Volunteers' Stories

zoe FIsher

Comments: the time I spent at Inti-Wara-Yassi aproximately 5 years ago really did change my life in so many ways. It was such a fabulous opportunity to work with amazing animals with special histories. Nena's courage and tenacity was inspiring. Above all my quiet moments talking with Sama ( Jaguar) down onthe beach or swimming with him in the water are my cherished memories

hi there
I am a 27 year old male and am looking forward to spending at least 30 days volunteering in one of the parks from around July 5/6th for at least 30 days.(working with a cat I hope). I will arrive in La Paz on July 5th after a sth america tour and would really like to have company on the trip to the park from La Paz.. If anyone else is planning to go there aroudn that time and and would like company I would love to hear from you.thanks. Luke
Left on 15 Mar 201


Comments: i went to the park planning on staying for only 10 days...and left almost 4 months later.  it was really one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life.  i worked with the spider monkeys, a puma, the jaguar and even helped with construction and administration...there is so much to do and so many animals needing help that whatever you have to offer will be appreciated greatly.  despite the negative comments i just read i think that the park is doing the best it can with very limited resources...maybe it takes being there longer to see this...and almost all  the people i met from all different countries and backgrounds were working hard and giving what they could...the people, the animals, the place...go if you can

I have worked at Parque Machia for 6 weeks NOV-DEC 2008, with the pumas Simba, Lishou and Roy.
I found the place fascinating, working with the cats is an incredible experience, that requires a great amount of maturity and responsibility.
Know that the park is not a zoo, nor a safari, nor a touristic resort, it is about constant hard work and dedication, which pays back immensely through a feeling of accomplishment and your bond with the animals.
If you are the type of person who can work long hours, get scratches and bites (big cats are playful) and come back for more every day then this place is for you.
On top of that, the atmosphere is great and you´ll meet awesome people from all over the world.
I will definitely be back someday and for a longer period of time, gotta check up on King Roy.
Downside is, I can hardly enjoy myself at a zoo anymore, seeing these big cats in cages all day just doesn´t feel right.
Left on 31 Dec 200

Me and Magnus volunteered at Parque Ambue Ari, Wow what an experience. It has been a month filled with ups and downs. Sadly some sick animals, happily some rescued ones. A big thank you to the ITW family and a special thanks to Elsa, for being a sweet heart, to Inti, Wara and Yassi for playing so much, to Ru and Rupi and to Iskra for being wonderfully amazing. Its worth taking time out to do this volunteering. Youre needed and youll love it...but bring a mosquito hat.  
Left on 30 Dec 200

Courtney Hart

Comments: I intended to stay 2 weeks and stayed for 7 instead.  Not great communication with the outside world (at least when I was there 3 years ago) so forewarn the family you may not be accessible for awhile.  But it is definitely worth a visit even if you decide not to stay and volunteer.  That being said, I would love to be able to go back for months..

Justine and Dan

Comments: We have just finished our time at CIWA (we are already trying to work out if we can go back) and although it has been hard work it has been the highlight of our trip so far. Everyone was extreamly friendly and working with the animals has been awesome. I have never liked birds much but am proud to say that I spent my entire time in the bird quarantine and was sad to leave...they really need someone keen, enthusiastic and commited to care for them, if you can spare the time it would be great and an experience you will never forget. If you are in the area don't miss out!
Left on 8 January 200

Chen Goldbach

Comments: Volunteering at CIWY has been the most remarkable experience in my trip. Working 1 on 1 with wild animals is probably a once in a lifetime experience for the most of us.
I've totally fallen inlove with the place and the work. Even if you're exhausted every day.
recommend? Wish I could come back there myself

Amanda, England

Comments: Hard work, long days, basis accommodation, occasional bites.... It is the best thing Ive ever done! If you are an animal lover, you shouldnt miss it. I saw 3 capuchins released during my time there, and as far as im aware all 3 have managed the transition back into the wild brilliantly. Would love to go back for a longer time at some point, who knows when. Each and every time I think about that place I smile. Met some amazing people, a few of whom I spent some serious travel time with after and many of whom Im still in contact, will definately get to Israel at some point now, but also have offers in Belgium, Australia ...the list goes on.  I dont know if we got lucky and had an amazing group of people (it was just after the blockades, in 2003  so we were a small group too) but GO! What have you got to loose

