Volunteering Information | Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY)

Volunteering

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Volunteering Information

Working as a volunteer in CWIY’s wildlife sanctuaries is hard work, but incredibly rewarding. It is a unique experience in which you live close to nature in the Amazon rainforest, work with magnificent rescued animals, and contribute to their rehabilitation and quality of life. You will surely make new friends from around the world and leave with memories to cherish forever.

On this page you will find general information about volunteering. For specific information on each of our centers (animals, facilities, costs and instructions), visit the volunteer pages of each sanctuary:

Current Need for Volunteers:

CIWY is not receiving volunteers  at the moment because the pandemic and the quarantine measures in Bolivia

  • Parque Machía
  • Parque Ambue Ari
  • Parque Jacj Cuisi

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We offer two ways to organize your arrival:

Option 1: Just show up

You do not need to make a reservation beforehand, although we appreciate being notified even if it’s on the same day. We are rarely at full capacity, and if one sanctuary is full, we will have open slots at another. Once you arrive you will be trained, and your accommodation and working area will be assigned.

You can always contact us to ask where more help is needed at that time.

Option 2: Make a reservation

We accept reservations for those who prefer the peace of mind of having a guaranteed place in the sanctuary of their choice.

To make a reservation, we require a non-refundable fee of US $100 per person.

To reserve your spot, please read the terms and conditions below, and email us with “Volunteer Booking” as the subject.

Reservation Terms and Conditions:

  • Reservations must be made at least two weeks before arrival.
  • Volunteers must commit to work for at least two weeks. Payment of the volunteer package must be paid in full upon arrival. Many volunteers later choose to extend their stay beyond their initial commitment.
  • It is not possible to reserve an assignment with a particular animal or species to work with. You can communicate preferences, but work assignments depend on the current needs of the sanctuary.
  • The reservation fee of US $100 is additional to the volunteer package. It is not an advance payment of the cost of the volunteer package.

We accept volunteers from all walks of life and we do not require previous experience working with wildlife. All training takes place at the sanctuary.

However, all volunteers must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old (or 17 with a written consent letter from a parent)
  • Be in good physical condition
  • Be able and willing to work in hot and humid climatic conditions, with temperatures above 30° C and humidity between 65% and 90%
  • Have Yellow Fever vaccine
  • Speak either Spanish or English
  • Be adaptable and have a flexible attitude towards work
  • And most importantly: have a passion for helping animals
Volunteering with animals

Volunteering with animals requires a commitment of at least 15 nights, although some species require up to 44 nights. On the volunteer page of each sanctuary you can find the minimum stay required to work with each species. In general, 15 nights are required to work with monkeys and 30 nights to work with felines. The minimum stays are part of a policy implemented for the wellbeing and emotional stability of our animals.

Volunteering in construction

We require only a one week commitment to work with construction projects, maintenance and gardening at Parque Jacj Cuisi.

Long-term volunteering

Many of our volunteers stay for months or even years, and many others return for a second or third time. Long-term volunteers are crucial to the work we do. In addition to caring for animals, they help manage and direct our wildlife sanctuaries and often develop specialized knowledge of the animals. With time, some volunteers move into paid staff positions with CIWY. If you want to become a long-term volunteer and have doubts about visas, check our FAQ section.

The cost of volunteering varies by sanctuary, and is kept as low as possible. We appreciate that volunteers donate their time to support the animals, but we must collect a modest payment in order to provide room and board. Check the exact costs on the volunteer page of each sanctuary and be aware you must pay in cash before starting work.

The volunteer packages include accommodation and lunch at all of our sanctuaries. In addition, volunteers receive breakfast and dinner at Ambue Ari and Jacj Cuisi (not at Machía).

CIWY is a non-profit organization with no governmental funding. Any income generated from merchandise, donations, etc. helps us to continue rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals in need.

Upfront discounts for 3 and 6 month volunteer stays

Volunteers receive a 10% discount for paying upfront for a 3 month stay, and a 30% discount for paying upfront for a 6 month stay.

The following prices apply:

PackageMachíaAmbue AriJacj Cuisi
3 months (10% discount)7,335 Bs.7,713 Bs.7,533 Bs.
6 months (30% discount)10,745 Bs.11,039 Bs.10,899 Bs.

Below you’ll find information on the 3 sanctuaries, the work that is done in each one and what life is like there. For more specific information, see the volunteer page of each sanctuary.

