Dear future volunteer,
My 3 weeks in Costa Rica were extraordinary, an experience that will
always stay in my heart. This was the first time I traveled on my own,
and so far away. Right before landing, I was getting a bit nervous,
but at the airport, two members of the local team were waiting for me with two other volunteers that had just arrived.
They drove us to the Animal Rescue Center and I remember it was
raining really hard, since it was the rain season at that time.
During every morning on the following days, we had a meeting to assign
different activities to volunteers. These activities consisted in
maintaining the center (cleaning the cages, preparing the food,
feeding the animals, rehabilitating some animals) and in working on
the new center in another location very close to this one, where they
would move a few weeks later. Some of the activities were not related
to the animals, like helping to cook for the volunteers, cleaning the
pool, collecting branches, and maintaining infrastructure. Animals in
that center included sloths, capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, howler
monkeys, pet dogs, a pet goat, a baby porcupine, small parrots,
scarlet macaws, marmosets, one olingo, two kinkajous, owls, and
peacocks. I learned a lot about them, some evenings we even had
lectures on a specific animal.
In our free time we read, swam in the swimming pool, played cards,
called our families and friends (there was wifi there). This is one of
the things that bothered me at first, that many volunteers were on
their phones during free time, instead of socializing. Sometimes I
wished there wasn't wifi right on the center. But after some days had
passed, I also spent some time on my phone because I realized that
it's very nice to keep in touch with your loved ones. Concerning free
days, we took one or two days off per week. Me and other volunteers
went to Montezuma, Manuel Antonio, Land of the Strays, and Los Chorros
waterfall. On my birthday evening, we all went to a bar close-by to
celebrate. What was even more amazing is that before going to the bar,
after dinner, the manager and the coordinator brought by surprise two
cakes to me and to another birthday girl, and we had 40 people singing
happy birthday to us, which felt incredible.
Regarding accommodation, it was alright, but not great. The mattress
was too thin so you could feel the metal bed frame, there were too
many people in one room, it was a bit stuffy, and there was hardly any
space to put your things. Besides, showers had only cold water.
However, I realized that one gets used to anything. Once you return
home, you really appreciate and are grateful for the usual level of
comfort we have in developed countries. Note to future volunteers: the
new center has new thicker mattresses and the rooms are way nicer,
still a bit packed with too many people, but more pleasant :)
Now, about food, we had food three times a day. In the morning it was
either rice and beans with eggs, or pancakes with syrup and fruits.
The other meals were Costa Rican dishes. Some facts I realized about
Costa Rica, especially in the rain season is that everything is humid
(things don't completely dry, like hair and clothes); your skin is
always hydrated without the need of creams;; there are no big brands
in shops (i haven't been in big cities though), for instance one shop
was called “clothes for babies”, instead of Mango or Zara; there are
not many highways, but for this reason, buses go through very
beautiful roads around nature; there are no traditional addresses, for
instance, our center was located in 1 km to the southwest of the
church of San Miguel de Turrucares :p and the post still works fine!
Buses and cars can be very old and not well maintained.
Overall, I'd recommend this program to whoever likes
working with animals and helping them. In the meantime you'll meet
some amazing people from around the world, you'll get to know a bit of
Costa Rican culture and see a bit of this beautiful country. One tip:
you could reserve a week or two to travel after staying at the center!
At one point there were too many volunteers in the center, so there wasn't that many activities to do for each one of us. An improvement would be to accept less volunteers at a time, so that we feel more needed. Probably now the situation is different, because they have moved to another location.