Volunteering at the Tulum Monkey Sanctuary


Pablo Guzman

For as long as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated with plants and animals. Anything living really.

In elementary school I bought my own fish tanks and had pet hermit crabs.

In middle school I bought a leopard gecko and then everything went crazy.

I started breeding and selling a couple of different types of geckos and different types of bearded dragons. After some time I was hired on as a reptile specialist at a local exotic pet store and grew my collection to include varieties of frogs, snakes and a couple of reef tanks.

I guess you could say I’m an animal lover.

Months back when I was browsing through HelpX for volunteer opportunities I came across the Tulum Monkey Sanctuary in Tulum, Mexico.

Tulum Monkey Sanctuary baby spider monkey

They were looking for help and I wanted to join in. Work with monkeys, live in the jungle, enjoy some Mexican food… why not?

I showed up in the afternoon along with another volunteer from France. The previous volunteers had just left so it was going to be just the two of us in this pretty cool circular stone house.

Tulum Monkey Sanctuary Volunteer House

Our first day we spent accompanying a couple of tour groups.

The tours start off with a walk past the horse corral and around a large monkey enclosure.

This leads guests to a smaller enclosure where they hear a bit of history behind Tulum Monkey Sanctuary and some of the monkeys found there.

After some time the tour goes over a lagoon where a mass of turtles, fish and a couple of crocs await to be fed.

Typically the tour takes visitors to a circle of caves at the back of the property, but while I was there it was closed and being cleaned up due to a recent storm.

The tour ends with a jump into one of the cenotes in the property and time to revisit the monkeys and other animals.

Tulum Monkey Sanctuary Cenote

It’s a great tour and if you’re not looking to volunteer it’s worth it to sign up for one and swing by.

Back to volunteering.

After we became acquainted with the property we started helping out here and there.

The volunteering program is still fairly new at the sanctuary so it’s still in stages of finding out what works and what doesn’t.

I was there for around three weeks or so. Volunteers work 5 days a week and have 2 days off to explore the area or to just relax.

Everyday would involve greeting visitors at the front gate and ushering them inside to the beginning of the tour. Sometimes, especially towards the beginning, we would join the tours and walk around with the groups.

The Tulum Monkey Sanctuary has become a place for more than just monkeys. They have horses, white tail deer, rabbits, parakeets and a lot of dogs.

One of things that we did that was pretty cool was that we made dog food roughly once a week. An entire day was spent in the kitchen cooking and mixing ingredient to make a more nutritious diet for all of the dogs on the property.

After about a week or so and up until I left we started doing a little bit more around the property. We would still welcome guests, but we started sweeping paths, and cleaning up the property some.

Tulum Monkey Sanctuary caterpillar

Towards the end of my stay there were some plans floating around for the monkey enclosures. They were all geared towards stimulating them and making them think or work for their food rather than just having everything handed to them.

At the end of the day the guys at Tulum Monkey Sanctuary are trying to rehabilitate and help out the monkeys in all ways possible.

Tulum Monkey Sanctuary

 

If you’re looking for a unique experience and are interested in volunteering check out their website and send them an email. Do keep in mind that is in the jungle. Mosquitoes are everywhere and there is a high possibility of coming across other creatures!

Tulum Monkey Sanctuary Caterpillars

If you’re not looking to volunteer, but think this place looks interesting, I highly recommend signing up for a tour. It’s an amazing place and the health and well-being of the animals is the main priority. Funds from the tour go towards the sanctuary and making sure it can continue to be a safe haven for animals and a fun and educational attraction for visitors. 

After hours at the sanctuary

Volunteering aside, living on the sanctuary and being able to explore after hours was one of the best parts.

After a day of raking leaves or making dog food we (myself, the french guy and sometimes a couple of the workers) would head over to the cenote and dive in.

They have some horses on the property so a few times we went over and were able to ride them. Finally knocked off riding a horse from my bucket list!

Tulum Monkey Sanctuary hanging bridge

Volunteers have two days off a week. On off days I would do some trail running, exploring or head into Tulum and meet some backpackers and have some drinks.

Being that I had a tent with me, one of the nights involved going to the back of the property, setting up a small fire and camping out in the jungle.