I miss my animals! Even the ones on 2 legs!! (the old timers and bolivians!!)
Since 2005, I've now spent over 2 years at the 3 parks.. (the newest one Jacj Cuisi is just starting..wait for more updates to come)...the park life is in my blood. If you aren't careful, you will also be affected!! If you are looking for a place to volunteer with animals, this is it. I've always said to newbies, take a picture of yourself on your first day as you will never look the same. But I should be saying you'll never feel the same. If you are lucky enough to make a connection with an animal, it is an amazing feeling to return and know that this special animal knows who you are. For that reason many volunteers return. I've returned to the "real" world and am missing my jungle world. Exploring Machia with Tigre (female ocelot), or encouraging Engine (male ocelot) to be more confident on trails in Ambue Ari is an incredible feeling.  Having a bird follow you around as they recognize your voice is something so amazing. Getting to know the Bolivians is another reward of staying longer, especially seeing the younger ones grow up! Rusber will be a fantastic vet one day I have no doubt. His English is amazing, challenge him to a chess game or check out his artwork. For anyone traveling long term, going to a place like this is a great way to have a "home" for awhile. Hard to imagine having to "work" 7 days a week, but if you connect with the animals, it is not work. It is living!!  You can learn so much from your fellow volunteers if you want. You can even learn Spanish, but this is not as easy as you would think, as you are generally with your animal all day, and at night, English tends to be the common language, but if you are determined, you definately can practice your Spanish with the Bolivians and some fluent volunteers. This park is for everyone that cares about animals. The majority of volunteers are under 30, however older volunteers are more and more common. I'm working on getting my 70 year old mom there!! She'd be great with the birds!! I can't say enough about the parks. Just go!! And then tell everyone about it, so we never are short of volunteers!!
Karen (KP)
Left on 30 Jul 200

The jungle that i left behind a year ago is never far from my thoughts, i have about 2 'jungle dreams" a week and if i don't i'm disappinted!i really miss everythin that came wih living and breathing jungle life, even when Tigre liked to go walking without me, on more than one occasion! I have burned the ears off anybody who will listen to what i consider to be the best thing i've ever done. i hope to be back and see everyone really soon xx  
Left on 20 Aug 200

Benjamin PHELIP (FR)

Comments: I had an awesome time at the monkey mirador, working with monkeys in the jungle area, meeting great people!

I really hope the community will continue for a long time, you are doing a great job there, thank you!

I wish I will be able to come back..

Ali, Australia

Comments: Ambue Ari was my home for January '07'. Quite frankly, if I hadn't have had to return to the commitments I have back here in Oz, I would still be there :)

It is a truly unique experience that you will not have anywhere else in the world!

The days are long, the conditions can be extremely difficult, and living in the jungle can send you a little crazy from time to time, but for the animals alone, it is worth it!

I worked with all of cats in Ambue Ari in the time that I was there. From walking the jaguars, to swimming with the pumas, to playing hide-and-seek with ocelots, every day was an experience. And best of all, you come back from the daily grind to cheeky little monkeys that love nothing more than to lick to the sweat off your neck, and cuddle you for hours!

Ambue Ari is in serious need of long term volunteers. You will make such a difference to these animal's lives the longer you stay, and you will gain invaluable experience that will last you a lifetime.

Construction is also a huge part of our day, so please keep that in mind also. You are there for the animals, and this means cleaning and  constructing as well as interaction. It is not a petting zoo, so be prepared to work your ass off! You'll be rewarded for all of your hard work, I promise.

A couple of tips for people wanting to go:
- DON'T bring or use insect repellent. Grab an all natural one if you can, or use eucalytus mixed with lemongrass oil. The cats react really badly to it, and it has made one of the baby monkeys really ill as she has been licking it off people. Go natural, and just cover up!

-All of your clothes (at Ambue Ari) are going to get wrecked, so keep that in mind before packing! IT can get quite damp in the wet season, and the cats love nothing more than to scissor all of your clothes with their teeth and claws

-Bring as much money as you can, as the closest ATM is Trinidad or Santa Cruz... 7 hours away!

