Volunteer FAQ

volunteer: frequently asked questıons

  • What will be expected of me?

    The duties of the volunteers vary but in general volunteers can expect to do:

    • Daily food preparation and feeding of captive breeding birds and pre-release birds and supplementary feeding of the released flock
    • Regular site maintenance including aviary cleaning, installation of perches, enrichment for captive birds and various other
    • Monitoring the health and behavior of captive and released birds
    • Data collection
    • Fieldwork: Depending on the season, this will include going into the forest and climbing trees to monitor nest sites
    • Collecting natural foods
    • Different tasks may be assigned depending on our current needs and the skills and abilities of particular volunteers.
  • What is the work schedule?

    The work schedule is five-and-a-half days a week. Work hours may vary and are arranged by the supervisor at the site. Typically they are between 5:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., with a long lunch break to avoid working in the heat.

    We ask for a minimum stay of one month, though there is no limit to the length of your stay. We encourage long-term stays. The longer you volunteer, the more you will learn and be able to work on your own – getting the most out of your experience.

  • What are the required qualifications?

    Anyone ages 18 and older can apply to volunteer with us. Volunteers are required to be highly motivated, responsible and in fit mental and physical condition. Costa Rica is a tropical country, and the weather can be very hot and wet.

    Fieldwork in the tropics is typically physically demanding and tedious (rain, mud, bugs, cultural differences, solitude, plentiful hiking and long hours). Recommendation letters and a cover letter are not necessary but are encouraged.

  • Do I need to speak Spanish or English?

    Basic Spanish would help you get around and enrich your stay, but being fluent is not vital. If you speak fluent Spanish, you do not have to be fluent in English, but a basic level is preferred.

  • What travel arrangements do I need to make?

      Please check the Costa Rica tourist visa requirements for your country. Generally, you will be able to stay up to 90 days in Costa Rica on a tourist visa. If you are staying longer, you can renew this visa by leaving the country for three days. We can help you with these arrangements if a trip is necessary, and you will be able to take this time off from the work on-site. Make sure that your passport is up to date and valid for the entire duration of your visit.

    1. If you travel by air, you should fly into San José (SJO International Airport). Depending on your arrival time in San José, you may have to stay overnight and travel to the designated station the next day. The transportation cost to the sites is about $20, depending on how you choose to travel. Once you have confirmed your stay, we will send you travel instructions for the site you will be volunteering at. In case you need to stay overnight in San José upon arrival, we also include some hostel options close to the bus stations.

    2. Having medical/travel insurance is a must. Arranging for this is one of the required steps to confirm your stay.

  • Do I need to have medical/travel insurance?

    Yes! Having medical/ travelers insurance is required. There are risks and dangers inherent to the habitat and the work we do. We ask you to send us a copy of your travel insurance as part of your application process. Upon your arrival, you will be required to sign a waiver/release agreement and to include emergency contact information. The Macaw Recovery Network will not be responsible for any medical bills.

    If you take a medication, make sure to bring enough for your stay or ensure that it will available in Costa Rica. Let us know if you have any special medical condition or allergies that we should be aware of. There is a small clinic fairly close to the site in case of emergencies.

  • What are the living conditions like?

    At the station, accommodations are rustic and basic. The Punta Islita Station is located in Guanacaste, along the coast of Nicoya Peninsula in the Pacific. We have full capacity of seven volunteers. The Volunteer House has two bedrooms with two beds in each room, a shared bathroom, a kitchen and a common area. You will have to share a room with another volunteer. For our long term volunteers we provide basic cabins which offer more privacy as they don’t share their bedroom, but they will still share all other facilities.

    Since the site is located in a remote area, social life is limited. If you are looking for a wild social life, this is probably the wrong project for you.

  • How safe is Costa Rica?

    Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in Central and South America and it is unlikely that you will have serious safety problems. However, petty theft is becoming more common. Be careful with your personal belongings, and do not leave them unattended while traveling. We provide lockers on site which you can use for storing your valuables.

  • How is the weather?

    Punta Islita is located in a tropical dry forest and can go from occasional cool nights (20-23 degrees Celsius) to warm days (30-38 degrees Celsius) with occasional extreme heat (40 degrees Celsius) and tropical rain and thunderstorms. Depending on the time of year, there may be a heavy rain in the afternoons or evenings.

  • What will I eat? Is it hard if I have a special diet?

    Having a special diet is not a problem. The staple food in Costa Rica is easily adapted to suit most diets: vegetarian, vegan, lactose free and even celiac diets can be accommodated. If you take supplements, bring enough for the length of your stay.

