Volunteer in Costa Rica at a Macaw Conservation Project on the Southern Pacific Coast

Become a wildlife conservation volunteer in Costa Rica and work to help rescue, rehabilitate and release critically endangered Scarlet Macaws back into the wild. Opportunities available to for 1 to 12 weeks in duration all year round.  The centre is located in the Osa Peninsula – home to at least 1200 wild Scarlet Macaws.

Individuals, groups and students all welcome.

Costs for food, accommodation, transfers to and from Puerto Jimenez airport, programme materials and training starts from £445

Scarlet Macaws after release into the wildScarlet Macaws at the rescue centreA parakeet at a post-release feeding stationAll the macaws with a staff memberReceiving an injured scarlet macawTreating an injured macaw at the centreVolunteers helping to clean the aviariesA scarlet macaw being rehabilitated at the centreA volunteer helps to clean the release aviaryA staff member arriving with an injured wild macawScarlet macaws playing at the rescue centreScarlet macaws playing in the wild after releaseVolunteers helping with construction at the centreVolunteers preparing fruits and nuts for the macaws

Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica

About the Project

The Osa Peninsula is one of the most intensely biodiverse places on the planet and contains 2.5% of the world’s species crammed into an area the size of New York City! The Corcovado National Park, which takes up a third of the peninsula, is the crown jewel in Costa Rica’s park system and is home to more than 500 species of trees, 140 species of mammals, 370 species of birds, 120 amphibians and reptiles, and more than 6000 species of insect and butterfly. At least 25 dolphin and whale species and four species of sea turtles can be spotted in the waters around the peninsula, and its forests provide habitat for the largest remaining population of wild Scarlet Macaws in the world.

The Volunteer Programme
The programme has been operating rescue and rehabilitation centres throughout Costa Rica for over 13 years. The Southern Pacific centre is located in the Osa Peninsula – home to at least 1200 wild Scarlet Macaws – and rehabilitates both injured birds and provides a sanctuary for rescued birds that were illegally kept as pets. The centre also operates a breeding programme using birds that would not be able to survive if released into the wild. Their offspring are carefully reared in captivity to prepare them for life in the wild and later released at specially-selected sites along the Pacific Coast to help restore lost populations.

Volunteer with scarlet macaws in Costa Rica

When to Come
This programme is open all year round.

Volunteer Activities
As a wildlife conservation volunteer, you will be working under the supervision of a Supervisor throughout your time at the programme. Activities include:

  • Cleaning and maintaining cages and aviaries
  • Feeding birds (up to 3 times a day)
  • Collecting bird food around the beach and property (seeds, fruits etc.)
  • Going on bird rescue missions with staff
  • Helping to release rehabilitated birds
  • Helping with community projects and environmental education events
  • Helping to update social media

Volunteer feeding macaws in Costa Rica

Dates & Costs

You can join the Macaw Conservation Volunteer Programme for 1-12 weeks throughout the year.

10th November to 24th November 2018
24th November to 8th December 2018
8th to 22nd December 2018
22nd December 2018 to 5th January 2019
5th to 19th January 2019
19th January to 2nd February 2019
2nd to 16th February 2019
16th February to 2nd March 2019
2nd to 16th March 2019
16th to 30th March 2019
30th March to 13th April 2019
13th to 27th April 2019
27th April to 11th May 2019
11th to 25th May 2019
25th May to 8th June 2019
8th to 22nd June 2019
22nd June to 6th July 2019
6th to 20th July 2019
20th July to 3rd August 2019
3rd to 17th August 2019
17th to 31st August 2019
31st August to 14th September 2019
14th to 28th September 2019

Although we are flexible with the end dates, we ask that all volunteers arrive in Puerto Jiménez on a Saturday. Orientation takes places in Puerto Jiménez on Sundays, and work begins at the centre on Mondays. Volunteers work from 4-6 hours daily from Monday to Friday at the centre; weekends are free although an excursion day, tour or social event is generally offered every Saturday.  Please email: Victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com for any questions with regards to dates, durations etc.

Working with scarlet macaws in Costa RicaCosts
The cost for 1 week is £445, 2 weeks is £695, 3 weeks is £945, and 4 weeks is £1195, 5 weeks is £1445, 6 weeks is £1695, 7 weeks is £1945, 8 weeks is £2195 and 12 weeks is £3195. This cost includes three meals a day, accommodation, training, and round-trip transportation between Puerto Jiménez and the macaw centre (7km away). Airfare and transportation to Puerto Jiménez, lodging in San José, tours, travel/medical insurance and personal expenses are not included in the cost. It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project.