The entire area around Tulum is beautiful. From the dense jungle to the Mayan ruins to the white beaches and blue waters. I’m hoping to get back there again sometime later this year!

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    This looks amazing! I’d love to volunteer one day with animals like this! The closest I got was volunteering at a local veterinary office while in high school. Spending an hour playing with kittens wasn’t too bad though. Haha

    • says

      It was definitely a fun experience. During one of the tours we had a group of wild monkeys in the sanctuary and there was a sort of stand off between them and the monkeys that we had. It was pretty crazy watching it all!

      Haha kittens aren’t bad. I like them more than adult cats, but still love dogs way more. : )

  2. says

    I adore animals too, but I am especially enamored with dolphins and sea turtles. I dream of one day helping newly hatched sea turtles to the ocean or helping rehabilitate them. What an awesome exoerience you had in Tulum, one you’ll surely never forget!

    • says

      Totally! Sea turtles are amazing, turtles and tortoises have to be some of my favorite animals. I came across a couple of hostels in Latin America that help little hatch-lings get to the ocean. Hoping to stay at one of those place while I’m traveling and help. : )

    • says

      Not far at all, maybe 6km? I would either hitchhike to and from Tulum or ride a bike while I was there. It’s past the Gran Cenote maybe a kilometer or two.

    • says

      A beautiful place for sure. I want to say that their volunteering program just started a year or two ago. It’s expanding and the place just keeps getting better.

  3. says

    Volunteering and helping animals? Pretty much my dream job. Looks like a very good experience and there’s lots to learn there. Were most of the monkeys injured in the wild and brought to the sanctuary for rehab?

    • says

      Right!? Most of the animals came from households who bought them illegally and were mistreated. A couple were born in the sanctuary itself. I don’t think many were ones found in the wild just in illegal trading. Pretty cool place to take them in and help out. : )

    • says

      Thanks man! I think it would be awesome to find something in South Africa. There are a lot of things over there that I want to see.

  4. says

    This looks so cool! I’d love to do some volunteering and monkeys fascinate me. Orangutans are my favourite and on my bucketlist. You sound like you had a great experience. Beautiful photos

  5. says

    What a beautiful way to enjoy the jungle, helping out at the monkey sanctuary. Sounds like you had a incredible time. It’s always nice to give back a little along your travels if it’s something you’re passionate about. Good work!

    • says

      Thanks, it was fun and it’s cool keeping up with them and seeing that the guys at the sanctuary are always constantly improving on the place too.

  6. says

    What an incredible experience, I admire people that volunteer in any capacity! Way to go! :) Your pictures are fantastic, I felt like I was there and wished there were more to see. What was on the tree in the second to last picture you posted? Very interesting!

    • says

      Thank you! I have more pictures, just picky with what I put up. : D That was actually a giant group of caterpillars. Not sure what they were doing, but you would find them on random trees formed in groups like that!

  7. says

    Love visiting animal sanctuaries. We visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia last year and had a blast there. It’s so cool to see how these non-profit organizations do so much good for these endangered animals. Great pictures also!!

    • says

      Whenever I’m traveling I’m always trying to make it to local animal places. It’s a great feeling coming across places that really care about the animals.

  8. says

    Pablo-that looks like quite the spot. I think I might even pay for that experience! Your photos are terrific, I especially love the monkey portrait, you captured such great expression. Tulum was one of my favorite places in Mexico to explore. Enjoy your time there.

    • says

      The sanctuary is a fun spot and Tulum is a cool little backpacker spot with great beaches. :) Not there now, but hopefully here in a month or two!

  9. Mike says

    I went here last year was a nice place. What months where you there and how bad where the mosquitoes? Also how hands on with the Spiders where you? They can be quite unpredictable.

    • says

      I was there in August and September. The mosquitoes had their moments, but I did alright with them. haha

      At the time there were only two spider monkeys that volunteers and people could interact with. The majority of them had minimal interaction with people, they would more observe us as we observed them. The two that were friendly were rescues that won’t be able to go back to the wild. Once they warm up to you, they’re pretty great though! : D

  10. Billie says

    This sounds amazing and something I am so keen to get involved in. I recently volunteered with Tigers and it is by far the best thing I have done in my life so far. I also love mexico so that is a bonus. Was it a paid or free volunteer program?

    Billie

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