    Basic, general food supplies are brought to the group once a week from the nearest town. From the moment you arrive on site the default is that you join in on communal cooking, unless you tell us otherwise. If you need a specific item for your dietary requirements or want to buy personal treats, you will need to buy these items separately. There are also mini markets closer to the site where you can buy most items. All members of the team are expected to cook and do dishes.

  • What about money?

    Costa Rica is relatively expensive compared to other Latin American countries, but you can eat and live relatively cheaply. You will spend $40-$60 per week, depending on your habits and dietary requirements. The currency is colones, but U.S. dollars are accepted almost everywhere though the exchange rate may not be favorable. Do not exchange money at the airport.

    There is no need to travel with a large amount of cash. There are ATMs in most towns that accept the major international cards such as Visa or Mastercard. Please make sure you know the pin number of your card and that your card is activated to make international withdrawals by checking with your bank before traveling! Exchanging money near the stations is more limited, and we can offer advice for the best alternatives.

  • Will I have access to a cellphone signal and internet access?

    Although limited, Wi-Fi is available at the Punta Islita site, there is non available at the Sarapiqui field station. We advise you to buy a local SIM card upon arrival at the airport to put it in your personal phone, if compatible. There are several pre-paid mobile service providers in Costa Rica such as Kölbi, Claro and Movistar, among others. We recommend Kölbi since it is the local provider and has signal almost everywhere in the country. *International mobile services may not work in Costa Rica, so check with your provider.

    You can also bring a laptop if you wish, but take into account that humid conditions may affect it.

  • How do I confirm my volunteer application?

    After applying on our volunteer page, we review your application and requested time of stay. We will ask you for more information to be able to judge whether you are fit for our team. Once you get an invitation to participate in the Macaw Recovery Network’s Volunteer Program, you will have to confirm the exact dates before the deadline given.

    To be able to confirm, you have to follow these steps:

    1. For volunteers staying less than 6 months, we ask you to make a deposit of $300, which covers your first month of stay. You can pay the $300 per month for lodging in advance here (link to Paypal page). The payment can be made monthly if you are staying for longer than a month. The first months’ payment for your stay is non-refundable, even if you cancel your trip or do not stay for the entire time you previously confirmed.

    2. Send us a copy of your flight ticket itinerary

    3. Send us contact details of a family member back home in case of an emergency

    4. Send us a copy of your travel insurance

    By following these steps, we can ensure that you are fully committed to the program and we will reserve your spot for the indicated dates. Only if you have completed all steps, we can book you in and confirm your place.

  • What is the application process like?

    1. Application: After you have read and understood all the information on this page and you have chosen the position that fits best with you, we ask you to fill out the application form to the position of your interest.

    2. Selection: Once we receive your application, we will review your suitability for the position and if we have availability during your requested time. We will get back to you with additional information to read carefully and ask any additional questions we might have. We might also request a Skype call with you if you are applying for a long term position.

    3. Confirmation: Once we are in agreement, you will receive an invitation to join the team and we will send you another document with information to make sure you know what to expect. You will receive an application deadline by which you should take all the steps as mentioned in this document to confirm your stay. These steps include sending us: the contribution of your first months’ stay, a copy of your flight confirmation, a copy of your travel insurance, emergency information of a next of kin. ONLY when you have taken all the steps by the deadline given, you will be confirmed for a place on the team! The birds are dependent on volunteers like you and we have to make sure there are enough hands on deck.

  • How do I travel from the Airport to the site?

    We do not offer collection from the airport, instead, we pick you up from the closest bus stop to the site. This means that you will have to travel on your own from the airport to the final bus stop where you are collected. We will send you clear travel instructions to the site where you are going to.

  • Do I need to apply for a Visa?

    We advise our volunteers to enter Costa Rica as a tourist. Whether you need a Tourist Visa depends on your country of residence. European and North American volunteers will automatically get 90 days. You will need to be able to show a ticket that you are exiting Costa Rica again. If you are staying for longer than 90 days, you can get your return ticket for your planned exiting date even if this is after 90 days. However, we recommend you also get another type of evidence that proves that you will be crossing the borders into another country within the 90 days. This can either be a bus ticket (Ticabus) or a booking at a ho(s)tel in another country.

  • Do you have a pack list?

    We will send you one after you have confirmed your position

  • I have to stay overnight in San Jose to get my bus/flight the next day, is it safe?

    In general, San Jose is safe and our volunteers have no issues staying overnight and traveling through the city. Like any other city, you just have to make sure to watch your belongings and not go out on your own in the dark. We do advise you to make a reservation and print our travel instructions in advance.

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