Volunteering with us...

Volunteer opportunities at the Monkey Island Foundation


Volunteering with us is an exciting and life-changing opportunity; it’s also a big responsibility, as the life of each monkey we deeply care about is in your hands.

If you’ve had previous experience dealing with monkeys, and would like to become a volunteer, then you should check out the full program description below.

See the rulesFill the application form

Rules and conditions for volunteers

About the center

The monkeys live on two small mangrove islands connected by a bridge. Volunteers live on one of the islands. There are other islands around, which can be visited. It is a 40 minute boat ride from Bocas del Toro on Isla Colon.

Live is basic on the island, there are no restaurants or shops nearby and it is not a party place.

You need to like the tranquillity and isolation of a small island to enjoy it here. The water is crystal clear and you can watch lots of schools of fish and other ocean creatures and at night time the water shines due to bioluminescent plankton. It is safe to swim anywhere around the islands.

Monkey Island Conservation and Refuge Centre offers a unique volunteer experience where you can get up close and personal with our monkey residents. You work along side professionals like veterinarians, biologists and other experienced workers. Your range of duties will be based on your experience and competence.

Who can volunteer?


  • Students studying subjects like primatology, biology, veterinary science, animal behaviour, environmental science or any other relevant subjects
  • Vets, vet nurses, wildlife care takers, biologists, primatologists, or others with a keen interest in animals and conservation
  • Trades people like carpenters, builders, electricians, plumbers, etc are also welcomed to apply
  • Anyone with expertise in fund raising, promotion and educational programs
  • Anyone with any knowledge that could be useful on a remote mangrove island
  • wildlife sanctuary
  • Anyone who doesn’t mind working hard and get their hands dirty
  • You must be 20 years of age and over

What you will do

  • Animal husbandry
  • Food preparation
  • Grounds/enclosure maintenance
  • Cleaning
  • Assist in running tours around the sanctuary
  • Education talks
  • Any jobs around the sanctuary

What you can expect

  • To meet our monkeys and work with our team
  • To work on an island in a unique habitat
  • To learn about monkeys, their needs, their behaviour, their habitat, and what we humans can do to help other primates to survive outside our protected island. You will become an advocate for monkeys by the time you leave
  • Free shared accommodation in beautiful little huts – either two single or one double bed in each hut, shared bathroom facilities
  • 3 daily meals and shared cooking facilities
  • We can arrange boat rides for you to go to Bocas del Toro. The cost of transportation is not included
  • We provide free use of cayucos (little wooden boats) and snorkelling gear
  • We can arrange trips to other islands (cost involved)

What we expect from you

  • To be respectful of others, the animals and the environment
  • Not to use any illicit drugs (we are very strict about this)
  • You are allowed to drink alcohol but only in moderation (we do not tolerate drunken behavior on the island)
  • You need to have your own medical, health or travel insurance
  • Two weeks minimum stay after the first week of trial
  • 25 to 30 hours of volunteering work per week – this may vary depending on the work which needs to be done

On other things

Although our monkeys are used to people they are still wild animals and therefore caution needs to be taken. Monkeys can bite!

We do not provide any phones, computers or internet. If you wish to purchase internet you need to purchase your own before you arrive on the island – CLARO provider works well.



Bocas del Toro offers plenty of entertainment options from restaurants and shops to various water sport activities like scuba diving, deep boarding, surfing, sailing, whale and dolphin watching, as well as other activities (for further details have a look on Tripadvisor). There are lots of nature parks to discover like Zapatillas, Bat Cave tours, swimming at beautiful beaches and waterfalls, watching sloths in their natural habitat, etc

Equipment to Bring

There is not much to bring apart from your personal belongings, long sleeve shirts, sandals, a hat, sunblock and insect repellent.

Getting to us

Our captain will pick you up from Bocas del Toro or Chiriqui Grande (40 min to Monkey Conservation Centre). You can arrive either:

  • by bus or car from Panama City to Almirante (10 – 11 h), then by boat to Bocas del Toro (30 min)
  • by bus or car to Chiriqui Grande
  • by bus or car from Costa Rica to Almirante (via Changuinola)
  • by plane from Panama City to Bocas del Toro (45 min)

Medical Considerations

Health insurance

  • You must have your own private health and travel insurance. You have to provide us a certificate of proof upon your arrival.

Your health

  • Your health is important and therefore you should be aware of any allergies you have and how your body reacts to diseases, wounds, insect bites and medicine. We advise you to bring any medication you may need.
  • Good medical care is widely available in Panama City and David – though it’s limited elsewhere.
  • Most doctors and hospitals expect cash payment, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance. (Be aware that there is a cash machine at Bocas although does occasionally run out of money)


  • You do not require any vaccinations for Panama but there are recommendations on the World Health Organisation website. Please inform yourself beforehand (6 – 8 weeks) and speak to your physician
  • We do not believe that vaccinations against yellow fever, malaria and typhoid are necessary but please check current recommendations
  • You do not need any specific vaccinations for Monkey Conservation Centre.
  • You should be up-to-date with your routine vaccinations (including tetanus).


  • Our primates are easily susceptible to tuberculosis. We ask for a negative tuberculosis test before you arrive.


  • Although rabies is not widespread in Panama there is a risk involved when exposed to animals.
  • We leave it up to your discretion weather you want to undergo a rabies vaccination before arrival. If yes you do need 3 vaccinations, which will take you about 11⁄2 – 2 months to have full protection.

Other advise:

  • Tap water is not recommended to drink in the Bocas del Toro district.
    We have rain water on the island which is fine to drink.

Monkey Island Foundation Volunteer

If, like us, you believe in a better world and if you think that you can work with us to get that better world, please fill the Volunteer Applicant Form.


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