A girl's guide to volunteering in Costa Rica

A girl’s guide to… volunteering in Costa Rica

Volunteering in Costa Rica

I’ve always had a fascination for the animal kingdom, so being rich in nature and wildlife, Costa Rica has been on my travel wishlist for a while. Costa Rica covers just a tiny proportion of our planet yet is host to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, something that the nation is particularly proud of. And you don’t have to venture too far to see some of its native creatures. Just relaxing by the pool at our hotel in Manuel Antonio we managed to spot lizards, capuchin monkeys and various birdlife, including toucans!

As someone developing a keen interest in all things zoological, I decided that I would like to combine my sightseeing holiday with volunteer work, so spent a week at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, around 20-30 minutes from Juan Santamaria International Airport.

Volunteering in Costa Rica - spending a week at an animal rescue centre was a very rewarding experience.
One of the many murals decorating the walls at the centre

We were picked up by a driver at the airport, along with 3 other jetlagged Brits. We arrived at the centre late afternoon and were shown to our 12 bed dorm. There are around 5 dorms in total and most were almost full, accommodating over 50 volunteers in total – alot more than I was expecting!

We met the owner Bernal and his howler monkey, Feluco. Feluco is an orphan whose mother was killed by a dog. Because he lost his mother at such a young age, his immune system is very weak. He also has a cleft pallet which gives him breathing problems. Feluco would stand no chance of survival out in the wild but luckily he is very well looked after at the centre. We learnt more about the other animals and the centre itself, but I will tell you more about the story of the rescue centre in another post.

An orphaned howler monkey being cared for at a wildlife rescue centre in Costa Rica
Feluco

The next morning we were given a tour of the centre which at the time of our visit is home to an assortment of birds including parrots, owls, a peacock, a curassow and some chickens and ducks. There are also pigs, goats, 3 types of monkey (howler, spider and capuchin), two and three toed sloths, a tortoise, porcupine, marmoset, opossum, hedgehog, squirrels, two kinkajous, an olingo and a couple of pet dogs. There was also a toucan but as it was going to be released back into the wild, only the resident biologist was allowed anywhere near it.

Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center - rescue, rehabilitate and release Costa Rican wildlife.

As volunteers, the only animals besides the toucan that we were not responsible for were the spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys and some of the baby creatures inside the animal hospital.

A baby three-toed sloth being rehabilitated at a wildlife rescue centre in Costa Rica
One of the baby sloths from the hospital with her teddy bear <3

For your first two days volunteering, you must shadow someone and not enter the enclosures, with the exception of the goats and pigs. I must admit being a little wary of Oscar the male goat, but the mama and two baby goats were sweet. I did enjoy going into the pig pen and we were encouraged to go visit the pigs to stop them from getting lonely.

Feeding the resident pigs on a Costa Rican volunteering holiday!
Feeding my piggy pals

A typical day

7am – Breakfast in the common area.

8am – Meeting in the common area – this is to go over any points of discussion and extra duties (one day every single person got involved in shifting a spider monkey cage, for example). Each volunteer is put into one of five teams and then each team has set tasks for the day on a morning and afternoon rota. The rota is repeated every 5 days so everyone has a chance to be involved with different animals and different aspects of the work.

Food preparation at a wildlife rescue centre
Food preparation for the animals – one of the rota tasks

A typical day may go something like this…

AM

  • Clean enclosures and supply fresh food and water for: the goats, the sloths beside the goat enclosure (aka The Goat Sloths), the owls, peacock, curassow and parrots.
  • Collect grass for the goats.
  • Tidy the garden.

The morning shift would usually last until 11am.

A scarlet macaw in Costa Rica
A cheeky scarlet macaw – the parrots were always entertaining the volunteers!

12 noon – Lunch in the common area.

Free time.

1.30pm – Meeting in the common area.

PM

  • Clean enclosures and supply fresh water for the porcupine, hedgehog, squirrels, opossum and teen sloths.
  • Feed the squirrels.
  • Give the porcupine, hedgehog and opossum their snacks at 4pm.
  • Give the teen sloths their branches at 5pm.
  • Feed the porcupine, hedgehog, opossum and teen sloths at 7pm.
Squirrel at a rescue centre in Costa Rica
One of these inquisitive squirrels decided to climb on me and run round my legs!

The afternoon shift would usually last until 4pm. Of course, every day was different as if your team were responsible for some of the nocturnal animals that day, you had a few jobs to do after 4pm, but who’s complaining when you have a kinkajou climbing on your head at the 7pm feed! You aren’t supposed to touch the animals but an excitable kinkajou did decide my head looked like a fun place to climb!

Vet feeding a pair of kinkajou. These animals are nocturnal but required veterinary attention during the day, giving us a rare glimpse of them during daylight hours.
Normally nocturnal, the kinkajou woke up to receive their electrolytes from the vet

6pm – Dinner.

Free time.

10pm – Lights out.

There was a swimming pool and some hammocks for chilling during down time. The living conditions were basic and I didn’t mind the cold showers and sharing a dorm, however the sleeping wasn’t easy due to the various, and quite loud, noises of the local wildlife and vehicles on the nearby road. My body also ached for somewhere comfortable to sit – yeah yeah I’m an old granny alright!

The people at the rescue centre, both staff and volunteers, were really friendly and the work felt very rewarding. As someone who volunteers at a cat rescue centre close to home, it was a great learning experience to be so close to the native animals of a different country, and I could tell that the other volunteers felt the same.

