Containing roughly 5% of the earth’s wildlife, Costa Rica is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. With stats like that, in addition to the pristine beaches and excellent reputation for outdoor pursuits, it’s no wonder tourists flock to Costa Rica to experience these spectacular draws first-hand. On our recent visit, being animal mad and always on the hunt to support a good cause, we stumbled across the ‘Jaguar Rescue Centre.’ Now, this is unlikely to be on every ‘Top 10 Things To Do In Costa Rica’ list, but if you find yourself on the Caribbean coast and are a self-proclaimed animal lover like myself, it should be on yours!
About The Jaguar Rescue Centre
Nestled in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, this sanctuary for wildlife was set up by two retired biologists who, through a twist of fate ended up finding romance and dedicating their retirement to establishing and running the centre. Today the Jaguar Rescue Centre has flourished taking in injured and orphaned animals to rehabilitate and release or provide a safe, permanent home for those unable to return to the wild. It is run solely by volunteers and running costs are covered by kind public donations and tourism.
Now, I am always quite sceptical of “rescue centres” abroad, especially having heard numerous accounts of a very sketchy sloth sanctuary in the country which actually harvests its inhabitants from the wild to maintain custom. So, because of stories like this, I always do my research! After a scout online and touching base with a few contacts, I didn’t find anything suggestive of foul-play or questionable behaviour, so we decided to take the plunge and go for a visit.
The Jaguar Rescue Centre lobby the government to get permission to release every fit animal they have rehabilitated back into the wild (In Costa Rica all rehabilitated animals must be authorised for release by the government which can be a lengthy process with lots of hoops to jump through). Over 80% of the animals which come into the rescue centre are successfully re-introduced and in my opinion, this is a sanctuary which is really doing some good! If that wasn’t enough, they also campaign to make Costa Rica’s wildlife safer and reduce human impact on them. The Jaguar Rescue Centre supports a truly wholesome community of dedicated wildlife advocates wanting to champion change, who wouldn’t want to help that cause!?
It was truly such a wholesome experience when speaking to the volunteers their true passion for the place, it’s ethos and the work they were doing radiated from them, and their enthusiasm and love was truly infectious. Heck, if I hadn’t had a job waiting for me back home, I’d have signed up then and there to work as a vet in their clinic and would have certainly had no regrets! Watch this space Jaguar Rescue Centre, you have definitely not heard the last of me!
Where to Stay
At the time, we were staying in Cahuita, a short 30-minute bus ride from Puerto Viejo and home to one of the only free national parks in Costa Rica. It has a wonderful, beachy, chilled out vibe and we really enjoyed our stay there. Alternatively, you could stay in Puerto Viejo itself, we heard it had a slightly more upbeat, party vibe if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. But regardless, both places are set on the stunning Caribbean coast so you won’t be short of sunbathing and snorkelling spots wherever you choose!
If you want the full immersive experience, why not stay at the rescue centre itself? The Jaguar Rescue Centre have some luxury cabins where you can fall asleep and wake up to the sound of wildlife, completely surrounded by the forest. If this tickles your fancy, check out their website for more information.
Things To Do
The Jaguar Rescue Centre offers several experiences; you can take a tour of the rescue centre where you will see the most adorable orphans, attempting to find their feet in the world while under the watchful eye of their carers. It is here too that you can discover how the animals are cared for and meet the more permanent residents, many of which have free reign of the centre! You will hear stories about some of their most memorable in-mates and personal tales from the volunteers. Alternatively, you can head over to the release station La Ceiba to see how the animals are prepped for their return to the wild. Both these experiences are lead by the volunteers who love to share their passion for the Jaguar Rescue Centre with the public. The guides are keen to answer questions, are incredibly informative and have a love for their work which is truly infectious.
Jaguar Rescue Centre Tours:
Tours take roughly an hour and a half and are run Monday through Saturday at 9.30 and 11.30am with no prior reservation needed. Just turn up 15 minutes before the tour starts and provide them with your $20 per person donation to participate.
Private tours are also available which are two hours in length and allow you to tailor your experience to your particular interests. These tours are run at 2pm daily from Monday to Saturday and cost $60 per person. Private tours must be booked at least 2 weeks in advance to ensure availability.
At the Ceiba release unit, not only can you visit and explore during the day, but there is also a night tour. The days consist of a two-hour hike with an experienced naturalist guide to witness all the surrounding wildlife, many of which were once JRC residents. Tours are available from Monday to Friday at 7.30am and cost $60 dollars per person.
The night tour is also a two-hour experience where you can get up close and personal with the grunters, hooters, roarers and squeakers of the night. I did not do this tour but my experience of a night jungle walk in Ecuador was utterly unforgettable, so I doubt this would be any different. Tours leave from Monday to Saturday at 6.30pm and are also $60.
Support them Further
If this post has left you inspired, then here are a few ways you can help the Jaguar Rescue Centre continue to do fantastic work!
First and most importantly, GO AND VISIT THEM!! See their amazing work first hand and know your entry fee will help provide food and care for the creatures in the centre.
If you are planning on extending your stay in Costa Rica, or volunteering is your thing, then the Jaguar Rescue Centre is for you!! The centre call their volunteers the heart and soul of the project, and from my experience, I’d say this was totally true! Volunteers spend time at both the rescue and release centres and get the most glorious hands-on experience with the animals which was described to us as truly life-changing. If you want more information on volunteering including requirements, click here!
Finally, even if you’re not planning a visit to Costa Rica any time soon, you can support them from afar by adopting one of the residents at the centre, providing a donation or support their cause to create shock-free power-lines.
A little More about the Shock Free Initiative:
In Costa Rica, the coating on the power lines is often of low quality and is poorly maintained leaving many areas of exposed live wiring. The power lines are often many animal’s path across roadways and settlements between patches of jungle which means each day, hundreds of animals are playing a game of chance and luck whether they make it to each pocket of habitat unscathed. Almost 70% of animals suffering electrocution injuries die or have such extensive injuries, they have to be euthanised and it is one of the most common reasons animals find themselves in the Jaguar Rescue Centre’s care. The Shock Free Zone program launched by the Jaguar Rescue Centre, in cooperation with the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) works to insulate transformers and electrical lines with good quality, safe and long lasting material. This project is already saving lives, but there are still so many power lines left to manage and this is impossible without the help of public donations. If you would like to help their cause check the link to their go-fund me page to do your bit! https://www.gofundme.com/zrkef-stop-the-electrocutions-save-lives