Volunteers and CIWY staff gather for a group photo at Parque Ambue Ari
Over the years, thousands of volunteers from all walks of life and corners of the world have passed through our sanctuaries. Many of them fell in love with the animals as well as the jungle, the organization, and the strong sense of community.
Whether you volunteer with us for two weeks or two years, you will be part of the CIWY family for life.
When you volunteer with CIWY, you bond not only with the animals, but also with fellow volunteers, often creating lifelong friendships. Sometimes volunteers even find their soulmates. Look out for stories with ❤s around them for tales of love.
I love wildlife, and I am dedicating my life to the protection and rehabilitation of wildlife. After two years in different French centers, I discovered CIWY’s work, so, with my backpack, I made my way to Bolivia for a new adventure. Parque Machía is a magnificent place where the days are always full of excitement.… It can at times be tiring, but everyone gives their all for the welfare of the animals. I worked in an area called Heaven, where CIWY and volunteers take care of capuchin monkeys. Thanks to Gonzalo (my coordinator) I learned a lot about the behaviors and characteristics of each of the capuchin monkeys. The rest of the volunteers and myself became a big family with members from all over the world, united by the same desire to help animals. We all supported each other and once the day was over, we would enjoy a cold drink and a hot meal and get to know each other. I hope that you too will want to join the family because it is an experience that I recommend to everyone. Read more “Create a family”
I volunteered at Parque Ambue Ari for three months, and it is impossible to describe how amazing it was. I originally went to CIWY to conduct research for my thesis; however, the sanctuary quickly became much more to me than a study site. CIWY kindly offered me an internship in which I could carry out… my project in the mornings and volunteer in the afternoons. As a student, I cannot begin to explain the educational value of my time at Ambue Ari.
The sanctuary became my home and the volunteers, my family. I doubt that the sense of community and camaraderie there could be rivalled anywhere else in the world. Anybody who has volunteered with CIWY will tell you it is a fantastic organisation that cares for rescued animals in an incredibly unique way. However, I also stress that it is a place of personal growth. It was humbling to witness friends transform from relatively insect-anxious, swamp-hating city folk into tough-as-nails, down-to-earth jungle-lovers. They would give up absolutely anything to make their animals happy. On the day I tearfully boarded the bus to leave, I realised that I was walking out of the jungle a very changed woman myself.
If you are thinking of volunteering with CIWY, stop thinking, and get on the plane! Don’t underestimate the harsh conditions. I can assure you that you will have never worked harder in your life. However, you will fall in love with the beautiful wildlife and make friends quickly with like-minded travellers (many of whom are epic conservationists). The aches and mosquito bites will fade, but being part of the CIWY family is forever. I am going back as soon as possible to collect the bits of my heart that some very special pumas stole, and I hope to see you there!!
P.S. Bring a few delicious condiments from home if you plan on staying awhile! Read more “Educational and life-changing”
Amy and Peter met at Parque Ambue Ari in 2010. Amy was working with two jaguars, Juancho and Katie, and Pete was assigned to a puma named Maggie. The two took on additional responsibilities at the sanctuary, but their relationship remained strictly professionally. One evening, a mischievous spider monkey named Morocha that lived at Parque… Ambue Ari, played a fateful role in bringing these two backpackers together as more than just colleagues. Morocha entered Amy’s dorm and ripped down her mosquito net and made a mess of her bed, leaving Amy without a place to sleep. Pete, in a pure act of chivalry, offered space in his bunk, and, well, the rest is history. The two parted ways but remained in contact for a year and eventually found each other again in Australia. This time they decided not to part ways, making it official by vowing ‘until death do we part’. The two married in 2016 and now reside in Melbourne with their daughter Marcie and dog Buddy. Read more “❤ Monkey love ❤”
We were travelling through Bolivia together when we decided to volunteer for two weeks at Parque Machía. Gabin worked in ‘Heaven’, a section of the Primate Management Area with capuchin monkeys, and I worked in the Aviary. A fantastic team of staff and volunteers trained us on site.
The sanctuary has a great atmosphere,… and we were motivated by the organisation’s passion for ending wildlife trafficking. We felt we had a purpose in caring for the animals. As a volunteer, you work to ensure that the animals experience the best quality of life possible. If you love animals, are creative and are perhaps a bit of a handyman, then you will love Parque Machía. It was an absolute pleasure to contribute to this cause, and we regret having to move on. We thank the whole team and hope to see you soon! Read more “A great atmosphere”
I’ll never forget the moment I arrived at Parque Ambue Ari in 2007. I arrived after hours of travelling by bus, and I was greeted by an Australian named Dave, who walked me through to the courtyard where more people were hanging out. They all looked somehow glowing and extremely happy, despite being filthy from… a hard day’s work. The rooms had dirt floors and mesh windows. There were straw mattresses, and each bed had a mosquito net hanging over it. No power. No hot water. It was paradise!
