Volunteers' Stories

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 :

After reading this website we decided to go and volunteer at Machia for a month as part of our honeymoon. Best decision ever. The work is hard and the days are long. The facilities are basic. But the people are fantastic and the animals are just amazing. Every day is different. I was lucky enough to work with Sonko, a wonderful puma. I've been gone less than a month and already I miss him so much I want to go back. We had no problems with theft while we were there, everyone is part of the family. Volunteer for as long as you can, you won't regret it and the park needs long-term volunteers badly. Best thing I've done. If you're lucky enough to see Sonko, give him some chicken for me! Oct 2008
Left on 25 Nov 200

I just got back from Ambu Ari about a month ago, could only get 2 weeks off work to go. It was everything I hoped for and more. I worked with Martina the Cappuccin monkey, and saw and helped take care of many animals. If  you are an animal enthusiast, this is by far one of the best places I have ever seen. I am already planning to go back for at least 6 months if not more. I miss the jungle, the atmosphere, and the adventure. The people are wonderful and the organization is nothing short of amazing. Juan Carlos is an angel, and such a loving man with such a big heart. I had the privilege to meet him. I recommend this parque to anybody, even if you aren't down for the whole jungle, or travelling to Bolivia thing, it's such a worthy cause to donate to. I miss it all and will be back many times.
Left on 12 Sep 200

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



since i left Ambue Ari i have often cried!!! i simply just miss it that much!
I dream about my 3 pumas, Inti, wara and Yassi at night. swiming in the muddy river together, days where they ran around and played for hours, their calls. or the hot and humid days, where i just sat under a leaf for hours and watched them sleep in the shadow. They are so beautiful, i never get tired of just looking at them. wow, such amazing creatures!
now i even sometimes accidentally meow to my dog, and get to disappointed when he doenst call back. i miss it soooo much - the other volonteers, the jungle life, the simple living - but mostly the amazing feeling of being accepted among big cats.
there simply is no place like Ambue Ari!!!
i ended a 12,5 months long backpack-adventure in bolivia and though i have been to most of the world and seen and expirienced more than most people do in a lifetime, i have never found anything as amazing as Inti Wara Yassi! wow, now i cry again...
i left a big piece of my heart there, cant wait to go back!!!!!!!!

left oct 2008
Left on 19 Jan 201

Thanks for the amzing time that i have with the monkeys in the quarentine and with the nice people that they work and live too....i miss the time so much ....i want come back to the monkeys and the other volenteers

Left on 13 Sep 200

Liz Nield

Comments: Ok, so it was over 5 years ago since I was at the wonderful world of Inti Wara Yassi but it has inspired me to do so much in my life and given me so many opportunities, I felt it was time to leave a comment!

Working at the sanctuary is one of the most life-changing things I have ever done!
When I came back from my trip I went to work full time as a primate keeper, something I would never have been able to do without this unique experience under my belt!

I have also continued to do as much as I can for the organisation back in the UK and because of this have met the most wonderful people, including the inspirational Jane Goodall and not to mention the rest of the CIWY UK crew - who are life-long friends now!

Maybe I'm gushing a bit, but its true, I enjoyed every single second of my CIWY experience, and can only urge others to take this opportunity of a lifetime.....

Left on 2 October 200

Shiri, Israel

Comments: The best experience I've ever had in my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's the best place for animal's lovers. I've volunteered there in 1998 and still I can't put this place out of my mind.

Estuve en el parque como voluntario en varias oportunidades.  La primera vez como voluntario  fue por unos días en Dic.- 1997, luego volví el año 1998 por varios meses como voluntario, luego regrese en 1999 por unas semanas y mi última visita al parque fue el año 2002.  Las cuatro visitas al parque siempre fueron especiales, de muchos recuerdos y reencuentros con lo natural, con el paisaje, con amigos como Nena, Juan Carlos, Millca, Marcos, con los animales,  con los baños en el rio, con las cervezas muy frías en el pueblo jajaja!!!    Espero volver  a futuro como voluntario y llenarme de energías positivas y buenas vibras como siempre fue cada vez que estuve ahí.    Espero que este todo muy bien por allá y con muchos voluntarios eficientes.

Saludos y Abrazos a todos!!!

I was in the park as a volunteer on several occasions. The first volunteer was a few days in December - 1997, then returned in 1998 for several months as a volunteer, then return in 1999 for a few weeks and my last visit to the park was in 2002. The four visits to the park were always special, many memories and encounters with nature, with the landscape, with friends as Nena, Juan Carlos, Millca, Mark, with animals, swimming in the river, with very cold beer in the town lol! I look forward to future volunteer and full of positive energy and good vibes as always was whenever I was there. I hope this all very well over there and many volunteers efficient.

Greetings and Hugs to all!
Left on 16 Aug 201


Comments: As you can imagine, the three months we spent in South America left my girlfriend and I with endless memories... but the one thing thing that has really stayed with us, and we have thought about / talked about almost every day in the year since, was our time at Parque Ambue Ari.

It's the most magical place we've ever been to.

For yourself you will have a life changing experience - you will beat anyone's top 10 dreams in life when you can truthfully say "I worked with Jaguars" or "I helped release a previously captive howler monkey back into the wild".

For the animals (which is obviously the main point) you'll be doing so much good in a country where unfortunately there is so much mistreatment of animals.

You'll also meet some beautiful people (the more permanent workers/volunteers) who have given up a lot to try and do something for animals in a country where animals are often sadly mistreated.

