What You Should Know

  • What will be expected of me?

    The duties of the volunteers vary depending on whether there are newly released macaws to monitor, or macaws being prepared for release
    • Daily food preparation and feeding of captive breeding birds, pre-release birds and supplementary feeding of the released flock.
    • Regular site maintenance including aviary cleaning, providing perches and enrichment for captive birds and various other tasks.
    • Monitoring the health and behaviour of captive and released birds.
    • Data collection.
    • Different tasks may be assigned depending on our current needs and the skills and abilities of particular volunteers.
    • Fieldwork: depending on the season this will include going into the forest and climbing trees to monitor nest sites.
    • Collecting natural foods.
    The work schedule is 5-and-a-half days a week. Work hours may vary and are arranged by the supervisor at the site. Typically they are between 5:30 AM and 5:00 PM with appropriate breaks, including a long lunch break to avoid working in the heat.
  • What is the work schedule?

    The work schedule is 5 ½ days a week. Work hours may vary and are arranged by the manager at the site. Typically they are between 6:00 AM and 5:00 PM with appropriate breaks.
  • What are the required qualifications?

    Anyone from the age of 18 can apply to volunteer with us. Though volunteers with a background in this field are highly welcomed. Besides, volunteers are required to be highly motivated, responsible and in fit mental and physical condition. Costa Rica is a tropical country and the weather can be very hot and wet. Fieldwork in the tropics is typically physically demanding and tedious (rain, mud, bugs, cultural differences, solitude, plentiful hiking and long hours).

    Recommendation letters and a CV are not necessary. But you can send us your CV if you wish.

  • Do I need to speak Spanish?

    Some basic Spanish would definitely help you get around and enrich your stay but fluent is not vital. If someone speaks fluent Spanish, you do not have to be fluent in English, but a basic level is preferred.
  • How long do I volunteer for?

    We ask for a minimum stay of 1 month and there is no limit on the length of your stay. We encourage long term stays. The longer you volunteer the more you will learn and work on your own, getting the most out of your experience.
  • What travel arrangements do I need to make?

    • Please check the Costa Rica Tourist Visa requirements for your country. Generally, you will be able to stay up to 90 days in Costa Rica on tourist visa. If you are staying longer you can renew this visa by leaving the country for 3 days. We can help you with these arrangements if a trip is necessary and you will be able to take this time off from the work on site. Make sure that your passport is up-to-date and valid for the entire duration of your visit.
    • If you travel by air, you should fly into San José (SJO International Airport). Depending on your arrival time in San Jose, you might have to overnight in San Jose and to travel to the designated station the next day. The transportation cost to the sites is about $20, depending on what you choose to travel. Once you have confirmed your stay, we will send you travel instructions regarding the site you will be volunteering at. We also include some hostel options close to the bus stations, in case you need to stay overnight in San José upon arrival.
    • Having medical/travel insurance is a must. Arranging this is one of the required steps to confirm your stay.

  • Do I need to have Medical/Travel Insurance?

    Yes! Having medical/ travelers insurance is a must. There are risks and dangers inherent to the habitat and the work we do. Upon your arrival you will be required to sign a Waiver/Release Agreement and to include emergency contact information. The Ara Project will not be responsible for your medical bills.

    If you take a medication, make sure to bring enough for your stay, or that it will available in Costa Rica. Let us know if you have any special medical condition or allergies that we should be aware of. There are small clinics fairly close to the stations in case of emergencies.

  • What are the living conditions like?

    • Costa Rica is pretty safe and you are unlikely to have serious problems. However, petty theft is becoming more common. Be careful with your personal belongings, do not leave them unattended while traveling.
    • At the stations, accommodations are rustic and basic. The Punta Islita Station is located in Guanacaste, along the coast of Nicoya Peninsula in the Pacific. The Volunteer House has two bedrooms, a shared bathroom, a kitchen and a common area. You will have to share a room with another volunteer. The Manzanillo Station is located in Limón, along the South Caribbean coast. There is a one-bedroom cabin with a shared bathroom and a kitchen for two people.
    • Since sites are located in remote areas, away from the main towns, social life is limited. If you are looking for a wild social life, this is probably the wrong project for you.
  • How is the weather?

    The weather of our two stations are very contrasting, Punta Islita is located in a Tropical Dry Forest, while Manzanillo is in a Humid Tropical Forest. Both sites can go from occasional cool nights (20°-23°C), warm days (30°-35°) with occasional extreme heat (40°), and tropical rain/thunder storms. Depending on the time of year you might get a lot of rain.
  • What will I eat? Is it hard if I have a special diet?

