Volunteering With Animals In Portugal

Volunteering In Portugal

After having some great experiences volunteering in France, Will and I decided to continue volunteering. Since we wanted to celebrate the New Year partying in Lisbon, we started looking for hosts in Portugal. Luckily we were invited to volunteer with animals (which was a completely new experience for me) in the warmest and most beautiful part of the country, The Algarve. We booked flights to Porto, stayed a couple of nights before catching a bus to Lisbon for NYE, then caught another bus to The Algarve to start volunteering with animals.

Now even though I’m completely against animal cruelty (watch Earthlings and you’ll understand why) but I’ve never actually been an ‘animal person.’ It’s not at all that I don’t like animals…I just never had experience with them, unless feeding fish at my dad’s business counts? So I was really looking forward to volunteering with animals to get outside of my comfort zone.

Volunteering With Animals
(Our favourite chicken – we called her Beyonce because she did this funny hip thing when she walked)

In a place like this, learning the best goose call for beginners will definitely come in handy. And I must say, after spending 4 weeks with bunnies, meerkats, coatis, goats, wallabies, guinea-pigs, tortoises, squirrels, all kinds of birds and Nina the pig, I really have converted into an animal lover! I don’t think I’d ever want to work in the animal industry professionally but I honestly have become attached to my new animal friends. Especially the tortoises – they were the cutest!

Volunteering With Animals
(Both Will and I loved feeding the tortoises so we usually did it together and sat watching them slowly munch down their food every day)
Volunteering With Animals
(Nina the pig. Seriously if you knew what pigs eat you probably wouldn’t want to eat pig again)

We worked at ‘Centre Algarve’ the only hotel in Europe designed for children with special needs. The centre hasn’t officially opened yet but they have had guests come previously to test it out and I’ve heard great stories about the kids’ experience here. The centre has it’s own private petting zoo attached where guests can wander around and play with the animals, and is where we did our volunteering work.

Volunteering With Animals
(The Front Bird Aviaries at Centre Algarve)

A typical day for us as volunteers was waking up at around 7.45am, grabbing a cup of tea and be out feeding the animals by 8am. With so many animals, including over 300 birds, it would usually take us until 10.30am to make sure everyone had food and water. At 10.30am we had half an hour for breakfast which was provided by the charity before heading back to work. After breakfast we would clean animal enclosures. Cleaning poop wasn’t particularly my idea of fun (do you know how much birds shit?!) but it was all part of the experience.

Volunteering With Animals
(Cheeky the Giant Parrot, he was scary, and particularly didn’t like blonde women!)
Volunteering With Animals
(One out of 5 of the outdoor bunnies, we also looked after an indoor bunny called Fluffy who was the cutest)

Before finishing our shift we would give most of the animals a snack for lunch and be finished by 2pm. This gave us time to shower and be ready for a late lunch at 2.30pm each day. We’d then have free-time to chill out or wander to the local village, and then help ourselves to left overs in the evening for dinner. We had 2 full days off each week where we ventured out to explore The Algarve.

Volunteering in Portugal 1
(Walking from the nearest village Moncarapacho to the beach)

Since the start of my anti-animal cruelty phase I’ve had mixed emotions about zoos because of how cruel it is to not let an animal live in their natural environment and the fact that zoos are educational. But to be honest, the longer I worked at Centre Algarve, the more I got attached to the animals and the more I started to disagree with zoos.

Volunteering With Animals
(Bambina was the biggest personality in the whole petting zoo, she only had 2 legs but would happily hop up to the fence for a neck rub)
Volunteering With Animals
(Eek I love squirrels! I’ve always been so excited to go to London to see the scared little squirrels at Hyde Park but since having the opportunity to feed these friendly squirrels every day the excitement has since faded)

I think most of these thoughts came about when I’d be cleaning wallaby poop. I’d be thinking, “Why the hell is a human picking up this shit when the wallaby should be hopping around Australia being part of the natural environment. Not locked in an enclosure in Portugal!” And then I realised that the only reason I had never seen a coati or even heard of one before was because they’re supposed to be living in Central and South America.

Volunteering With Animals
(If you’ve never seen a coati before, this is what they look like)
Volunteering With Animals
(Fun Fact: Did you know that there’s a common fox-like animal in Portugal that sucks blood out of chickens at night like a vampire and the only way to stop it is to put guinea-pigs in with the chickens because they hate the sound they make?)

So I guess volunteering with animals taught me two things:

1) I actually am an animal lover, surprisingly, and would like to spend more time with them (such as pet-sitting, etc).

2) Even though the animals here were looked after very well, I don’t want to donate my time or money to zoos and/or other for-profit animal organisations.

Volunteering With Animals
(I was the crazy bird lady at work! My favourite bird was Tweety who had been raised by humans so he would always land on my shoulder whenever I entered the aviary)

That being said, I had a fabulous time and really enjoyed my experience volunteering with animals. I would definitely recommend Work Away to anyone looking to volunteer, travel and experience new things.

Have you volunteered with animals before? What are your thoughts on zoos and animal cruelty? We’d love to hear from you, leave us a comment below…
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2 thoughts on “Volunteering With Animals In Portugal

  1. I’m interested in volunteering with animals. I’ll be in Portugal from september and I would like to know where did you go to give your help. Was it an Volunteer Organisation?

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Carolina, we found ours though the workaway.info volunteering website. It was essentially a hotel designed for children with disabilities who can have holidays there and enjoy the calmness of being surrounded by animals. It was located in Moncarapacho in the Algarve near Faro

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