I had dreamed of doing this kind of work for years and had no idea this place even existed until a fellow traveller told me about it. During my third day there, I noticed Mike, a tall, handsome American. He asked me if I wanted to take a walk through the jungle and climb a tree at night without lights. I imagined all kinds of snakes, spiders and large wild predators, but I loved an adventure, so I agreed. We found a tree, climbed up to its branches and stared at the star-filled night sky. It was magical. On the way back, Mike reached to grab my hand and guide me through the dark path, which he knew well after four months. We spent that night lying in a hammock together and talked for hours. I felt like I met my soulmate.
Sadly, Mike left just two weeks later to return to the United States, and I then moved to New Zealand. We kept in touch, and he even visited me after I moved. A year later, we returned to Parque Ambue Ari to be together. Our time there was life-changing and unforgettable, not to mention romantic. We followed each other around the globe for a few years before getting married in June 2014. We now live in Asheville, North Carolina, with our two pups. We are forever grateful to CIWY for bringing us together. Read more “❤ Unforgettable… and romantic ❤”
I volunteered with my husband at CIWY during our nine-month stint travelling through Central and South America in 2018. Our stay turned out to be one of the best months of our lives! We knew we wanted to volunteer with animals at some point on the trip, ideally in a Spanish-speaking country (after six months… of coming to grips with the language!), and we found CIWY online while in La Paz.
After changing a flight to extend our stay in Bolivia and landing on Parque Ambue Ari’s doorstep, we got to work! We worked hard, played hard and fell in love with amazing animals that continue to touch our lives. Working with Kusiy—a real-life jag—for a month in the jungle was a dream I never imagined could come true. I was in awe when I first met Kusiy, and I fell in love with him over and over again. Working with an animal like Kusiy puts life into perspective, and I relished my precious time with him.
While the animals are magnificent, so are the people. The friendships you make at camp are bonds for life. You have no WiFi or electricity, so becoming close very quickly is inevitable. We felt part of a tight-knit family. We left with the fullest hearts. Read more “An unbeatable experience”
Marie and I had been travelling South America for just over a year. Marie heard of CIWY through a friend so when we were in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia, in 2018 we went to check out Parque Jacj Cuisi. We were only meant to stay a month but ended up staying just over two!
Jacj Cuisi… is incredibly beautiful. There was no electricity then. It’s located in the middle of the jungle, and you can see the Milky Way just overhead and hear nothing but the wildlife. Oh, and by the way, that’s just at camp. We haven’t even mentioned the absolute privilege we had to spend our time in the Amazon side-by-side and to enrich the lives of two pumas, Sonko and Capitán.
If you’re on the fence about going, don’t be. Get off it, and experience the unforgettable. The work CIWY does is amazing and extremely necessary, and you play an active part in giving the animals the respect, love and care they deserve. Read more “Experience the unforgettable”
Volunteering with CIWY was an unforgettable experience. Seeing how happy the animals are makes all the hard work worth it. Getting up at 6:00 am to work 6 days a week, working until you couldn’t possibly become dirtier, wading through swamps in the rainy season, living without electricity or warm showers, fighting off clouds of… mosquitoes, and enduring red ants and all kinds of bites will take you out of your comfort zone. But these challenges cannot compare to the gratification and fulfilment you gain from your animal’s love.
I treasure the whole experience, especially meeting volunteers from all over the world with immense hearts and eagerness to help, Friday nights at the ‘Café’ and the smile on everyone’s faces at the end of the day. Every day was a new adventure. I worked with Juancho (a jaguar) and LazyCat (an ocelot), the noblest lord and lady of the jungle. Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi rescued them, and both had unfortunate lives before coming to CIWY. However, all the animals at Parque Ambue Ari live in the jungle and receive daily enrichment to stimulate their instincts.
Most people in Bolivia don’t know that this great experience exists in our country. When I was at Parque Ambue Ari, I was one of only two Bolivians among the whole volunteer community. To my compatriots: get your jungle outfit on, grab a flashlight and accept my challenge! Volunteer and enrich yourself. Read more “A national treasure”
While studying in New York, I looked for an opportunity to volunteer with wildlife in another country during the summer. I found CIWY on a list of the most ethical organizations, and I chose to volunteer at Parque Jacj Cuisi in 2018 for a month to have the chance to work with a puma and… because I thought the location seemed exotic.
It’s safe to say that the experience exceeded my expectations. It was thrilling to meet volunteers from all over the world that came together to give these rescued animals the most natural and enjoyable life possible. If you are looking for an organization abroad to volunteer with, CIWY should be at the top of your list. I can’t wait to go back! Read more “Add CIWY to your list”
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.