Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

< Previous: Coast to Coast | Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue | Next: Cahuita >

Sloths and Snorkeling Sloth Sanctuary, Costa Rica, Wednesday, 22 January 2014 7:42pm

The reason we're on the Caribbean coast, a distant, less-traveled part of Costa Rica, is that Adrienne wanted to visit the Sloth Sanctuary. Today we went on a tour of the place. It started a little oddly, with breakfast in front of the basket of Buttercup, a three-toed sloth. I wondered why it was arranged that way, but it turned out to be a really nice way to just sit for a while and watch a sloth (slowly) waking up. Over the hour that we were sitting there, Buttercup blinked a lot, looked up and then decided to go back to sleep many times, and then finally climbed up the side of her basket and started her morning grooming (scratching with her bony claws).

After breakfast, we went on a canoe ride nearby, where we saw lots of birds, saw some sloths climbing around on trees, heard some howler monkeys, watched some fiddler crabs, and checked out some bats perched on the underside of a fallen tree.

Next, we stopped in to meet some of the permanent residents of the sanctuary: sloths too dependent on humans, or too badly injured to be returned to the wild. Some of these sloths are habituated enough to humans that we were able to pet them.

Then we were introduced to some of the juvenile sloths. One of them had to be shaved to treat an infection, and, since sloth hair grows very slowly, is wearing pajamas until her hair grows back. It's very cute.

We got to feed hibiscus flowers (a favorite treat) to some of the sloths, and got to see the "slothspital", where they treat injured or sick sloths, and the nursery, where they have incubators to keep baby sloths in the right temperature range (sloths, unlike most mammals, don't regulate their body temperature very precisely, and a baby sloth without a mother's warmth is in trouble). There was one very active baby sloth ("Danny Boy"), who seemed determined to climb out of his bin and grab onto us.

In the afternoon, we drove down to Manzanillo, which is in a nature reserve. I'd found a guide recommended on the Internet who'd agreed to take us out snorkeling and kayaking. He was very friendly, and helped Adrienne through some trepidation (she hasn't snorkeled in years, and was initially using an unfamiliar snorkel that seals off when under water, which can trigger suffocation panic if you don't know what's going on).

The reef we looked at is in terrible shape. There's some isolated living brain coral, and a few bits of stag horn coral and some sea fans, but most of the reef is dead, and covered with algae. Some of the familiar Caribbean fish were there, but many of the individuals were much smaller than I'm used to seeing. Tiny Sergeant Majors, little parrotfish, and the like. I hope there's some much better-preserved reef elsewhere in the area (this was a quick swim from the main beach in Manzanillo).

After snorkeling, we went for a sea kayaking trip, and then portaged over to a lagoon and paddled around on that for a bit. It was a pretty area, but quite close to town, and we didn't end up seeing much wildlife. On our return to the ocean, I decided to try to follow the stream out of the lagoon, rather than portaging. I, of course, ran aground, but some little girls were bicycling by, and they helped push my kayak as I paddled through the sand. After some hard work, I made it back to the Caribbean.

If it hadn't been clear before that our guide wasn't a full-time professional snorkel and kayak guide, it was made extremely obvious when he admitted that he didn't know how much his website said that this trip cost. He looked it up on his phone, and we laughed and paid him. He was definitely a nice guy, and had gone out of his way to help us.


SLOTHS! g-na (Anonymously) Friday, 24 January 2014 7:07am

I am so happy you guys went to the Sloth Sanctuary! This is definitely a time I am living vicariously through you. And you got to pet them, how wonderful!