Volunteer at Machía

Machía was CIWY’s first Wildlife Sanctuary and houses many animals of different species. Some of the animals are in enclosures for life because they cannot survive in the wild, some life partially in the wild, and some have been released.

For information about the sanctuary and its history, please see Machía’s profile pageFor general information about volunteering, including a list of items to bring with you, requirements and more, please see our general volunteering page.

Work areas

Machía cares for a variety of animals, which are separated into specific areas. Volunteers are assigned to one of these work areas. While volunteer preferences are taken into consideration, we ultimately must assign volunteering duties based on the need at the time. Therefore we cannot guarantee that you will be able to work in a particular area.

All volunteers working with animals assist in cleaning, preparing food and providing enrichment. In addition to this some areas have further responsibilities/duties - these are detailed below. The minimum number of days required to work in each area is also specified below - this minimum is a policy put in place for the benefit and stability of our animals.




Average number of volunteers

Minimum time commitment

Additional responsibilities

Primate Management Area

Capuchin monkeys and spider monkeys

7am to 5.30pm with a 2 hours break


14 days

Let some of the monkeys out on runners.


Exotic birds (such as parrots and macaws), as well as turtles and tortoises.


7.45am to 5.30pm with two breaks totalling 2 hours


14 days

Let some birds out of their cages during the day and make daily enrichment

Small Animals

Mainly coatis, but also a wild turkey, a tayra, a kinkajou, and turtles.

7:45am to 6pm with a 1.5-hour break


14 days

Let some of the coatis out of their cages during the day and walk with them.


Construction workers see those animals in areas needing construction.

From 8am. End time and break TBC


14 days



Assist with construction projects and maintenance work. Work can be planned or self-directed.

Spider Monkey Park

Spider monkeys

7:30am to 6:00pm with a two-hour break


29 days

Let the monkeys out of their cages and put some on runners during the day.


Spectacled bear

7am to 5.30pm splitting time between Balu and another area, with an 1.5 hour break. 


 14 days

Enriching his big enclosure and night cage.

Volunteers also work in another area.



7am to 9am in another area.

9:30am to 4:30pm with Marley.

4:30pm to 5.30pm in another area.


29 days

Walk Marley through the jungle.

Volunteers also start and end their day helping in another area.


Time off

Volunteers work 6 days per week and get one day off per week.


Payments made by our volunteers are our main source of funding, making up 85% of our total income. These payments are normally spent within a week, on food and medical supplies for the animals, or for general operating costs of the sanctuary. Since we pay for most of these expenses in bolivianos, we discourage payment in dollars and accept only cash.

The prices listed below cover accommodation (this includes kitchen access, hot showers and the use of communal areas), lunch and a CIWY t-shirt. Also included in the price, paid upon arrival, is a security deposit to cover any possible damages and discourage early departure. It is returned upon the completion of a full volunteering stay. 


Paid upon arrival

Security deposit

Total cost*

15-night package

2,250 Bs.

300 Bs.

1,950 Bs.

16th and subsequent nights



100 Bs. per night

30-night package

 3,650 Bs.

300 Bs.

3,350 Bs.

31st and subsequent nights



80 Bs. per night

*The total cost is what you will have spent after receiving your deposit back.

**The volunteer needs to make a deposit for 200 Bs at the Cafe. If the volunteer does not spend it all, the change will be returned once the volunteer finishes his/her time

In addition to the volunteer fees above, you should also budget for the following expenses:
•  Clothing and gum boots (10 Bs. per item in our shop and slightly more in Villa Tunari)
•  Food (approx. 40 to 80 Bs. per day)
•  Internet access (3 Bs. per hour) and/or cash for long-distance phone calls
•  Other miscellaneous expenditure



Machía has one basic volunteer house. The house has a kitchen with a stove and refrigerator that volunteers are welcome to use.

Bedsheets are provided. Pillows and mosquito nets are given out upon request and depending on availability. You may wish to bring a sleeping bag or blanket for colder nights, and you will need a padlock to lock your room during the day.

Rooms are generally shared between three people and all volunteers share the two bathrooms in the volunteer house. The bathrooms usually have hot showers.

While there is electricity and hot showers, power cuts are common (especially during the rainy season) and consequently, there may be periods of time when we are without hot water and running water.

Volunteers are allocated the beds available at the time of their arrival. If you wish to change rooms, we do take requests to switch to other rooms as they become available.

Should you wish a little more comfort and privacy, there are several hotels and hostels in town. 


