For years while waiting to go to Costa Rica, we were set on visiting the Sloth Sanctuary, but on finding it was on the opposite side of the country it was out of reach for this trip. It was then that I started searching for something closer to where we would be.
Finding Proyecto Asis was exciting and even more so when we discovered both adults and children can spend a day volunteering with them.
They offer various options such as full days, half days, tours of the sanctuary and also Spanish lessons and homestays. If we had more time I would have been very interested in adding a homestay and Spanish lessons to our booking but I was struggling to fit everything we wanted to do in.
We chose the full day tour plus volunteering and also booked transport directly through Proyecto Asis which collected us at 7.30am from our hotel. After a 45 minute drive we arrived and were greeted by some lovely staff members.
Our day began with a tour of the sanctuary to see the animals currently staying. We learnt about each animal and the stories behind why they were there. Lots had been confiscated after being kept as pets. This part was really interesting as we learnt loads about wildlife protection and preservation and also the tough penalties and prison sentences that were now part of Costa Rican law for anyone caught with a wild animal living in their home as a pet (birds, monkeys, sloths etc). Its a shame the rest of the world doesn’t impose such strict laws to protect animals.
What I loved in the way this place worked, was the knowledge and love for the animals. For example, the birds that have been freed from their lives as pets in tiny cages, are collected together in a big enclosure where they learn to fly and just be birds, until there are enough of them to release in a flock. They go through enclosures, ending in one deeper into the rainforest where there is minimal human interaction, getting them ready for release.
It was then time for the practical side to start. We had a quick juice and fruit break and then headed to the kitchen for our first ‘job’.
In front of us, lots of bowls named and pre loaded with food for each animal sat on the table. Our first task was to chop the food into appropriate sized pieces for each animal. Everyone selected a knife and we began chopping. I loved this. This is one of those kinds of things kids miss out on at home. Real experiences with real knifes, learning how to chop foods that many young adults I know are unsure of how to in UK-Pineapple, Corn, Sweet Potato, Papaya and others.
We also made some toys and wrapped food in organic material to make the food finding more challenging for the monkeys. The monkeys will never be released, after being kept as pets, as it’s impossible to safely return them to the jungle.
After all the chopping was complete, now was the exciting part-delivering the food!
We all picked up some of the bowls and headed out to the enclosures. After developing some crazy love for toucan’s, and being desperate to see some while in Costa Rica, we couldn’t believe our luck when out of all the bowls, my littlest was holding the bowl for the toucan’s. This meant she could actually feed real life toucan’s! Her little face, she was so happy!
Once all of the animal feeding was complete, we headed back to the beginning for lunch. This was a delicious typical Costa Rican meal with plenty of fruit and fresh juices to finish.
After an hours break it was back to work! This can include painting of the sanctuary, making toys etc for the animals or food preparation. We had been given more food prep as they said that’s most enjoyable for the children. So now it was time to wash all of the food bowls and lay them out ready. After being told to work as a team, my kids took the opportunity to argue and slate each others washing up so this took a bit longer than planned!
Each bowl was named and there was a list of ingredients (in Spanish) and measurements for each animal. Our next task was to translate into English, collect the fruit or vegetables from the fridge area, chop them into the appropriate sized pieces for each animal, and weigh them into the correct portion sizes! Even I learnt what some of the fruit was, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a papaya un-chopped plus I learnt lots of new Spanish words.
Once complete, it was time to go out and feed everyone again. This time it was in torrential rain but we still had a great time feeding all the different birds, and animals.
It was sad to leave at the end of the day. We had a really good time and learnt so much. This seemed so much more interactive than any zoo keeper experience iv ever looked at booking on in the UK.
If your in the La Fortuna area, we would totally recommend this trip 🐒