The Sloth Institute

My Journey from Rainy England to the Rhythms of Costa Rica

By Elly King, research intern

Growing up in England, the daily soundtrack rarely featured the percussion of monkeys on the roof—ok let’s be real, it never did! Yet, for the past four months in Costa Rica, this peculiar wake-up call has become my morning norm, and it’s a new routine I wouldn’t trade for anything.

My initial encounter with the beauty of Costa Rica occurred during a family holiday in 2016. Our journey took us across the country, from the lively streets of San Jose to the tranquil sloth-spotting sessions in Sarapiqui and Tortuguero, concluding in serene moments on the pristine beaches of Guanacaste. It was during this trip that I fell in love with Costa Rica, and I returned home to England knowing I would find a way back some day.

Having closely followed The Sloth Institute, based in Tulemar Gardens, Manuel Antonio, for years through their engaging social media accounts, I discovered the opportunity of internships to join their incredible team. Excitement mingled with nerves as I embarked on a journey to a country where I didn’t speak the language, but upon arriving in Manuel Antonio, any apprehension dissipated. Lush rainforests, inviting beaches, and the warm hospitality of the locals greeted me, turning my nervousness into excitement.

Tulemar, where I am fortunate enough to reside, boasts the iconic wildlife that Costa Rica is renowned for due to their over 30 acres of rainforest habitat that ultimately connects to the national park. Bathing in nature, accompanied by a friendly gecko that calls the shower area home, and falling asleep to the rhythmic melody of nearby waves have become the rhythms of my daily life.

My involvement with The Sloth Institute has proven to be not only important but also profoundly rewarding. Spending time observing both wild and rehabilitated sloths—individuals who once arrived as orphans or due to injury—has allowed me to delve into the intricate details of their behaviours. Princess Leia, a three-fingered sloth who arrived as an orphan weighing just a few hundred grams when her mother was electrocuted to death, is one of the many sloths I spend time studying here in Manuel Antonio. For nearly two years, I tracked her story through The Sloth Institute’s social media pages. Witnessing her thrive in the wild after her release, I find it surreal—a reality I can hardly believe I’m experiencing with my own eyes. She is a poignant example of the remarkable transformations these sloths undergo and highlighting the crucial role The Sloth Institute plays in ensuring the success of their journeys. Additionally, volunteering regularly at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, a remarkable organisation based in Dominical that The Sloth Institute is currently collaborating with, has added another layer of purpose to my journey. There, I am privileged to witness the unwavering dedication of a remarkable team of veterinarians and fellow volunteers. Their tireless efforts ensure that every animal in need receives the utmost care, and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it.

Working closely with the animals I’ve adored for years has transformed this experience into the best chapter of my life. From a place of initial nervousness, I have blossomed into someone brimming with confidence. Collaborating with an extraordinary team dedicated to the welfare and conservation of Costa Rica’s diverse wildlife, not just sloths, has been the highlight of my journey. What started as a journey tinged with trepidation has evolved into an intense desire to never leave—although I’ll admit, my Spanish could use a lot more practice!