I witnessed first hand (travelling home from the Park) in Bolivia a large very distressed Monkey being kept in a small cage in a petrol station surrounded with beer cans, cigarette packets, and other rubbish stuffed through the bars. It was very upsetting and would of course be unheard of / very illegal in England, but was just accepted in Bolivia with even children trying to tease it. Fortunately I was with a vet from the park at the time and thanks to her I understand the monkey (I believe called Pedro) was later rescued by IWY and is doing well (would love to hear any news if anyone knows anything!). It really brought it home to me how IWY are so needed out there.

They are doing what they can with very little resources to combat animal cruelty in Bolivia. Please help if you can. And if you can, please think of something you can take with you... gifts for the kids who work there (board games would be good!), knowledge if you have it (please please Vets out there! You're not going to get any better experience!), or something from the wish list page.

They even cook really tasty good food for you each day!

We really hope to go back in the new year, for at least two months this time. I'm asking my relatives to just donate to IWY instead of get me presents for christmas this year. I hope to give more back by going again.

Ian & Fiona
Left on 2 November 200

Anders H Nielsen

Comments: Truly, truly a great experience - one that I will never forget.. Working so close with these kinds of animals is once in a lifetime..and actually feeling that your actually doing something for these animals instead of just travelling about, getting drunk in various places for 6 months... HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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

Botho from Germany

Comments: It?s been almost a year now since I worked in the park and I still look at the website to see whats going on there. Actually I only wanted to visit the park to keep on moving after that, but in the end I stayed 3 weeks. Working with the monkeys is the best thing you can do. I was travelling because I needed a brake from my medical studies. After working with the monkeys who are extremley human I decided to go back to my studies and not to brake up.
well it was perfekt! I have a big picture of Fidel, the fat monkey who alwas eats too much in my room...
I loved it

Siv Pettersen

Comments: GO! We came across information on the park while traveling,by meeting ex-volunteers and l must say that my friend was more into going than l was...until l heard that they had cats there!Then l was ready to go to,and we did!!
l stayed for 1 month working with a puma called Roy,and we had a great time together!!It was hard work,10 hours a day but it was worth it!And even if we had some problems with ants and mosquitos l would absolutely recomend  everybody to go and volunter...as l look back on my time there now it seems like an adventure and just the good memorys are still here!!And l m hoping to be able to go back there to volunter again maybe already next fall...lf your a norwegian and wondering,dont hesitate to send me an emai and l ll try to answer...siv229@hotmail.com...go do it and help to make a difference!!And a lifetime memory for you..

laura poole

Comments: omg its well gd volunteer whow
Left on 20 April 200

After traveling all around, Parque Machia was a great place to drop my backpack and enjoy the simple life in the jungle for, what ended up being, 3 months. Personally I loved my time with the pumas, but the great thing about this place is that, with so many animals needing care, anyone who wants to volunteer will find their niche; in either spider monkeys, capuchins, cats, birds or small animals. Despite the routines of the animals, no day was the same, I could spend it; muddied running in the jungle, hours watching my puma sleep, or building monkey cages. Then more time you spend with your animal, the more enjoyable and amusing your days are with them.

Yes it is hard work, but as long as you aren’t scared to get your hands dirty and take the mosquito bites on the chin, then you will have some hilarious times and bazaar memories of both the people and the animals. Ya it changed my perspective, on animals, their freedom, what a tough job NGOs have to provide this. So go on, give it a try!
Left on 22 Feb 201


Comments: I took a 3 month career break to come and volunteer here and it was by far the best thing I have ever done.  Although they do not rehabilitate the animals like they portray on their website, they are doing a fantastic job with very limited resources.  The satisfaction of working with a beautiful ocelot and having that animal turn from attacking me each day for a week, to craving my attention and curling up on my lap is indescribable.  The days are certainly long and hard - espicially when you have to stand out in the pouring rain for 11 hours.  But, the "walk to work" up the path to the monkey park with one monkey wrapped around your neck and another squealing with delight at seeing you certainly beats sitting on the M25 in rush hour traffic!
I would highly reccomend this to anyone going to SA or looking to do some volunteer work.  And stay as long as you possibly can - it will be worth i

Tom KItson, UK

Comments: I soent a month at the park in August 2003, and can comfotable say it was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life. Yes it was hardwork, a month wihtout a day off, yes it was sweaty, dirty and I have never been bitten on the hands so often but who cares! I looked after Tigre which was a privelage. Very sad to hear about Boudi, bless her. Anyway if you are thinking of going, do so, its not time out from travelling, its what travelling is all about and I am still friends with people i met in the communidade.

One day i will return to the new land and continue the work, i believe the park does so brilliantly! Remember, its all about the animals.

I volunteered at both Parque Machia and Parque Ambue Ari in June/July '08 and had a wonderful time.  I have some information however that wasn't clarified on this website that would have been benefical in deciding which park to work at.  Ambue Ari is primiarly the cat park with over 20 large cats, and Machia is primiarly the monkey park with over 300 monkeys and 12 cats.  If you rather work with monkey's, go to Machia.  Both are good in their own way.  Ambue Ari is more remote in the jungle and it's like a "summer camp" feel; there are bunk houses, everyone eats together, the closest internet cafe is a 40 min. bus ride South, and there is no electricity.  Machia is in a small town with a heavy traveled road that goes through it. There are more amenities, and most people go out for dinner in town every night.

Which ever park you choose, you'll have an amazing experience helping these animals have a better life.
Left on 7 Sep 200

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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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