SanctuaryAnimalsFacilitiesLocation
Parque MachíaCapuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, coatis, tortoises, Andean bear, squirrel monkeys and more.Shared dormitories, shared kitchen, electricity, running water, hot showers, internet and cellphone reception. Restaurants, laundromat and shops at a 10-minute walking distance from the Park.Villa Tunari, on the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway
Parque Ambue AriJaguars, ocelots, pumas, howler monkeys, night monkeys, birds, South American tapir, pacas, and more.Shared dormitories with bunk beds, limited electricity, potable water, cold showers and limited cellphone reception. A 15 minute drive from Santa María and an hour drive from Ascensión de Guarayos (Shops and Itapemí Lagoon).On the Santa Cruz to Trinidad highway
Parque Jacj Cuisi3 pumasShared dormitories with bunk beds, limited electricity.An hour and a half from Rurrenabaque
Parque Machía

Parque Machía consists of 38 hectares of Pre-Andean Amazon Forest located a 10-minute walk from the town of Villa Tunari (a 4 hour drive from Cochabamba).

Strolling through the wild portion of the sanctuary, you can easily spot groups of Capuchin monkeys and squirrel monkeys that have been reintroduced to the wild, as well as butterflies of many colors, birds and other wild animals. From the lookout, high on the mountain, there are beautiful views of the town, the mountain and its rivers. Some of the work areas are at the top of the mountain, so if you are lucky enough to work with spider monkeys or albifrons (white fronted capuchins), you can enjoy daily jungle walks.

Volunteers usually organize for dinner in groups, either going to the restaurants in town, or sharing meals at the cafe or the sanctuary’s shared kitchen. Sometimes special dinners are organized, and bonfires by the river, which can end as a party night at the town’s disco.

A good option to relax on your weekly day off is to visit the Los Tucanes hotel for a delicious pizza and a swim in their pool.

Living near the town has many advantages, but it also brings some inconveniences, such as the noise of the highway and neighboring dogs and roosters.

Parque Ambue Ari

Ambue Ari consists of 1,000 hectares of Flooded Amazonian Forest, located 48km from Ascensión de Guarayos, in the middle of the jungle.

Here you will wake to the sounds of wild howler monkeys and our unique private alarm clock, a volunteer who passes from room to room with music to say good morning.

At any given area of base camp and the sanctuary, you can see countless animals, such as birds (macaws, amazons, toucans), pacas, armadillos, peccaries, monkeys (howler, squirrel, capuchin, and pygmy marmoset) and even tracks from small and large felines.

The sense of community is very strong at Ambue Ari. We enjoy Tuesday nights all together in Santa Maria eating delicious empanadas and ice cream. On Fridays we like to organize parties in the sanctuary’s pub, many of them themed (if you like to dress up in costume, this is your chance to shine). On Saturdays (our day off) we like to relax at the Itapemí lagoon.

After a candlelit dinner, volunteers usually play cards at the dining table, sing and play instruments in the smoking area, or simply go to bed early to recharge for the next day.

Living in the middle of the jungle has many advantages, but also some inconveniences, such as mosquitoes and walking through flooded areas of the sanctuary during the wet season (although many people find it fun, especially when they make races to return to the camp).

Parque Jacj Cuisi

Jacj Cuisi is comprised by 300 hectares of Pre-andean Amazonian Forest, located 25km from Rurrenabaque. An extension of the park’s territory borders with the Madidi National Park, one of the most biodiverse places in the world.

At Jacj Cuisi you will be able to enjoy strolls through the jungle, where you’ll spot a great amount of birds (including macaws, toucans, and amazonian parrots). You will be able to bathe in Jacj Cuisi’s crystal clear streams. At night you can stargaze, and if it happens to be a full moon night you can join our night hikes to see nocturnal animals.

At the sanctuary we have a wood-fired oven, where homemade bread and delicious pizzas are cooked; a small ecological garden with vegetables,and fruit trees, so you will be able to eat seasonal fresh and ecological food. We also have a little hen house, from which we take fresh eggs daily.

The atmosphere at Jacj Cuisi is very family-like. Volunteers spend Friday evenings at Rurrenabaque having cocktails and dinner at the international restaurants in town, they usually spend the night there and enjoy their Saturday relaxing and sightseeing around Rurrenabaque, a very beautiful town with a lot of charm, and very touristic. It’s a good opportunity to buy delicious croissants, brownies and quiches at the French bakery.

Living at this amazing location has many advantages, but there’s also many inconveniences, like the lack of cell phone reception (it’s the perfect place to disconnect from the world), and the lack of transportation to towns nearby.

