Volunteering at Parque Ambue Ari | Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY)

Parque Ambue Ari

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Volunteering at Parque Ambue Ari

For information on the sanctuary and its history, visit the Parque Ambue Ari page.

For general information on volunteering, including a packing list, requirements and more, see our general information section on volunteering.

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).

At Ambue Ari we care for a wide variety of animals, with an emphasis on wild felines, distributed in different management areas and enclosures. When you arrive at the sanctuary you will be assigned your work areas or individual animals. Volunteer preferences are taken into consideration, as well as the needs of the sanctuary and the animals. For this reason, we cannot guarantee work in a particular area.

All volunteers working with animals should assist in cleaning, preparing food, and providing enrichment, especially for animals that cannot leave their enclosures. In addition, you will be in charge of specific tasks in the area, as explained below. Please note the minimum stay for each area. It is determined according to the needs of the animals, for their well-being and stability.

The schedule in Ambue Ari is:

  • 7:00-8:00am: Feeding of small animals and daily maintenance of the camp
  • 8:00-9:00am: Breakfast
  • 9:00-12:30: Work in an area or with an animal
  • 12:30-2:00pm: Lunch
  • 2:00-5:30pm: Work in an area or with an animal

Some animals have different hours depending on their biology, the time of year and the number of volunteers. For example, night monkeys usually go out between 7:00pm and 8:00pm, when it is already dark, and some felines leave early in the morning when it is very hot.

We try to follow the schedules as much as possible, but when there are few volunteers you may end a little later.

The work areas are:

Area AnimalsMinimum Time CommitmentSpecific Tasks
Birds and Small MammalsMacaws, amazons and other wild birds, lowland paca, tortoises, rhea and coatis15 nightsHandle the birds in the aviary
Crab-eating Fox AreaCrab-eating fox30 nights
Camp Animals  Tapirs, coatis, peccaries and rheas15 nightsCoordinate the movement to outer enclosure by tunnel system and outings to walk through the jungle
BitónHowler monkey30 nightsManagement in his enclosure and movement to tree platforms
Night Monkey ParkNight monkeys30 nightsManagement of enclosure and nocturnal trips to the trees
Construction15 nightsImprovement of animal facilities and help with construction projects
FelinesJaguars, pumas, ocelots and Geoffroy’s cats30 nights
44 nights for jaguars
Walks through the jungle.
Maintenance of enclosures and trails.

At Ambue Ari, volunteers work from Sunday to Monday and have Saturday off. Volunteers who stay for a month or more are usually asked to work together on a Saturday morning. In exchange, you receive a free morning or afternoon during the week and a free dinner that Saturday.

On Tuesday nights we usually go to Santa María (a nearby town) to relax, listen to music, eat Doña Lourdes’ delicious empanadas and have ice cream.

We take advantage of Saturday to disconnect and enjoy the Itapemí Lagoon of Ascensión de Guarayos or simply rest in the camp and enjoy a quiet day.

The volunteer package includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner (except Saturday dinners), accommodation in bunk bed dorms, cold showers, and a CIWY T-shirt.

Volunteer payments also contribute towards the daily expenses of caring for the animals and infrastructure in the three sanctuaries.

Upon arrival you must pay the full cost of the volunteer package, as well as a security deposit and an advance for your expenses (eggs and French toast, snacks and a pub open on Friday nights). Please note that we do not accept card payments and that the closest ATM is in Ascensión de Guarayos, 1 hour by bus from the sanctuary. We request payment in Bolivianos.

PackageCostSecurity DepositCost per additional night
15 nights2,270 Bs.300 Bs.125 Bs. / night
30 nights3,770 Bs.300 Bs.80 Bs. / night

The security deposit will be returned in full upon completion of a full stay if no damage has occurred.

The advance for the cafeteria is 250 Bs., from which the products you consume, such as snacks and drinks, will be discounted. Any remaining balance will be returned to you at the end of your stay.