-Bring a lot of patience, and a helpful attitude- it makes it so much easier for you, and everyone you will work with

I know a lot of people may question the safety at the park, as well as the cause itself. Be smart about this. The people that work here are dedicated, and have run it for a long time. Listen to them, and learn from them. Build trust with your animals, and be aware of your situations and surroundings. Things just don't happen overnight, you have to work hard at them every day. So get on the next micro there, and be prepared to have an experience of a lifetime. It will definitely be what YOU make of it :)

Have fun & good luck guys
Left on 1 April 200

I spent 2 very good weeks in the park 5 years ago and have only found this web site. its sad to see the devastation the new road is causing to the park. I have very fond memories of my time spent there
Left on 3 Sep 201

Yael Ravid

Comments: hello everyone
hola todos
well i certainly cannot summarize in just a few short sentences how much the experience of taking part in this extraordinary place has (and sorry for the klishe) changed my life. i still miss my sweet capuchin monkies and of course Nena, Vladi, Milka, Fransis which are wonderfull people who dedicate their life for this special cause. its been almost 3.5 years since i have been there and i still read religiously the news about the place and dreaming of coming back there for longer then 3 months.....
if you want to contribute and to get satisfaction from volunteering i recommend you to do it in CIWY.

Wow I have been traveling for over a year and the only experience I care to dwell in and on was Inti Wara Yassi. A lifetime of fun in 3 weeks.  I had to be dragged off and all I think of now is getting back.  The long hours I notice mentioned in this site are meaningless, I and those around me did nt seem to ever want the 'Long' days to end. Its not hard work if you enjoy the privilege of working with animals that need your help NOW. Naughty monkeys, clever cats, tejons with cuddle cravings, striking birds and of course Donna Vicki's. They are all missed dearly.  I am still traveling but it is evident now that nothing will ever match this and all I need is to get back their. This really is the experience of a lifetime, never forgotten......nowhere else can you have this. Gaining respect from animals over time is wonderful.....I lost some and won many! LOVE IT........ENJOY
Left on 21 Mar 200


Comments: I volunteered to work with Gato the puma on march 2004 for two weeks. it wasn't easy walking with him - steep climbings and descendings at Gato's speed(sometimes we had to run...). and the weather is either very hot and humid or rainy, and it's very uncomfortable to get wet and dirty and slip because of the mud(it takes 2-3 days to dry the cloths because of the humidity). The living conditions are terrible, so don't expect to get there a 5 star hotel! (or running water...)
I loved Gato and enjoyed watching him walking, looking around, rolling on the ground... I miss him so much...
I felt so lucky to be so close to such a big cat.
besides, the park is BEAUTIFUL , I enjoyed playing with the cute monkeys on the afternoons and watching volunteers helping birds to learn how to fly. there are beautiful birds there of many species.
I enjoyed the company of the other volunteers. All of them were very nice and from many parts of the world. It was interesting. All of us met on the casa after the work, waiting for the kid from the house nearby to bring us hot empanadas...
and we went sometimes to eat together in the evenings or went shopping in the village nearby and made a meal in the casa for anyone who wanted to join.
I really felt like home there and it was among the places I miss the most in my trip (I traveled in South America for 6 months).
If you love animals, if you're willing to work hard and if you're not afraid to live in bad conditions - you'll have an experience you'll never forget


Comments: Hi. I worked in the park in 2000. It was a great experience! And i can recommend it to everyone. The stay and work inspired me to take a degree in biology and i hope to come back soon to use some of the knowlegde i have aquired. What these people are doing  is great, most animals there, have been threatet really bad before they came to the park. I hope people will go there to help and that they will bring some of the stuff that are needed in the park

eyal nir

Comments: ambue ari park is amazing , smaller in size than the machia park but has all the same big cats you got in the other park. i worked with inti warra and yassi three charming pumitas that need all the loving in the world. this park is less knowen and there for has not to many volunteers. it is not a no man`s land as the site says, it is running for allmost 3 years now and has more or less all the fasilitis for volunteers. because it has less people working in it the animals get less atention and there are no sufficiante people to take out all the cats.  please please help them and advertise that this park needs volunteers as well.

left on 22.9.0


I really would like to go volunteer at Ambue Ari in early July 2013. I am a bit wary about travelling SA as a single female - so if anyone is thinking of going around same time, please contact me!
Left on 2 Apr 201

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Friends of Inti Wara Yassi (FIWY) is our sister organization in the UK. They have been a major source of support since their founding in 2008. Find out more about FIWY here.

Quest Overseas organizes gap year trips for British and international students. Since 2001, Quest has worked with CIWY to bring much needed volunteers and funds. If you are interested in the programs they have with us, find out more here.

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