Volunteers' Stories

Natalia Svensson

Comments: Spent 5 weeks in Parque Ambue Ari and it was an experience worth while. The animals and the djungle was all I expected and more. After working with the ocelot Vanesso and the puma Wayra and working side by side with the Bolivian volunteers you realise the importance if the work their doing. Also the importance of us volunteers helping out so that the animals can implement some of their wild instincs by taking them out for walks etc. I volunteered at the park to get some practical experience since I'm studying to be a ranger in Sweden and now I'm writing an essay about the park. All I'm thinking of while I'm writing is that I want to go back.
Left on 15 of december.
Left on 22 February 200


Comments: Hi...I worked in this amazing place from 13/8-20/10 2005 and I must say, it has been an experience for life. I worked one month with Leoncio, wich is one of the pumas, and one month with Sama, the jaguar. It is really interesting work, you will come to enjoy whatever animal you will work with, you are in beautiful and peaceful nature...It can be hard at times, but it is ten times as rewarding. So if you have the right intension , that is ofcourse to do whatever you can to give the animals the best possible life, then dont hesitate a second to volunteer, you will never regret. And if you go..send my love to the animals right? :-

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

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

hi all, hola noemi, jaime, zandro, nena, juan carlos and juan carlito.

es muy importante. por favor continua el trabajo and la familia. We remember the wonderful times and miss Alex very much, who was such a joyous example of voluntary service. a short life, well lived is no smaller. some may call it project bigness. big heart, big work and big lesson!  yo viven IWY
Left on 10 Sep 201

Chris Flack

Comments: I worked on a number of voluntary projects on South America and this one stood out as the best experience. Being able to work 'with' the locals to help build their community through helping the ecology, children and animals in such a passionate and fun environment is a true gem. I am still amazed by the level of effort that dedicated volunteers put into the park even once they've returned home to the 9-5 world - but I guess that just shows that CIWY is something people never want to forget :

Armin from Germany

Comments: I've been to Villa Tunari for only two weeks last winter and I can say, this was a unique experience. I never worked with animals before, but the time in the bird's quarantine is still a highlight of the halfyear trip around South America. If you want to help Bolivia in a way, go there and stay for at least a month. Forget about partying, this is not what it's all about. It's about the people of Bolivia whom you can get in touch with as close as i guess nowhere else. Forget about Northern arrogance, just work some hard days in the rainy season, help is always wanted, even if you dont have any experience with monos, birds or bigger cats. Once again: the community needs you, and if you go there and meet a lot of friends you can get drunk with, do it, but only once a week. The animals need all of your power, and parties are everywhere else as well. TRY IT.
Left on 8 January 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


Comments: I spent four weeks with Tupac feb-march 2007, and during this month I missed nothing. If I can the park will be my holiday resort for every vacation the rest of my life, I loved it and look up to the people who dedicate their lives to these animals. The park collects a very special crowd of people, and most of us have a lot in common. I liked almost everyone I met there, i had a great time and I made some friends I won't loose touch with ever.
One thing I do renember though, is that during my first days arriving to the park I was more looked upon an intruder than a welcomed volunteer. So one thing to renember you people, is that it is thanks to the people that show up that the park exists- and even if it gets tedious to welcome 5 strangers a day after 2 months this is part of having this system. Not only animals should be treated with respect.
All that aside- I wish I was in the jungle now!

Left on 21 March 200

Gabrielle Brady

Comments: Looking after the animals was such a great experience, i'll remember it for the rest of my life! I worked with Tigre and also the monos bebes, all up for over one month.

However I need to let volunteers know that I had things of mine stolen at the refuge, July 2006, and I've discovered since then other people have also had many, many things taken. Just look after your things, lock your doors when you sleep and any problems with theft, go straight to the local police.. don't trust the refuge to 'handle' the problem for you...[ed: see below]

Don't let this tarnish your stay though, this refuge is definitely an experience of a lifetime. If I ever come back to Bolivia I will definitely be coming back to check on all of the animals at Villa Tunari. The animals were so gorgeous, I fell in love with the baby monkeys - they have so much character and show so much affection.


Left on 29 May 2007

Editor's note: Two thefts occurred at the volunteer accommodation in Villa Tunari in mid-2006. The windows in question were strengthened, there is now someone on site 24 hours and no-one has reported a theft since.

