Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

Program Reviews

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Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience

We volunteered at Alturas for a couple of weeks and had an amazing visit. Your time there really does make a difference, as you get to work closely and directly with lots of animals. My favorite thing about Alturas is knowing you're volunteering in an ethical way and not as a tourist. The needs of the animals come first, and you are there for them...not the other way around. And that's what makes volunteering at a place like Alturas so rewarding and memorable. The staff is very friendly, accommodating, and willing to help in any way to ensure your time there is comfortable. As a bonus - you get a chance each day to enjoy some time to relax or explore the area, as they want to ensure you're having a good, fun time. I can't recommend Alturas enough!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
We would stay another week! Though you work hard, time flies by because you'll love.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience

I knew it would be, but this truly was a life changing experience.
As an animal welfare supporter, advocate and volunteer back home to have the opportunity to help out at a place like this with these animals was humbling.

Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is an incredible set up. At the heart of what they do is the welfare of animals whether that is to rehabilitate, treat or provide sanctuary to. The people who work there are dedicated, hardworking and passionate. Particular call out to Laura and Loyal who I learnt so much from.

As a more mature volunteer I was prepared to take on all the responsibility and workload required of me, at the end of the day we are there to help and provide a much needed role to the sanctuary. I did find that was not true of all the volunteers. I think if you are going to go you need to understand that you, as a volunteer, are a cog in a wheel and that you are there to WORK and if you don't take it seriously it is the animals that will feel the effects. It is not a holiday on the days you are scheduled to work. However, make sure you do make the most of your days off. Costa Rica and what it has to offer is superb and I found those who had a less enjoyable experience to me were those who didn't go and explore on their days off. Things may not be cheap but they are worth it and if you've come all this way why wouldn't you.

The team at Alturas will do the best they can to make your stay enjoyable and interesting. Sometimes things may not go as planned or scheduled if they say they'll take you to the beach or a waterfall during the break between shifts....that's life people. An emergency case may come in or they are short staffed. Why not do some animal habitat enrichment instead and enjoy the experience you have been given to be near and around these incredible animals :)

The volunteer house was simple/basic and I believe there are plans for a refurbishment and improvements which I support as there were some areas that needed some attention. It was a nice set up though. The trouble is with such a turnover of volunteers you are depending on those leaving to have the respect and care to clean and tidy before they go and also to have basic care and consideration for the property and those who will be/are staying but as we all know if you have every shared accommodation this is not always the case!!!

The purpose of my stay was for the animals and that did not disappoint. You get out what you put in and I put in a lot and I got out a hell of a lot out. I am planning my return :)


What would you improve about this program?
There is always room for improvement. Some of the volunteer activities didn't happen but I was over during Xmas & New Year but I also think this needs to be actioned if is promised on the site.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Couldn't recommend this program enough!!

I stayed at Altura's during my Spring Break (late March). I flew in to a small local airport and I was shuttled to the sanctuary. From there I met some of the staff, who where all warm and welcoming. The guest house is simple and well stocked (be sure to tell the guest house coordinator of any specific foods you would like). Upon arriving I was given a tour of the house and I was left to set up. This is a good opportunity to walk the sanctuary and get an idea of where everything is. Most of the other volunteers are working, so they won't have much of a chance to give you a tour. During my stay there all the volunteers got along great. It's just a general courtesy to clean up after yourself and I must say, all of us where on the same respect level! The volunteers varied in ages from 19 - mid 40's/50's. It was great being able to see the animals, and even more so, that those animals aren't in a Zoo. The sanctuary workers where all kind, friendly and fun to work with. The hotel staff was also very friendly and welcoming to all volunteers and guests. I can't recommend Alturas enough. It was a great experience working with the animals and being able to visit Dominical and all this quaint town has to offer. Oh! Go to the Tiki mart. It's amazing, so many great local, clean products there!!

What would you improve about this program?
I think a lot of incoming guests felt a bit lost upon first arrival. Maybe have a program or tour to acclimate them a little more and show them what will be expected of them for their stay.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program


I spent three weeks there at the sanctuary and it was one of the best things I did. It was great to be up close with animals that you may never again have the opportunity to interact with. The staff is absolutely phenomenal and always willing to help and teach you about the animals and their stories. One thing I definitely did not expect was to see a troop of about 20 wild Capuchin monkeys crossing overhead our patio every morning. Honestly one of the coolest things.

One thing to keep in mind is that you will have a LOT of free time. There was a lot of stuff going on during my time there that they couldn't really control. But just as I was leaving, things started to fall more into place. They made a schedule with some pretty cool daily activities which was awesome. There is a beach close by, but the taxis are ridiculously expensive so don't expect to spend everyday there. It's actually quite nice just to sit in hammocks, eat mangoes, and get to know the other volunteers. They're all pretty neat.

Yes, there were a few bumps in the road, but keeping a positive attitude is key. Just remember that you're going there to volunteer, not for a vacation.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program


Volunteering at Alturas Sanctuary was a life-altering experience. It provided hands-on work (picking up poop, cleaning cages, doing more laundry than I ever would have expected, building toys, and feeding and transporting animals); education (about wildlife, the greater environment, and other ways of life); and fun (roaming around with other volunteers on days off, attending a concert, etc.). The environment was professional, safe, and comfortable (albeit be ready for some spiders and cold water showers).

The staff are overwhelmingly genuine, caring whole-heartedly about the well-being of the animals, while still taking the time to ensure that the volunteers weren't forgotten. The vet (Laura) would often share stories and answer questions during breaks - get to know her if you're logical, she's one of the coolest people I've ever encountered.

The animals are just as memorable. You'll build friendships quickly, and refer to them by name. I don't think I'll ever forget them.

