If you love animals and dream of the opportunity to be able to care for these amazing creatures hands on, you HAVE to visit the Animal Rescue Centre based in Alajuela, Costa Rica. The 2 weeks I spent there were genuinely two of the best weeks of my life.
Arrival and Info
The sanctuary is ran by three incredible people – Sarita Chinchilla, Marielos Poveda and Bernal Lizano, who dedicate their lives to rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife. From saving electrocuted sloths, caused by climbing up power lines, freeing Capuchin monkeys and marmosets from the illegal pet trade, to raising baby howlers who have been abandoned by their mothers in the wild…… this sanctuary provides a new beginning to creatures that probably wouldn’t have made it on their own.
You can book through a number of sources, however the best option is to message the sanctuary via their Facebook page (link below) and book with them direct. It will cost around £30 a night which includes accommodation, all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and of course the experience! Not only that, but they have a personal taxi to pick you up at the airport so you’re looked after from the moment you step off the plane!
Once we arrived, we were greeted by approximately 20 other volunteers. I’d say the average age ranged from 20-25 (mainly grads taking a travel break after uni). Everyone was super friendly and made settling in really easy. The accommodation is basic but comfy, with around 4-6 bunk beds to a dorm, all with mosquito nets provided. It is a very social environment with the centre of town just a 20 min walk away and a tuck shop 5 mins around the corner.
The day is divided into morning and afternoon tasks that range from cleaning out the animals cages, walking Shiggy the river turtle (yes you heard it), preparing food for the day’s meals, making new toys for the animals, renovating the enclosures, maintenance work around the sanctuary such as painting and building, and my ultimate favourite – babysitting the baby sloth Sarita and baby howler monkey Feluco! We made a new tyre swing for the Capuchin monkeys and a seesaw for the spider monkeys.
Win the Capuchin enjoying his new tyre swing!
Both deaf and partially blind, Sarita, the baby two-toed sloth, was abandoned by her mother in the wild. She is unable to be released as there is no way she would be able to survive on her own and is therefore up to the volunteers to ensure she is fed, cuddled and cared for. The mother of the baby Howler monkey Feluco, was sadly shot by poachers and his lack of milk has caused his brain to stop developing leaving him a permanent toddler and in need of constant attention and care. I was lucky to celebrate my birthday with little Sarita as seen below!
Another favourite has to be the Capuchins Simone and Leno (see below). Simone was rescued from an illegal pet trade where she unfortunately spent most of her life captive as a “permanent thief”. Her owner trained her to pick pocket! Now, she has a new beginning at the sanctuary but BE WARNED…..she will steal anything and everything from your pockets – phones, wallet, jewellery you name it!
Let me introduce you to Shiggy. Shiggy has now been released (yeyy). She had a cracked shell after suffering an injury in the wild and was found in a box by the side of the highway. Rescued by the centre, one of my roles there was to renovate her temporary home until she was able to be released.
Shiggy’s home before and after.
This is just a snapshot of the many incredible experiences I encountered there. I would recommend this place to anyone. Fortunately, they have moved to a larger sanctuary now, providing the animals with more space and larger homes. They are always in need of volunteers….so what are you waiting for?!
Help repair some of the damage humans have caused and show these incredible creatures there are still people out there who care.