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  • Kate Bevington

Meet the Sloths!

Very few experiences compare to seeing wild animals in their natural habitats, especially our most revered mammals. If your bucket list includes an up-close-and-personal encounter with the adorable, arboreal sloth, a guided tour at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica will likely be a life-changing adventure.

We set out from the Port of Limon and on the 35 minute bus ride we had our first glimpse — a large, male sloth perched high above us in a Cottonwood treetop. A wild sloth! Our excitement grew as our guide pointed out several other animals along the way: families of howler monkeys, various birds, iguanas, and a curious coati.

At the sanctuary, you can go “behind the scenes” to the NICU/Nursery and hear the sloths’ special rescue stories from the knowledgeable and passionate staff. We had the pleasure of spending much of the afternoon with Judy — the founder and “sloth-mom” to hundreds of orphaned and injured sloths that she and her team have rescued over the past 30 years. The refuge continues to be family owned and operated.

Throughout the tour, you’ll learn about the sloths’ history, different species, characteristics, intriguing behaviors, diet, and the perils that sloths face in the rainforest. The rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release of sloths is emphasized as well as the conservation of the natural inhabitants of the Costa Rican rainforest.

To more fully experience the indigenous flora and fauna of the sloths' natural habitat, you can take a guided canoe expedition along the Estrella River. We spotted a nestled sloth just a few feet away from our boat in addition to several birds, small crabs, iguanas, and monkeys.

The clear highlight of our visit though was our time spent observing the baby sloths as they climbed their “jungle gym” and enjoyed their favorite treat, a hibiscus flower. Overwhelmed with their unbearable cuteness, we watched them in awe and took numerous photographs as they slowly moved about and interacted with each other.

Don’t hurry, slow is beautiful! There is ample time to visit, meet the sloths, ask questions, be inspired by the knowledge of the dedicated caretakers, and, of course, take as many photographs as you can! Even the most enthusiastic animal lover will likely gain a new appreciation of the amazing, adorable sloth!

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