I’m an animal person and love to see wildlife in their natural habitat, especially when traveling. Sometimes the wildlife doesn’t cooperate though and I just have to be satisfied with flipping through a National Geographic. However, I’ve discovered animal rehabilitation centers are a great way to observe local wildlife and donate some money to a good cause in the process. When I was traveling in Costa Rica I happened upon a wonderful volunteer run facility called Jaguar Rescue Center . It’s located on the southern Caribbean coast just outside the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca at Playa Chiquita. This center was started by a pair of biologists from Europe who take in injured and abandon wildlife.
The goal of this place is to not only rehabilitate animals but also re-introduce them back into the wild. Visitors can stop by and have a volunteer guided tour of the facilities (you’re not allowed to wander the facility by yourself). On the tour, you get to meet some of the animals personally and hear their story. Some have been hit by cars, or were abandon as babies by their mothers and some are pets that should never have been kept as a pet. Because it’s not run as a zoo, the animals that are there at any given time, vary depending on their injures and stages of recovery. Some of the animals I visited were baby sloths, hawks, an owl, snakes, frogs, and an ocelot.
But the best part of this place is the monkey house where you actually get to go into the enclosure and play with pre-adolescent howler monkeys! They swing down from their ropes in the rafters and jump right into your arms! What a thrill to be able to interact so closely with a wild animal.
As part of the reintroduction process, every day volunteers take the troop of monkey’s into the jungle where they get to interact and play with a wild monkey troop for a few hours. At the end of the play time, those monkeys who want to return to the rescue center go back with the volunteers and those who want to stay in the wild are allowed. The goal is for every monkey to eventually integrate with the wild troop until they no longer need the rescue center. But they can always return if they feel threatened or scared.
If you would like to visit, donate, volunteer, or need more info, check out their web site at http://www.jaguarrescue.com/english/ .
Getting There: You can get to Jaguar Rescue Center by taking a 5 hr bus ride from San Jose to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. You can use Puerto Viejo as a home base as there are many options for accommodations and eating. We rented cruiser bikes for the length of our stay and used them to bike down the road to Playa Chiquita and the rescue center.
Cost: $15 pp with kids under 10 yrs being free. All proceeds go to funding the center. They also accept donations.
Tour times: 9:30 am and 11:30 am from Monday to Saturday (closed Sundays). They also offer private tours starting at 8:00 am but these must be reserved in advance.