My 3-week stay was during the busiest time of year, amid many changes (lack of dedicated coordinator, new volunteer house construction, etc.). This meant less organization, but going with the flow is all part of the Central American lifestyle. Although I found that some others had minor complaints, escalated items were addressed. The staff is there to help.

Be aware that the program is relatively new, but established. I expect that it will continue to develop. The owner shared goals regarding future projects, which I have high hopes for. While I'm extremely grateful for the experience I've already had, I'm definitely hoping to return.

It isn't a vacation; it's better. Go alone. Make friends (with people and animals). And use free time as an opportunity to learn and build relationships with those around you. It will change your life.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Unique and unforgettable experience

My voluntary work at the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary has been lasting 2 months and became
an unique, unforgettable experience.
An intimate site,sorrounded by forest offers animals peace and a perfect recovery conditions.
The staff presents a top level of professionalizm
and a rare committment. Volunteers learn from them a lot about a Coast Rica's wildlife

The Sanctuary visitors can only watch those animals, which will never come back to their natural environment.. The number of visits is limited.
I am especially higly recommending tours with Mike - it is a perfect possibility to learn a
history of every single animal in Sanctuary.

The group of wild animals, which are to return to a natural environment in future is separated. Any stress must be limited, excluded.
Only caregivers and volunteers have a priveledge of access to that area: those ones, who clean cages, prepare food, develpe toys for animals.
It is a very responsible approach, which significantly helps in process of bringing animals back to the nature.
In course of my 2 months work at the Sancturay I witnessed a number of such touchy and exciting events.

I cannot find proper words which might express how grateful I am to all people who
established the Sanctary, and for everything what they have done and still do for animals. I am happy that I could meet them and spend 8 weeks learning, and doing all
those good things dedicated to animals in need. Thank you very much!

Last but not least: thanks to that adventure I have now even more friends, and worldwide.

Yes, I recommend this program

Alturas Life Changer

My time with Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary was everything I could have hoped it could be and more.

I had been researching wildlife rescue placements for over a year, looking for hands on work, in a beautiful place in the world, while still being safe since I was traveling alone and then I stumbled upon Alturas. It seemed to be everything I was looking for so I jumped on the opportunity to go. As soon as I stepped on the property I was welcomed with open arms and immediately felt comfortable and happy.

I would wake up every morning to the sound of Toucans and Howler Monkeys in the trees around the property, have tea and breakfast and then start my day which included grounds keeping, food prep, feeding the animals and hands on work with the orphaned baby animals.

The staff is incredible and so knowledgeable about the ecosystem, habitats and the wildlife. They're always wiling to answer questions, very friendly and I loved just sitting with them on my breaks and learning about their lives and how they got to be there. The passion they have for the work they do is so inspiring and made me want to do more with my life and help others in any way I can. Knowing inside you made a positive impact on another life is the purest happiness that can be felt.

This volunteer experience ignited something within me that I never saw coming. It opened my eyes to the larger picture of life.

Pura Vida

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No, I don't recommend this program

Lots of False Advertisement

Let me preface this by saying that that the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary had the makings of a perfect experience. The staff were excellent, the animals were amazing, and my fellow volunteers were awesome people who made my time there truly memorable. Overall, my experience was a positive one, but the one thing that nearly ruined it all and may continue to trouble future volunteers is the incompetent administration and how they handled the operations. While I have countless stories about them, the biggest would be how several volunteers at one point had to be moved to an unfinished building due to overpopulation, where we had to live in rooms that reeked of wet paint and a hole in the wall for a window where rainwater and venomous snakes could easily enter through. The animals were kept in small, cramped spaces that is uncommon in other sanctuaries, which calls to question where all the donation money was going towards. Our boss could not be relied on when we needed him the most. My suggestion to future volunteers is to find another program; I'm sure you will be able to experience all that Costa Rica has to offer without any of the hassle of an ineffective orgniziation

Response from Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

thank you for your comments. We appreciate all comments from the volunteers and try to use them to improve our program. As you were aware our volunteer coordinator suffered a serious accident, breaking to vertebrates in her back, just prior to your arrival. This caused some issues as we needed to try and fill that gap. Unfortunately our new coordinator did not arrive during your visit which did cause some problems during your stay. It was also the busiest time of the season for volunteers and we had more volunteers than normal. We have now implemented a strict policy of limiting the volunteers to a maximum of 8. We have also implemented a new activity schedule that has improved the experience greatly and all current volunteers are very happy with the results. As I recall you were given the option to move into different accommodations or stay in the room you currently had. I believe you choose to move on you own and was never forced to move.

As far as the Sanctuary habitats they are the largest and most comprehensive in Central America. Please look at the other sanctuaries and compare ours. We do have quarantine areas, nursery and rescue enclosures that are for those animals that will be released soon, need to stay in quarantine or have injuries that requires small areas so that they cannot injure themselves further. All funds and donations go 100% to the care and attention to the animals. We have a paid staff of 11 people, including 3 veterinarians and a biologist with a full functioning clinic where all medical procedures can be performed. The land and all the initial construction of the sanctuary and rescue center was donated by the owner so that all future donation can help the monthly operating expense and the expansion of more open habitats.
We would ask that any problems or issues be brought immediately to management so they can be addressed at the time the issue arises.

Thank you again for your comments and we appreciate your help while you were at the sanctuary.
Tom Rademacher

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Yes, I recommend this program

A life-changing experience.

The animals, staff and unfathomable beauty of the jungle impacted me far greater than I ever expected. After 5 wks of volunteering, I can say I have another family in Costa Rica. So much love for this program. Pura Vida!