The first location to be established by Inti Wara Yassi, Parque Machia is a rescue center that cares for sick, mistreated, and abandoned wild animals in Bolivia’s Chapare region. Volunteers cannot make reservations and are accepted on a drop-in basis due to the park’s remote location. Each volunteer is assigned to an animal area (veterinary clinic, quarantine, capuchin monkey areas, spider monkey park, small mammals, aviary) or specific animal in the case of the two pumas, two ocelots, and Balu, the Andean bear. Volunteers are critical to park operations and typically clean cages, prepare food, and interact with animals when appropriate.
Types of animals: Monkeys (capuchin and spider), puma, ocelot, various birds, small mammals such as tejons
Volunteer duration: Minimum 15 days; Must stay for one-month to be eligible to work with a cat; Can start any day of the week
Cost: 15-nights: 1,450 Bs ($207); 30-nights: 2,500 Bs ($357); Subsequent nights: 55 Bs ($7.85)
Includes: Accommodation in volunteer housing
Accommodations Details: Very basic rooms in one of two volunteer houses are typically shared by two people, which each volunteer assigned a twin bed with mosquito net. No frills, just what you need to survive.
Workload: STRENUOUS. Expect to be on your feet for the majority of the day.
Typical Day: Varies based on area of focus, but you can typically expect to start the day around 8AM and finish around 5:30PM. Those working in the spider monkey park can expect 7:30AM-7:30PM, but usually report that the experience is incredible. If working with a big cat or Balu, expect to be walking for the majority of the day (I estimated that I walked approximately 7 miles each day in total) through rugged terrain.
Location/Directions: Parque Machia is just outside of the town of Villa Tunari, on the highway between La Paz and Santa Cruz. The refuge resides about 500m east of Villa Tunari on the left-hand side of the road, just past the Espiritu Santo river. Once in Villa Tunari, ask anyone in town to point you towards the “refugio de animales” or “Parque Machía”.
From Cochabamba: Take a minibus that leaves from the corner of Avenida Oquendo and Avenida 9 de Abril. There are a number of companies that do this route – ‘7 de Junio’ are decent. Vehicles leave as soon as they fill up, so you shouldn’t have to wait too long; vehicles leave throughout the day and early evening. The journey takes 3-3.5 hours and costs about $3.50. When you get to Villa Tunari ask the driver to drop you off outside Parque Machia, just after the Espiritu Santo Bridge.
From Santa Cruz: Take a bus that goes to Cochabamba (from the central bus station, just make sure it goes through Villa Tunari and can stop off) and ask the driver to get off just before the Espiritu Santo Bridge. Journey takes around 6 hours and buses leave regularly throughout the morning.
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Click on the photos below to read posts and see pictures from my time volunteering at Parque Machia