A volunteer with a howler monkey at Parque Ambue Ari; Photo Credit: Antoine Aupetit
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:
Please send an email to email@example.com to find out about Covid-19 preventive measures in each park before arriving.
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.
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.
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.
Jaguars, ocelots, pumas, margays, howler monkeys, night monkeys, birds, coatis, 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).
Shared dormitories with bunk beds, limited electricity, potable water, cold showers and limited cellphone reception.
45 minutes from Rurrenabaque
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 capuchin monkeys, 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 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 Saturday nights all together in Villa 16 de Julio eating something different. 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 Tuesdays (our day off) we like to relax at the Itapemí lagoon.
After a 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 bath 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.
The atmosphere at Jacj Cuisi is very family-like. Volunteers spend their day off at Rurrenabaque having cocktails and dinner at the international restaurants in town, they usually spend the night there and enjoy the next day 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Paratyphoid fever (oral vaccine)
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.
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.
Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY) is a Bolivian Non-Governmental Organisation engaged in protecting wildlife rescued from illegal trafficking and the conservation of ecosystems. Across its three wildlife sanctuaries, CIWY has cared for thousands of animals over the years, providing for them a better quality of life and a future in their natural habitat. CIWY has been in operation since 1992 and is today recognised internationally for its work in wildlife care and rehabilitation.
Part of the extended CIWY family are Friends of Inti Wara Yassi UK and Friends of Inti Wara Yassi Australia, two international nonprofits founded and run by former volunteers to facilitate fundraising and permit tax-deductible donations for British and Australian taxpayers.