In addition to the above fees, keep in mind the following expenses:

  • Second-hand clothes for working (3 to 30 Bs. per item)
  • Transportation to and from Ascensión de Guarayos and Santa María (6 Bs. And 2 Bs. by bus, respectively)
  • One or two meals in Ascensión de Guarayos or Santa María per week (10 to 50 Bs. per meal)
  • Extra groceries, such as spices, sauces, and snacks.
  • Internet access (8 Bs. per hour, 7 Bs. per day with your device) and long-distance calls (4 to 12 Bs. per minute)
  • Other miscellaneous expenses that you may require.

Accomodation

At Ambue Ari you will sleep in a shared room with bunk beds. We provide sheets, a pillow, a mosquito net and blankets or sleeping bag (depending on availability). We recommend you bring a sleeping bag or a blanket in the dry season (from April to October), as it can get quite cold at night.

The sanctuary has electricity in the kitchen, office, and clinic. Refrigerators and a charging station are available for volunteers several days a week. In almost all the territory of the sanctuary there is enough telephone coverage to make calls and there is also some mobile internet signal (enough to send and receive WhatsApps, but insufficient to make video calls). The only company that offers coverage is Entel (the SIM card costs 10 Bs). There is filtered drinking water from a well. The showers are not heated and the toilets are ecological and dry.

Food

The cost of your stay includes breakfast, lunch and dinner (except dinner on Saturday). Volunteers usually go to Ascensión de Guarayos on Saturdays and have dinner there all together, although we also offer the possibility of having dinner in Santa María for 10 Bs.

Breakfast includes two breads, a piece of fruit, and coffee, tea, or cocoa powder. Boiled eggs, fried eggs and French toast can be ordered depending on the day of the week. If you usually eat cereal or other things, you can bring it to complement breakfast.

Lunch and dinner are usually vegetarian, although meat is offered two or three times a week.

Let us know when you arrive if you have any food restrictions to take it into account when cooking.

If you have any food allergies or intolerances, please bring specific foods with you as we cannot provide them. For example, if you have a gluten allergy, bring enough food because most of what we serve contains gluten. Some foods can be found in Santa María, the closest town, although there is more variety in Ascensión de Guarayos, 1 hour by bus from the sanctuary.

Vegans are advised to bring protein-rich foods or supplements.

Medical resources

The closest hospital is 1 hour away by bus, in Ascensión de Guarayos. Pharmacies are often well-stocked. However, we suggest that you bring a basic medicine kit. If you take any specific or unusual medication, we recommend that you bring enough to cover your entire stay. At the sanctuary we provide first aid in case of an accident.

Banks and ATMs

We recommend that you bring enough cash to cover your expenses during the entirety of your stay (you can take it out in Santa Cruz, Trinidad or any other big city), although in Ascensión de Guarayos there are several options:

  • Banco Unión: only accepts Visa cards and does not always work.
  • Ecofuturo Bank: accepts Visa and MasterCard.
  • Western Union: you can request an advance with your credit card (charging a commission of at least 5%).

The closest reliable ATM is in Trinidad, which is a 3- to 4-hour bus ride away.

Other considerations

The sanctuary is a 15-minute bus ride from the nearest town, Santa María, where there are basic shops, food stalls, a bar and a telephone.

1 hour by bus is Ascensión de Guarayos, a larger town with more shops, restaurants, pharmacies, several hospitals, telephone and internet access.

It is common that you work with more than one animal or management area (especially in the rainy season) and it is necessary to have separate clothing for each area so as not to transmit odors from one animal to another (some of our animals are prey to others in the wild).

Due to high humidity and rain, especially during the rainy season, it may take longer than expected to dry clothes. Surely you will need to change your clothes more frequently since part of the territory is flooded. We recommend bringing more pairs of socks and underwear than you think you will need.

During the rainy season many areas of the sanctuary are flooded for months. The presence of mosquitoes multiplies and the volunteers walk through water up to the waist (sometimes it reaches the chest) to reach their work areas. When the water levels rise above the height of the boots, boots with holes are used to allow the water to drain quickly. You should dry your feet well and apply talc to prevent fungus.