For most volunteers, work begins at 7:00 am and ends at 5:30 pm. There are two breaks (breakfast and lunch) that usually add up to 2.5 hours. You can find the specific hours of the different work areas on the page of each sanctuary.

As a volunteer, you receive one day of rest per week.

Essential Items
  • Clothes that you don’t mind throwing away. If you don’t have anything suitable, we sell second-hand clothes at each sanctuary, but keep in mind that we may not have what you need in your size.
  • Quick-dry clothing.
  • A lot of underwear and socks.
  • Raincoat (with waterproof zippers or a poncho) and waterproof pants (especially during the rainy season, from October to March).
  • A flashlight (headlamp).
  • A wristwatch with a stopwatch (especially important in Ambue Ari and Jacj Cuisi).
  • Pocket knife (especially important in Ambue Ari and Jacj Cuisi).
  • Insect repellent. CIWY is a DEET free zone. You cannot use any type of repellent before or during work with animals, since they could ingest it, but you can use repellent after work and on your day off, making sure to wash thoroughly before you start working with animals again.
  • Cash (Bolivianos). There are ATMs at the airport that accept all types of cards. There is also an ATM in Villa Tunari, near Machía, but sometimes it is out of service and only accepts Visa (not Mastercard) cards. The closest ATM to Ambue Ari is an hour away, in Ascensión de Guarayos (one accepts Visa and MasterCard, the rest Visa only), and the closest to Jacj Cuisi is in Rurrenabaque. Bring enough cash with you to last your entire stay. Machía and Ambue Ari can accept payment in US dollars if you do not have bolivianos, but Jacj Cuisi only accepts bolivianos. We do not accept card payments.
Useful Items
  • Long socks for rubber boots.
  • Warm clothes and a sleeping bag if you come between May and September, when temperatures get low, especially at night.
  • Rubber boots, especially if you have big or small feet, or if you go to Parque Machía. We usually have second-hand boots at Ambue Ari and Jacj Cuisi, but we don’t always have all sizes.
  • A backpack (especially useful in Ambue Ari and Jacj Cuisi).
  • A wide-brimmed hat to protect you from the sun and rain.
  • A mosquito net if you come in the rainy season (October to March).
  • Waterproof bags to protect your phone and other electronic items from water and moisture.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Biodegradable soaps and shampoos, especially in Ambue Ari and Jacj Cuisi, where wastewater enters the surrounding ecosystem.
  • Some of your favorite foods and condiments.
  • Talcum powder to help keep your feet dry in the rainy season.
    Wish List

    If you have room to spare in your luggage, please consider bringing items from our Wish List. Many of the items are cheap in other countries, but are difficult and sometimes impossible to buy in Bolivia. Any donation, however small it may seem, is greatly appreciated.

    We highly recommend that you consult a doctor in your country to educate yourself about the risks and preventive measures to take before travelling to Bolivia.

    Vaccines

    You must be vaccinated against Yellow Fever in order to enter Bolivia. It is also advised to have the following vaccines up to date (but they aren’t mandatory):

    • Hepatitis A and B
    • Tetanus
    • Tuberculosis
    • Typhoid fever
    • Paratyphoid fever (oral vaccine)
    • Rabies
    Malaria

    We have never had a case of malaria at any of our sanctuaries, but this does not mean there is no risk. Most of our volunteers and workers do not take preventive medications, but we recommend that you consult with a doctor about the pros and cons for your own circumstances.

    Medication

    If you take any medication, we recommend that you bring enough to complete the treatment. If you plan to stay for several months, you can ask us if the product you need is available in the pharmacies nearby. Some products, such as the antibiotic Fosfomycin (Monurol), to treat urinary tract infections, are not available in Bolivia.

    We recommend that you bring a basic kit that includes at least the following items:

    • Band-Aids and / or bandages.
    • Sterile gauze and adhesive tape and/or sticking plaster.
    • Antiseptic such as povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine.
    • Ointments: with antibiotics for infected wounds, and with an antifungal agent (very useful in the rainy season).
    • Antihistamines or corticosteroids for stings or allergic reactions.
    • In case of diarrhea: antidiarrheals, oral rehydration salts, antibiotics.
    • In case of infection: broad-spectrum antibiotic such as amoxicillin with clavulanic acid or ciprofloxacin. If you are prone to urinary tract infections, bring the antibiotic that you usually use.
    • Analgesics: paracetamol, ibuprofen or naproxen.