Volunteer accommodation at a beach lodge in Costa Rica

Lodging, Food, Travel & Free Time

Food & Accommodation
Accommodation is in mixed dorms with private bathrooms, based in a beach lodge next door to the main office in Puerto Jiménez. Alternatively, volunteers can opt to stay in a homestay house with a local family in the town (subject to availability). Both options include three meals a day and both can cater for specific dietary requirements (such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free etc).

Wi-Fi internet is provided in the mixed dorm accommodation; most homestay houses, however, do not have WiFi. There is no ‘grid’ electricity, cell phone reception nor WiFi internet at the rescue centre. It is simple to buy a Costa Rican sim card (we recommend Kolbi) when you arrive, which will provide you with internet access wherever there is reception.

Rescuing scarlet macaws in Costa RicaPuerto Jiménez is the largest and most developed town in the Osa Peninsula and has banks with ATM machines, supermarkets, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, a post office, an airport and a number of other amenities. The town is safe and friendly, with plenty of safe swimming beaches and a relaxed backpacker vibe. Several organizations are based in the town and there is lots of opportunity to meet and mingle with volunteers from other programmes in the area.

Working Conditions & Requirements
All volunteers should be at least 18 years of age. English is required and Spanish is very helpful, even if basic; a small amount of Spanish would go a long way. A strong interest in conservation is required, as is good team work spirit and flexibility. You should also be in good health, relatively fit and happy to ride a bicycle. Weather conditions can be extreme (sun, humidity and heavy rain) depending on the time of year that you come to work. In general, the weather is dry and hot from January through April, then hot and humid with daily showers for the rest of the year. The wet season peaks in September and October, when there can be non-stop rain and localised flooding for days at time. It’s important that you bring a hat, boots, sun block and insect repellent, and that you take sensible precautions to avoid dehydration and sun stroke during your stay.

Preparing food for macaws in Costa Rica

Tours and Free Time
We know that volunteers come not only to work but also to discover the incredible nature of the Osa Peninsula, and the programme offers unforgettable tours and activities, such as kayaking, snorkelling, dolphin and/or whale watching trips, trekking in the national park, community-based rural tours, zip-lining and much more. All tours can be arranged by the programme once you arrive.

How to Get There
Multiple airlines fly to San José, Costa Rica, via the United States, including United, American Airlines and Delta. From Europe, British Airways, Iberia and Condor all fly to San José either directly or with a short stopover. The San José international airport is called Juan Santamaria, code SJO, and is actually based in the city of Alajuela (30 mins drive from the capital, San José). You may need to stay in Alajuela or San José for your first and last nights, depending on your international flight times. Alajuela is convenient for the airport, just 5 minutes away by taxi ($6); San Jose is more convenient for catching the bus to Puerto Jiménez and other destinations around the country. We can also recommend hostels, please ask.

Interactive Map

Below is an interactive map showing the location of the project

Volunteer Testimonials

Paige Bentley, from the UK, joined the project for 2 weeks in April 2018: 

It was the most fantastic experience. The welcome and support I had on arrival, and the advice I got whilst becoming familiar with the town was brilliant, making me feel secure and safe. I became so familiar with the area and surrounding locations of the Peninsula. Working at the sanctuary was incredible and being with the parrots was a huge privilege. Being trusted to work with them and be responsible for their daily routine was beyond my expectations. I loved every second and feel very homesick for the sanctuary and Puerto!

Volunteer with Macaw bird in Costa Rica

The food was incredibly tasty, and the staff at the lodge were very good at coming up with different meals despite a vegan diet restriction on them. The portions were always huge, and I never went hungry! Being taken out to different restaurants during my stay was a huge treat, and Cacao Monkeys in particular was such a delicious meal! The security of the area was top notch, and I never felt anything but safe and relaxed, even after dark.
Such amazing people! They were the reason my stay was such a perfect one. I felt so welcome and part of the group. Everything was made easy thanks to them, and they were so kind and friendly. Couldn't have asked for more lovely and generous people!

My commute was my favourite way to start the day! Cycling in meant I got to see much of the area in a way that you miss using a vehicle, and I got some incredible wildlife encounters which I wouldn't have got using a car or bus. The Jaguarundi running across my path was something that you don't get every day.

It surpassed my expectation. I've travelled a bit on different programmes, but this one was different. It was more than I ever expected, and I feel like it brought everything that I've been looking for in life, and added extras that I didn't know I wanted, and put it all together in the shape of Puerto Jimenez, and the Sanctuary. The macaws became my companions, and I miss them so much. A never to be forgotten fortnight.