Humidity is high throughout the year, so we recommend storing electronic devices (phones, cameras, computers, laptops and hard drives) in airtight containers or waterproof bags with rice or silica bags to absorb moisture and so avoid damage. It is necessary to carry waterproof bags to carry your electronic items (phone) with you while you work, as the rains can be unpredictable. Mold is common, especially during the rainy season, and can damage your belongings.

Parque Ambue Ari is located on the road that connects Santa Cruz and Trinidad. It is 348 km from Santa Cruz and 202 km from Trinidad. At the entrance you can see a small cabin and some signs. All bus drivers know where we are.

Please try to arrive before dark since we don’t have electricity. If you are going to arrive on Saturday, please let us know to prepare your arrival. Note that the volunteers have this day off and that the staff leaves the camp to have dinner in a nearby town.

We recommend downloading map applications that work without the internet to help you find the sanctuary. Maps.Me and Google Maps offer this service.

Read on for specific directions from the cities of Santa Cruz and Trinidad:

From Santa Cruz to Parque Ambue Ari

In Santa Cruz, go to the Bimodal Terminal. There, go to the provincial departures platform called “la terminal provincial”, passing through the tunnel under the railroad track. If you take a taxi to the bus terminal, ask the driver to drop you off directly at the provincial terminal. From here you have two options:

  1. By bus: Trans Guarayos Line 102 has daily departures at 9:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. towards San Pablo, a town that is 2-3 hours past the sanctuary. Tell the ticket seller and the bus driver that you are going to Parque Ambue Ari. The trip costs about 45 Bs. and takes 7 hours. We recommend that you take the 9:00 bus to arrive during the day. Also, make sure that the final destination of your bus is San Pablo. The same company offers services to Ascensión de Guarayos, a town 1h before Parque Ambue Ari. These buses drop you off at the terminal on the outskirts of town. If you arrive at Ascensión de Guarayos, take a motorcycle taxi to the market and there take a minivan “rapiditio” (to the right of the market) or a taxi to the sanctuary.
    The 2:00 p.m. bus will drop you off at the sanctuary after dark, so we recommend that you have a flashlight ready. The 5:00 p.m. bus will get you to the sanctuary in the middle of the night, so we recommend that you do not take it.
  2. By rapidito: Minivans known as “rapiditos” are operated by Estrella del Este. They leave as whenever they are full of passengers. Tell the driver that you are going to Parque Ambue Ari. On rare occasions some minivans go to San Pablo and may drop you off at the entrance of the sanctuary. However, most only go as far as Ascensión de Guarayos. They cost between 40 and 50 Bs. and take 4 to 5 hours. In Ascensión de Guarayos take another rapidito (next to the market) or the fleet (bus, in the new terminal to go by motorcycle taxi) to San Pablo. Ask to be dropped off at Parque Ambue Ari. The trip from Ascensión de Guarayos to the sanctuary costs 20 Bs. in a rapidito and 6 Bs. by bus, and takes 45 minutes to an hour. The rapiditos go when they are full of passengers. The bus leaves at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. (they can be more than an hour late).

From Trinidad to Parque Ambue Ari

Take a motorcycle taxi to “la parada para San Pablo.” From there, take a minivan (known as a “rapidito”) to San Pablo. The trip costs between 15 and 25 Bs. and takes from 2 to 3 hours. Rapiditos leave whenever they are full.

From San Pablo, take another rapidito towards Ascensión de Guarayos, but ask to be dropped off at Parque Ambue Ari. This part of the journey costs between 10 and 15 Bs. and takes from 2 to 3 hours. We recommend leaving Trinidad in the morning to ensure arrival during the day

When you arrive

At the entrance of the sanctuary there is a path that leads to the camp. Follow the path and ask anyone you see for the volunteer coordinator. If the coordinator is not nearby, you will be taken to the office where you can leave your luggage. If no one is near the camp when you arrive, you can relax on the patio or in the dining room, where you will find someone for sure.

You will be assigned a bed and, depending on the time, you will be given a tour of the camp, the rules will be explained. and you will be assigned to a work area.

Contact

If you have any questions before arriving, we encourage you to visit our FAQ section. If you still have questions, do not hesitate to contact us.