time and the animals start by spending some time in big cages. Volunteers will be taking care of them before the release and then accompanying the animals while being reintroduced into the wild, making visual tracking, and preparing a written report on the state of the reintroduction. As well as helping with cleaning, maintenance and diet preparation. It is important to take into consideration that the animals at La Ceiba are constantly changing (since their release is the main objective). Therefore, the work that needs to be done depends a lot on the animals that are currently up there. All volunteers spend time at both The Animal Rescue Center and La Ceiba, to get a complete experience caring for animals at different stages of their healing and release.
Volunteers start at the Animal Rescue Center and after a minimum of 3 weeks move to the La Ceiba release center for one week to see how and where the animals are released. If you are staying longer, you will return to work at the Animal Rescue Center after your week at La Ceiba.
The Animal Rescue Center is located on the Caribbean coast in the town of Puerto Viejo. The laidback pace of this Caribbean beach town wins many a weary traveler over, and visitors often end up staying for weeks, months or even years. It is firmly on the backpacker and surfer trail so expect tie-dye trousers and leaving with at least one pair of hand-made coconut shell earrings. As well as the relatively recent addition of an international mix of residents, there is a strong creole culture in Puerto Viejo, which can still be seen, heard and felt in the reggae music, Caribbean food and relaxed character of the old-time locals.The Rescue Center is located 4 km from Puerto Viejo and 220 km from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. It takes around 4 hours by shuttle/bus from San Jose to reach Puerto Viejo.
The La Ceiba release center is situated 4 km away from the Animal Rescue Center.
Since the Rescue Center offers tours to tourists throughout the week and the animals need constant help, the volunteers coordinate their 5 days of work with the center (so you will not necessarily have weekends off). The work normally starts at 07:30 and ends around 16:00. This is a rough estimate as the work day ends when the work is done, which could be earlier, but also later.
The first day of the project is an introduction day (starting on Monday at 11:00) when the volunteers get shown around the project, they then start working the next day, so the first week is 6 days long including the introduction day, after that the volunteers work 5 days a week. You will also receive 3 days training .The schedule for working is organised with the volunteer coordinator, but as the center is open 7 days a week, the volunteer may have days off during the week and work on weekends.
During the first weeks at the Rescue Center volunteers learn about the animals in the area and our working policy. Once ready, you move to La Ceiba to spend 1 week working on the reintroduction process.
The volunteers are the heart and soul of the work done by the center. It is because of their direct efforts that they are able to help so many ill, injured and orphaned animals. And in return, the volunteers are privy to personal, one-on-one experiences with the animals in their natural environment. The result is a life-changing experience, for both the animals and the humans. Having skills related to animals or previous experience is not a must, but is preferable.
All participants are expected to fulfill certain requirements in order to participate in the projects. The work is demanding, mostly repetitive, but can also vary from day to day. Participants must know that they will be working with wild animals that are not pets and should behave accordingly. These requirements are to ensure that volunteers bring the right expectations and enjoy their experience with Animal Rescue Center.
- Basic level of Spanish is recommended
- A photo of the volunteer
- Travel/Medical insurance
- Recommended vaccines: Tetanus
- Tuberculosis test: As you work closely with monkeys you need to have been tested for Tuberculosis and send your test certificate, if you have already been vaccinated you need to send a copy of your Vaccination card as proof before arrival.
- In Costa Rica, Rabies is almost unheard of; however, you will be working with wild animals, so whilst not compulsory you may want to consider getting the Rabies vaccine, it's an individual decision.
- If you are travelling to Costa Rica from certain countries, you may need to show a Yellow Fever certificate on arrival. Please make sure you check if you need to get one.
- Keep in mind that the seriousness, discipline, order and cleanliness must be the basis of working with animals. If you do not respect the basic rules of common sense it puts the lives of animals at risk.
The humidity levels in the Caribbean are very high, which means that both infrastructure and your belongings can suffer from this humidity, for example, it can be difficult to dry your clothes. It's best to keep things packed in plastic covers or boxes, and for your personal hygiene we recommend using baby powder ‘talcos’. And do not bring your nicest clothing, which in fact also wouldn’t be very useful at the project.
- Comfortable raingear and a small umbrella as in the rainforest, like the name suggests, it usually - and sometimes very unexpectedly - rains.
- Clothes that you don't mind breaking or getting dirty. We also recommend you to bring extra clothing to work, and if possible, clothes that dry fast and preferably neutral or dark colours, no bright colours.
- A pair of long trousers (especially male volunteers) to be able to work in the forest with the monkeys.
- Proper footwear such as boots. It is not recommended to have open footwear like flip flops, because much of the time there is mud or plants that could harm you.
- A flashlight/headlight as it gets dark around 18:00
- A padlock so that all your belongings are safe, wherever you are lodging during your travels
- Zip lock bags for keeping things dry
- Insect repellent since like in any other tropical area, there are mosquitoes. You can, of course, also buy mosquito repellent once you get here.
- Please bring a passport photo with you on your first day.
- Volunteers are required to work on public holidays. Please also note that public services like transportation may be affected on these days.
- Upon departing any airport in Costa Rica one has to pay a departure tax. This must be done in person and cannot be prearranged with a tour company or airline. The tax for international flights leaving Costa Rica is around USD $29 and for domestic flights, depending on the airport, it varies between USD $3 and USD $5. All prices are subject to change.
Volunteers need to be flexible and keep an open mind concerning their placements as situations can arise beyond our control which could require you to be placed at a different project than the one you have initially chosen. We will of course always do our utmost to fulfill your initial wishes but do remember that where you are going is quite different from where you are coming and as such one should be prepared for things not always going according to plan.
Volunteering and intercultural travel share a common trait: the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. This program is designed for proactive individuals and groups that are prepared to adapt to the local environment and its current needs. Naturally, the scheduling and activities of our program are subject to change. Alterations in activities are mainly due to changes in local conditions, which we believe is part of what makes overseas programs the interesting adventure and incredible learning experience that they are.
Remember in Costa Rica humidity can be very high especially on the Caribbean Coast.
Our projects range from 1 week up to approx. 30 weeks. Projects have a specified minimum stay, then it’s up to you how long you can commit. In our experience the longer you stay the more you will gain, as your understanding of the project broadens and you take on more responsibilities.
You will receive a certificate at the end of your stay