It has always been a dream of mine to travel to Costa Rica and experience the amazing array of wildlife and natural wonders that the country has to offer. So, when I heard about the volunteer programmes that GoEco offered doing just that, I grabbed the opportunity.
Volunteering in Costa Rica at the Animal Rescue and Conservation project on the Caribbean coast really appealed to me because it would allow me the chance to interact close-up with the animals I had only ever seen on the television – monkeys, sloths and all kinds of exotic birds, to name but a few!
I arrived at the rescue center after having spent a week living with a local host family in the capital city of San Jose where I attended Spanish school. The basic Spanish that I learnt in a week really aided me during my volunteer experience and afterwards when I travelled alone for three weeks around the rest of the country.
Arriving at the rescue center’s remote location in the middle of a tropical forest area was an entirely different experience to living in the busy, sprawling capital city. Located a few minutes’ walk from beautiful beach-land, the center is a self-contained facility with basic dormitory style accommodation for volunteers and three home-cooked meals a day. The center was founded by a local family whose mission is to provide shelter for wild animals with the aim of rehabilitating and eventually releasing as many of them as possible back into the wild.
Over the course of two intensive weeks, I would work closely with around 15 other international volunteers to take care of the many animals who had arrived at the center over the years after being orphaned, abused or rescued from inhumane situations. Every day we chose different tasks, ranging from preparing a rich meal of fruits and vegetables for the various animals and supplying them with water to cleaning their cages and babysitting infant orphaned sloths and monkeys.
We also made educational toys for the animals out of natural materials that we collected from the surrounding areas such as coconuts, palms leaves and bamboo. In addition, we had the important and fun job of carrying a troupe of Howler monkeys from their cage to a much larger garden so that they could play and climb.
Overall, the center provides sanctuary for Howler, Spider and White-Faced monkeys, for Billie, the Coatimundi, a relative of the raccoon, two Kinkajous, a number of two and three-toed sloths, macaws, parrots, toucans and owls, turtles, a deer and even a squirrel!
I developed a close relationship with several of the other volunteers and together we went on several day trips during our time at the center to visit nearby nature reserves and even had a guided tour of a remote island packed full of wildlife, a trip that was organised by the volunteer coordinator at the rescue center.
This special rescue center fulfills a crucial role in helping to protect Costa Rica’s wildlife but its survival is dependent on the volunteers that support its important work as well as visits by occasional tourist groups and the modest proceeds of a small on-site gift shop.
If you are looking for a unique opportunity to gain a deep and intimate insight into the true nature of Costa Rica’s wildlife, then this project is one not to be missed.