Volunteer with monkeys in Ecuador
Head into the jungle as a volunteer at a primate rescue centre on the fringes of the Amazon rain forest. Help to care for rescued monkeys, enabling them to live a life as close to the wild as possible in this stunning riverside sanctuary.
Help to care for over 60 monkeys and other amazing Amazonian creatures in this wildlife haven. The sanctuary is home to a wide variety of rescued monkeys, including capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, woolly monkeys, tamarins and squirrel monkeys, as well as other creatures such as margays (a South American big cat), coatis (a member of the raccoon family – very cute looking!) and tortoises.
How does the sanctuary work?
Many of these animals were previously held as pets, although others have also come from the illegal pet trade. Sadly, due to their familiarity with humans and the rapid rate of deforestation in the area, these animals cannot be released back to the wild. Instead, this jungle paradise has been created for them so that they can roam free and live a life as close to the wild as possible. Huge tunnels have been created through the trees, so that the monkeys can explore the vegetation as they would do in the wild – look out for them scampering along as you walk past, often looking for some attention!
This project is a genuine grassroots conservation initiative, aiming to give these mistreated animals a natural retirement home. The sanctuary could not exist without the volunteers, and so you will be put to good use and expected to work hard. Prepare to get mucky and stuck in – and to do everything under the watchful eye of your primate friends.
Volunteers coming here are required to come armed with initiative and independence. At least a small amount of Spanish is desirable, as you will be working and living amongst Spanish-speaking people. The project staff between them speak English, French and Spanish, and a colourful mixture of the three is often employed.
How can you help?
No one day is the same here, as caring for wild animals can be unpredictable! You will be put to good use working alongside and under the guidance of local staff, however initiative is required so that you can work well independently. Some of the jobs can include, but are not limited to:
- Food preparation
- Ensuring the animals have water
- Cleaning of enclosures
- Creating enrichments
- Helping to raise orphan babies (if relevant)
- Assisting in quarantine (where necessary)
- Basic maintenance of the centre – raking leaves, chopping back undergrowth, clearing paths
- Building new structures and enclosures for the animals
- Improving the centre eg painting, making signs, making flower beds, planting, weeding
Other tasks that are a daily part of life at the centre are more domestic tasks. These tasks are really important and help you to contribute to your volunteer community as well. The jobs are shared out with the other volunteers, and can include:
- Preparing meals for yourself and the other volunteers
- Cleaning the kitchen, bathrooms and accommodation
- Feeding the fish in the aquarium
- Feeding the pet dogs that also call the sanctuary home
Accommodation and food
The accommodation is located at the heart of the sanctuary – wild monkeys run across the rooftops, you hear the birds calling and the cicadas making a racket. It is a friendly and welcoming place, although the monkeys on the roof can be a surprise on your first night when trying to get to sleep! You will be sharing the volunteer house with other volunteers, living in dorm rooms that can host up to 6 people in each. There are two bathrooms with hot and cold water.
Ingredients for food are provided, however it is up to you and other volunteers to take control of the kitchen. This is a fantastic opportunity to try cuisines from around the world, so come prepared with your favourite recipes! The diet is largely vegetarian and you will be given fruit, vegetables, rice, pasta, bread, dairy products, sauces and spices to work with.
The main living area consists of a kitchen, dining area and living room, where films are often projected up on to the wall at night time. There is a small terrace outside, often shared with an animal or two! Some of the animals who have been so humanised that they are lonely without human contact will come to join the volunteers inside, running along a series of wire tunnels that join their outdoor homes with the volunteer house.
When should I book?
Whilst late-availability is possible, we would advise booking as soon as you can to guarantee your ideal dates. Our projects are very popular and spaces can fill up several months in advance, especially for the months of June to September.
- Make a valuable contribution to an important primate conservation initiative in an Amazonian wildlife haven.
- Work closely with the local staff to run the sanctuary, and get stuck in to ensure that the monkeys receive the care that they need.
- Live surrounded by the sounds of the jungle on the edge of the Amazon rainforest.
- Experience jungle living in rural Ecuador, and take the opportunity to practice your Spanish.
- Explore in your free time – meet local tribes, go white water rafting, and trek in the jungle.
Whyshould I do this?
This is a fantastic opportunity to get some hands-on experience working in a grassroots monkey sanctuary. You will be making a genuine contribution to their livelihood and welfare, providing day to day care and working to promote their well-being through improvements to the sanctuary. You will be working alongside Spanish and English speaking staff, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in this caring way of life.
This project is perfect for those who are independent, hard working and happy to chip in. Everything that you do here is for the good of the animals, and it is a privilege to be part of this. You will be living a much more relaxed and simple way of life, in a beautiful part of the country that is ripe for exploring.
If you are looking to make a real difference and work hard to improve the lives of animals, this is a great option for you.
Fly in to Quito airport (UIO) on a Sunday. You will be transferred to a guest house in the centre of Quito where you will spend your first night. This is a good opportunity to recover from your flight and get used to the time difference. The next day you will be collected early for your private transfer up to the project site. The drive takes approximately 5 hours.
Yvan founded the monkey sanctuary in 2005. What started with just one monkey has now grown to almost 60 monkeys that he cares for each day. Yvan works with a small team to care for the monkeys, including a biologist and local staff who take care of the day to day running of the sanctuary. Yvan runs the centre like a large community unit, and welcomes volunteers to come and share his passion.
What is provided
- Phone or face-to-face planning and briefing
- Access to your personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the programme and manage your booking.
- Pre-departure advice covering medical, safety and project advice
- Help and advice from our UK office 24/7 whilst in Ecuador
- Advice on obtaining a visa
- Full orientation and induction to project before you begin
- Transfer from Quito airport to guest house for your first night
- First night guest house accommodation in Quito (does not include meals)
- Private transfer from your guest house to the sanctuary
- Shared accommodation on-site at the monkey sanctuary
- Food for meal preparation
- Free wifi at the sanctuary (may be slower and patchier than you are used to!)
- Donation to the project
- Oyster Worldwide volunteer t-shirt
- Oyster luggage tag
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- A full passport valid for 6 months from the date of entry into Ecuador
- If you will be flying through the USA you need to comply with US regulations- make sure you have an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) at least 72 hours before you leave
- Insurance covering your project time and any planned independent travel – we can introduce you to a policy
- Return flights to Quito. We can help organise these
- Cost of changing your return flight date if you need to
- Independent travel costs
- Public transport return transfer to Quito and onward travel- from £25. Private transfers can also be arranged for an extra fee.
- Any additional costs such as trips, snacks, entertainment (allow maybe £30 per week depending on lifestyle)
- No visa is necessary for under 90 days from UK and most western European countries
- No compulsory inoculations are necessary although do check with your doctor to make sure polio, typhoid and Hep A&B jabs are up to date