Our on-site café serves breakfast, vegetarian lunches and snacks. Lunch is included in the volunteer package along with tea and coffee, while breakfast and snacks are available for purchase. Dinners can be purchased in one of Villa Tunari’s many restaurants. An average meal costs 10 to 40 Bs., or you can prepare your meal in the volunteer kitchen. Fruits, vegetables, meats and stock items can be purchased from Villa Tunari’s market.

Vegans and people with food allergies may wish to bring spices, sauces, tofu, etc., as local vegan or allergy suitable fare is limited. Vegetarian options are available in town.


Volunteers are able to use the sanctuary's Wifi in the evenings. It is available from 6:00pm to 7:00am. There are also numerous internet cafés in town. The Wifi is not always reliable.

Medical resources

Our veterinarians are able to provide volunteers with a certain level of emergency medical attention. There is a hospital in Villa Tunari, approximately five minutes from our Centre. Pharmacies are well-stocked, however we suggest you bring an ample supply of any prescription or other necessary medication.


Second-hand clothing can be rented from us for 5-15 Bs. per item, or for slightly more in town at one of Villa Tunari’s second-hand clothing shops. Second-hand gum boots can also be rented from Machía on arrival, however we cannot guarantee that we will have your size available or that they will be hole-free.

Banks & ATMs

Villa Tunari has only one bank for international withdrawal: Banco Union, they do not accept Mastercard.

The ATM in town almost never works, so for most people the only option to withdraw cash is through Western Union.

We therefore strongly recommended that you bring enough cash to cover your expenses for your entire stay.


Machía is located on the highway linking Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

It is generally easier to travel to Machía from Cochabamba, as there are more transport options. However during the rainy season the journey from Cochabamba can take much longer than expected, so it may be easier to travel from Santa Cruz at this time of year.

If you are dropped off in the town of Villa Tunari instead of in front of Machía Sanctuary, just ask anyone in town to point you towards Parque Machía. 'Colectivo' taxis frequently pass along the road and you can catch one going in the direction of the centre for 2 Bs.

Read on for specific directions on how to reach us from common departure cities:

From La Paz

To travel directly from La Paz to Machía, you can purchase a ticket for any bus going to Santa Cruz from the main terminal (tel. 228-0551). Ask the driver to let you off at Machía. The journey takes around nine to twelve hours and costs 80 - 110 Bs. To break up the journey, you can also stopover in Cochabamba for a night or two.

From Cochabamba

There are two simple ways to get to Machía from Cochabamba:

1. Take a shared minibus, known as a ‘surubi’, from the 'Parada del Chapare' (at the intersection of 'Avenida 9 de Abril' and 'Avenida Oquendo'). We recommend travelling with the minibus company '7 de Junio'; take any minibus going to Castillo and ask the bus driver to drop you off at Machía. The journey takes three to four hours and the minibuses depart regularly between 6am and 6pm, leaving as soon as they fill up with passengers (usually seven per minibus). The price is 30 Bs. 

2. Take a bus leaving for Santa Cruz from the central bus terminal (tel. 423-4600). Buses leave regularly and can drop you off outside Machía by request. The price is approx. 60 Bs. This option is more expensive than taking a minibus and travel time can be substantially longer (approx. four to eight hours), especially in the rainy season.

From Santa Cruz

From the Terminal Bimodal (tel. 348-8382), take either a bus or micro leaving for Cochabamba. Typically these buses depart at night (arriving in Villa Tunari around 3am) or in the morning (however the morning departure doesn't tend to be very reliable). The journey takes approximately six to seven hours. Prices vary from 50 to 100 Bs.

You can also choose to travel using shared taxis. Get a shared taxi outside of the Terminal Bimodal with directions to Montero, then change to one for Yapacani, Bulo Bulo, Ivirgazama, Shinahota, and finally Villa Tunari. They shouldn't charge you more than 12Bs. per trip, so you end up paying about 50-70Bs. Make sure it is a shared taxi and not a private one.

When you arrive

A café is located at the entrance to the centre, on the side of the road. Here you will find someone that can welcome you. You will also be able to place your luggage in a storeroom until you are assigned to your accommodation.

You will be given a tour of the Sanctuary, after which we will discuss accommodation and which work area you will be assigned to. You will normally start work the very next day!


If you have any questions before you arrive, we strongly encourage you to visit our FAQ section. If you have any unanswered questions after reading the FAQs, please feel free to contact us.

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Our Partners

Friends of Inti Wara Yassi (FIWY) is our sister organization in the UK. They have been a major source of support since their founding in 2008. Find out more about FIWY here.

Quest Overseas organizes gap year trips for British and international students. Since 2001, Quest has worked with CIWY to bring much needed volunteers and funds. If you are interested in the programs they have with us, find out more here.

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