Volunteering in Costa Rica - caring for howler monkeys among other animals.
Chew with your mouth closed! – Me in with the Howler Monkeys

I would like to thank Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center for being the wildlife warriors that they are and for allowing me to play a small part in their story.

And I would urge anyone who wants to make a difference, no matter how small, to get out there and do it!

Pura Vida!


If you would like to help the CRARC you can donate money, supplies or your time by following this link.

Famous for its wildlife, Costa Rica is a great place to spending some time volunteering with animals. This is my personal account of when I spent time at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center. Pin for later!

Quirky hostel in Australia – Alice’s Secret… shh!

Alice’s Secret Travellers Inn, Alice Springs

One of my favourite places I stayed on my backpacking trip Down Under was a quirky hostel in Australia called Alice’s Secret Travellers Inn. Run by a friendly man named Seb, Alice’s Secret is a small, quiet and relaxed hostel – just a 10 minute stroll to the town centre.

quirky hostel in Australia - Alice's Secret Travellers Inn

The hostel has a mixture of dorm rooms, basic rooms for those travelling in pairs or groups and then two unique rooms – The Alpine Hut and The Betty Boop Bus. Of course we stayed in the quirky rooms!

We stayed at the hostel for 4 nights in total – one night in the Alpine Hut and 3 nights in the Betty Boop Bus. The Betty Bus was my favourite – a renovated American style bus with Betty Boop bedding, air conditioning, a small fridge, funky LED lights and the scrawls of previous guests all over the ceiling and walls. The seats and steering wheel were still in there too!

Betty Boop Bus - Quirky accommodation in Alice Springs

Inside the Betty Bus at Alice's Secret

You can stay in this renovated American bus in Alice Springs, Australia

The Alpine Hut was more of a shed themed like a Swiss ski chalet. It was fun and had a cute little terrace area but I was glad we spent most of our nights in the bus.

Alpine Hut room at quirky Alice Springs hostel

Stay inside a shed at this hostel!

This quirky hostel in Australia has shared bathrooms, a kitchen, laundry facilities, a reading den, a tv lounge, bike hire, bbq area, wi-fi and best of all, a swimming pool – perfect for cooling off in the hot Alice Springs sunshine. We didn’t use all of the facilities but I sure enjoyed a dip in the pool and lazing in the garden hammocks!

Laze in a hammock at Alice's Secret
My lovely husband took this delightful photo of me taking a siesta

The charming things about this hostel are its relaxed atmosphere and that the other travellers were so friendly, the two cats that live here, the short walk into town and the funny little decorative touches dotted about the place. I was also a little surprised and unnerved about the spider they had in a tank in the reception!

Tyre minion at quirky hostel in Australia

Cool dude!

Mural at the quirkiest hostel in the Red Centre Australia

Alice's Secret - Alice Springs
Spot the secret message

If you’re looking for a place to party, then go elsewhere. The only drunk here is the octopus that wants to fight!

Drunk octopus wants to fight


If you liked this, then you’ll probably like the time I stayed in a jail in New Zealand. What’s the quirkiest place you’ve stayed at? Leave me a comment below 🙂

The night I spent in jail

Quirky accommodation in New Zealand – The Jailhouse, Christchurch

Quirky accommodation in New Zealand - The Jailhouse, Christchurch
Everything looks more dramatic in black and white!

Ok ok so I made it sound more dramatic and badass than it was, I didn’t get arrested or anything, I just happened to spend the night in a former prison. The Jailhouse, situated in the suburb of Addington in Christchurch, served as a prison from 1874 to 1999 and has been a backpacker hostel since 2006.

The Jailhouse Accommodation, Christchurch, New Zealand

The hostel is clean, warm and friendly yet still retains its eerie prison atmosphere with elements such as the large staircase which is just like you would see in the movies. Also the rooms are all former prison cells – absolutely tiny and claustrophobic. This is not a bad thing as you would be disappointed if they had gone in there and knocked a few walls down while renovating and taken away its quirky appeal.

Room 21 at The Jailhouse
Our room

We stayed in room 21, the coolest thing about it was that right next door in room 20, was the “show room” so to speak. This room has been left untouched and is preserved to how it was after the last prisoner left. You can see the inmate’s art all over the walls, although it is protected by glass, giving it a bit of a museum feel.

Preserved room at The Jailhouse in Christchurch

Inmate art at quirky hostel in former prison

Inmate scrawl at hostel which was a former prison

There’s also another cell at the back of the building which has been left in its jailhouse state and really gave me the creeps.

Original old jail cell in what is now a prison themed hostel

I loved the little touches around the hostel, such as the glass cabinet and the cell downstairs with artifacts from the jail’s history in them, as well as the costumes and mugshot back drop in the reception area for guests to muck about and take a few ‘guilty’ selfies with.

Prison artifacts at The Jailhouse, New Zealand

Book showing the converted prison as it was before it became quirky accommodation in New Zealand

Book defaced by an inmate at Addington Jail

Dressing up props at The Jailhouse, Christchurch

As far as facilities go, there is limited free wifi (which only works outside of the cells), a decent sized kitchen, hot showers and off-street parking. As well as a tv room and laundry, amongst other things (although we didn’t use these). And in terms of location, well it was a little bit of a walk into the centre of Christchurch (around half an hour) but only around a 15 minute drive to the airport.

All in all I would recommend The Jailhouse as a good base to stay in Christchurch, even for just the novelty factor alone. Plus it gives you a great story to tell your friends when you get home!


If you liked this, then why not check out my quirky travel board on Pinterest. Or you can follow me on Bloglovin.