    Having a special diet is not a problem. The staple food in Costa Rica is easily adapted to suit most diets: vegetarian, vegan, lactose free and even celiac diets can be accommodated. If you take supplements, bring enough for the length of your stay.

    Basic, general food supplies for the week are bought as a group once a week at the nearest town. If you need to get a specific thing for your dietary requirements or want to buy personal treats you will need to buy these stuff separately. You will spend $50 - $75 per week, depending on your habits and dietary requirements. There are also minimarkets closer to the site where you can buy most things, in case you forgot. All the staff members are expected to cook and do dishes.

  • What will I need to bring?

    This is a list of recommended clothing and equipment:
    • Closed shoes, lightweight hiking or walking shoes with treads are best
    • Rubber boots
    • Sunscreen

    • Insect repellent
    • Waterproof light jacket or poncho, especially for the rainy season
    • Plenty of old summer clothing, like shorts and tank tops/t-shirts that you don’t mind getting wrecked. You will be able to do laundry so don’t take your whole wardrobe!
    • Long (field) pants, long-sleeved shirt and hat
    • Sweatshirt or sweater - it can get chilly at night
    • One set of formal clothing, that you would wear when using amenities of the nearby hotel
    • Swimwear & sunglasses
    • A towel
    • Toiletries
    • A light weight laundry bag, which you can hang (for scorpions)
    • Light weight, single bed sheets (we provide bed sheets, so this is only necessary if you prefer you own or want to make it easier to wash your sheets)
    • Camera/phone- battery and charger- there are continuous great photo opportunities
    • Travel speakers, if you wish to watch movies on your computer
    • Binoculars
    • Flashlight/head torch
    • An alarm
    • Prescription drugs if needed
    • Anything to keep you busy in the evenings, like (board) games or books to read
    • One or two (head) torches, with plenty of batteries
    • Ear plugs, if you are a light sleeper
  • Will I have mobile signal and internet access?

    Both sites have mobile signal, but it fails sometimes. There is no Wifi available on site. We advice you to buy a local SIM card upon arrival at the airport to put it in your personal phone if compatible. There are several pre-paid mobile service providers in Costa Rica such as Kölbi, Claro and Movistar, among others. We recommend you get Kölbi, since it is the local provider and has signal almost everywhere in the country. International mobile services may not work in Costa Rica, check with your provider.

    You can also bring a laptop if you wish, but take into account that humid conditions may affect it. You can visit local Wi-Fi spots during lunch breaks or on days off.

  • What about money?

    Costa Rica is relatively expensive in comparison to other Latin American countries but you can eat and live relatively cheaply. The currency is colones, but USD are accepted almost everywhere, except that the exchange rate may not be favorable. Do not exchange money at the airport.

    There is no need to travel with large amounts of cash with you. There are ATMs in most towns that accept the major international cards such as Visa or Mastercard. Make sure your card is activated to make international withdrawals, please check at your bank before traveling! Changing money near the stations is more limited and we can offer advice for the best alternatives.

  • What wildlife will I see?

    Costa Rica has a bewildering array of birds, mammals and insects. If you are lucky and depending on the location where you are volunteering, you might see these beautiful creatures in the wild: Scarlet and Great Green Macaws (yes!), Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, White-faced Capuchins and Squirrel Monkeys, over 300 species of birds, Coatis, Agoutis, Raccoons, Kinkajous, and Sea Turtles using the beaches for nesting.
  • How do I confirm my participation?

    After applying on our Volunteer page, we review your application and requested time of stay. We will ask you for more information to be able to judge whether you will fit in our team. Once you get an invitation to participate at The Ara Project Volunteer Program, you will have to confirm the exact dates before the deadline given.

    To be able to confirm you have to follow these steps:

    • Make the payment for at least one month ($300) of your stay. You can make the payment through PayPal here (link to payment page)
    • Send us a copy of your flight ticket itinerary;
    • Send us information about a family member back home and;
    • Send us a copy of your travel insurance.

    This way we are sure that you are fully committed to the Program and we will reserve your space for the indicated dates.

  • How can I pay?

    You can pay the $300 per month for the lodging in advance here or upon your arrival. The payment can be made monthly if you are staying for longer than a month. This fee is non-refundable even if you cancel your trip or if you do not stay for the entire time you had confirmed.
  • What happens if I am not able to come or if my plans change?

    If you are not able to come, please let us know asap, since we need to fill you place. If you have already made your payment we cannot refund it.