Macaw in Costa Rica

I had such an amazing time! I have volunteered with a number of different projects over the years and this one has really stood out for me for a number of reasons. One of the main things is that Chris and the staff there are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about macaws. I'm pretty sure that Chris has worked with birds since he was a child, with macaws for many years and his genuine enthusiasm and love for the macaws is really infectious! I got very attached to the macaws and I really never thought that I would. I learned about their behaviour (so interesting - they have the intelligence of a 5-year-old human child!), their diet, their biology, conservation status worldwide and in CR, release methods. The staff are very patient and are very keen to share their knowledge and experience. A general day would involve preparing the breakfast for the birds, going around the aviaries to feed the birds, then going out for a walk to collect fruit and almonds for the macaws - this would usually involve a walk along the beach and it didn't really feel like work! Then we'd normally have free time in the middle of the day and early afternoon to miss the hottest time of the day. Then you have the afternoon feed for the birds and cleaning their cages. That would be a normal day but often there were other activities such as planting trees, designing art-work/advertising/posters for the project, making powerpoint presentations about macaw conservation, learning the individual macaws (eventually you can tell each one apart even though at first they look the same!), and exploring the local area.

Feeding macaw chicksSometimes the locals would drop off random animals that they had found injured and we would also get to care for them - such as some baby parakeets whose parents got killed. We had to get up through the night for several days to give them regular feeding and eventually we were able to release them - that was very rewarding!! One time a CR TV news company came to film the project as well and that was really fun! In terms of security then I felt very safe the whole time. I also had the opportunity during free time to explore the local town - go and do some shopping and spending time with the other volunteers. Overall, I would recommend this project to anyone who has an interest in wildlife or conservation. It's a really great project to be a part of and I have very fond memories of my time there.

Rachel, USA

Volunteers working with scarlet macaws

My life was changed after volunteering and working with Chris. The passion, knowledge and determination Chris and his team have is contagious. That passion spread to me, igniting the need to do more for parrot conservation. I started my very own NGO to complement Chris’ work and help him in the fight to save the scarlet and great green macaws. The team behind this organisation are an inspiration and their work is truly important to macaw populations.

I have known Chris for nearly ten years now and he is one of the most inspiring and trustworthy people I have ever met. I have personally sent him volunteers and both could not say enough great things about he and his team. The most recent one, Ben Flammer said "It was incredible to witness Chris's special bond with birds. He has a heart of gold, and the patience to match it. My life will flow a new path because of the few weeks I volunteered with Chris. The adventure I went on contained a lifetime of excitement. I wish it upon anyone looking for this in life to volunteer with Chris on his inspirational journey to save the wild Macaw and parrot population in Costa Rica". I cannot say enough good things about Chris, when I met him 9 years ago I made a friend for life and a partner in conservation.

Jenna, USA

Working with Chris was an unforgettable experience. Getting to know the macaws as chicks, watching them grow, getting to know each of their individual personalities and then ultimately releasing them into the wild and watching them fly free was incredibly rewarding. Chris and the other staff at the project were all amazing, dedicated people with an inspirational passion. All in all, an invaluable life-experience and I look forward to returning someday to see how June, Zeus, Geoffrey and the other birds are doing!

Charlie, UK.

I had the best time volunteering here! Chris and his team are easily the most inspirational people I have ever met and his genuine love and dedication to the macaws is evident from day one. I learnt so much about macaws - their biology, behaviour and conservation - as well as staying in a beautiful place amongst lots of other interesting wildlife. The best thing is you can really tell that the project is making a real positive impact on macaw populations.

Rachel, UK

I worked with Chris at the new project last summer, a wonderful place, a lot of new experience and it was 2 unforgettable months. At that point there wasn't many macaw's but from day 1 I was apart of taking care of them and apart of the community, even with out speaking Spanish.

Chris, Denmark

It was a wonderful experience to work with Chris. His passion for, dedication to, and knowledge of the birds is inspiring. My life was changed by my experience working in Costa Rica.

Christy, USA.

Beautiful scarlet macaws in the Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

How to Join this Project

To secure a placement volunteering in Costa Rica with Macaws, please complete and submit the form with your application payment of £195. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we will reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, you will be required to pay the final balance 1 month before arrival. Once we have confirmed your place, you will receive an information package on the programme background and scientific objectives, your role as a volunteer, the work you will do, suggested items to bring, how to travel there etc. Upon arrival at the project, all volunteers are asked to sign a waiver/release of liability form.


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