We wouldn't recommend that that we 'handle' anything with the police on a volunteer's behalf either, just that we're informed

I worked for three weeks in ambue ari and three weeks in macchia, and wish it had been more like three years in each. I was there in 2008 and I still think about my experiences there most days. The heart of the whole thing was just people getting back to nature and trying to protect the innocence in our world. I just wish there were more places like it and more people to help. I'd go back tomorrow.
Left on 26 Oct 201

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


Comments: CIWY is a fantastic place. I am so glad we stumbled across it, and I will be back......

What a wonderful experience, of all my time in South America it has to be one of my fondest memories. The going is tough and your body takes a beating but I wouldn't change it. I spent over a month with Milli the Ocelot and with my gorgeous monkeys in Quarentine. It truly is a once in a lifetime, world changing experience.
Be prepared for the hard slog, and don't bother turning up if you are not going to dedicate yourself 100%.
Regarding the thefts at Machia - all the rooms have bars and glass on the windows now so are very safe. Remember to take a good padlock for your door. And wellies. You'll need those. There is a room full of old clothes you can buy so don't stress if you don't have much to bring, and all the money (not much to us!) goes to the park.
Go, you won't regret it!
Left on 3 Jan 200

Erin Graham

Comments: I was at Villa Tunari for 3 months (nearly) from Oct- Jan 05-06. I was lucky enough to move from looking after the cheeky monkeys for 2 weeks to looking after baby Lishou (although I think now spelt Li-Shu) the puma for the rest of my stay. I just want to say that being with him in his formative months and also at the park was the most rewarding and memorable thing I have ever done, and I made some amazing friends too. You may hear stories that it is a bit tough, the accomodation is tough but really it isn't. It is like a trip away with a crowd of very cool people, and you work hard every day in sweltering heat, you might moan, and then like me you spend the year afterwards wishing you could go back!The most valuable experiences are those bought with sweat and tears I think! And I'm a wussy Brit! I don't believe in volunteering organisations that charge you ridiculous money to do 'not much' - here there is more work than any one person could handle and yet you make a massive difference just by being there and mucking in. The Bolivian volunteers are great, as are the extranjeros! I am going back very soon, to do even more I hope. I want to see Lishou all grown up and probably the biggest puma in the park by now! I cannot recommend this amazing organisation enough. If you are prepared to work hard and do whatever is needed then you will get to do some amazing work with some amazing animals. Oh, and if you take some climbing carabiners or pliers etc they will love you! Tools are essential but expensive for the park but not for us!
Left on 16 April 200

It's been several years since I was at walking Shaishoo the teenage puma  through the jungle and it's still remains the highlight of my travels and is invariably the experience I end up telling people about. I still plan on returning some day. Would love to see the new land and any of the animals and people who might still be around. New website looks great. I'm enviable of all those who continue to dedicate their time and effort to this fantastic project and they have my greatest respect.

Left on 7 Dec 200

I was at Ambue Ari for seven weeks in January and February, 2010. I worked half days with two amazing cats, Katie the beautiful jaguar in the mornings and lovley handsome Leoncio, a puma, in the afternoon. I miss them both so much, they are such GREAT cats and if anyone ever gets the chance to work with them they are the luckiest people in the world! I am hoping to head back to the park for two or three months next spring, I am already counting down the time until I can return to Ambue Ari!
I think about my time at the park every day, I miss it so much, and I miss my cats more than I ever thought I would! It was an amazing experience, an amazing place that I cant wait to get back too :). Miss and love you Leo and Katie!
Left on 12 Apr 201

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

Jenny Collins

Comments: A fantastic experience! It's hard work but I loved every minute of it. I'm so glad I took the time out of my trip to work here, the longer you can stay the better and I am considering going back to stay and work for longer. The people are fantastic, but of course the animals make the experience and I think this is a unique opportunity for you to get close to semi-wild endangered species. If you like animals, a challenge and are not afraid to work hard for a few weeks, this is the place for you! Its incredibly rewarding and there are a wide range of jobs requiring a variety of skills and experience so your help will definetly be appreciated, no matter your background. Go on, give it a go, you're worth it..

Thomas, UK

Comments: FACT: it's the most amazing thing you will do on your trip.  In addition to physical resilience, you need powers of concentration and focus. This is very hard to start with, but you build a mental bond with the animals and come to understand their motivations and thought processes on a second-by-second basis. So you not only look after the animals, but also learn from them, and you will find this primal wisdom immensely valuable. After this experience, most of all the crazy stuff in south america will feel very mundane, and you will long to return to the animals.

Left 18 Marc

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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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