Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Honduras, Roatan (Sloths) 2016-02-22

Best. Day. Ever. Our friends John and Lisa from S/V Morningstar took the lovely Shelley and I on an excursion to cuddle some sloths. I freaking love sloths. There were lots of them in Panama, and it was really exciting when we went out in the evening to find a random sloth hanging off a tree or creeping along a power line. But they usually only come down from the trees at night, so the only pictures I have are of blurry grey shapes lurking in the darkness. Occasionally they would hide in the electrical box near the La Playita anchorage during the day, because it was much cooler in there. But for the most part we didn't really get to play with them.

It just so happens that there’s a little zoo thing near the anchorage here in Roatan. I don't do zoos. I don't like seeing animals in cages, and I don't support places that cage up animals. But I decided to give in just this once so that we could see the sloths. I don't think they’re native to Honduras, but the climate here is exactly the same as in the neighbouring countries where they're abundunt, such as Panama and Costa Rica.

I was hoping it would be more like a sanctuary than a zoo, but there were still animals in cages. We were the only ones there and it wasn’t a big place (we’d certainly never heard of it). The friendly owners were probably just looking after the animals in their backyard to start with and they figured they may as well charge tourists to see them. There were a few smaller animals in big cages (three racoons and a few of the native watusas that you see everywhere near the marina). There was also a spider monkey in a cage and another one on a long leash, which I hated. But he was on a leash so he could live in a little tree house and still hang out in the trees without running off. I didn't like it, but he seemed pretty happy playing up in the branches. Spider monkeys can be pretty aggressive if they want to be, so I doubt they would last very long running around with the people on the island. The one in the cage was very possessive of the guy showing us around - Mr monkey reached out and grabbed our guides hand, wrapping fingers around his arm and pulling him closer. The guy said that because they play with them every day and are close with them, the spider monkeys don't like anybody else taking away their attention.

John with a spider monkey. They were very different to the spider monkeys we saw in Panama

There were also capuchin monkeys. Lots of them. They were in two huge cages, with a few running wild around the place. I was trying to figure out why they didn't let more monkeys out to play, when the guys working there found us a sloth.

The sloths were just hanging out in the trees, but there was one close to the ground with a little baby clinging to her stomach. It was pretty much the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life. The baby was sooo little and sooo cute! The pair were munching on leaves together and being adorable, when a capuchin monkey came along and peeled one of her hands off the branch. Then it peeled another hand off. They move so slowly and the monkeys are so quick, it was very easy for them to just drop the sloths off the branches. When the guys yelled at it, the monkey tried to pick up the baby. It was being an absolute terror. The guys said that the monkeys loved causing trouble and that they’re always trying to drop the sloths into the water. This one in particular needed to be watched all day because of the little baby. So that's why most of the capuchins were locked up…

Our friendly guide went about finding us a sloth near the ground who wasn't trying to look after a tiny little baby. This was the one he came back with.

Shelley with our new friend

Sloths are just ridiculous! He was so chilled out and relaxed. When the guy picked him up, he pretended his arms were branches so the sloth just gripped onto his hands and was slowly moved onto us. They look so silly hanging in the air! You could tell these guys cared about the animals, which made me feel better about the whole cages situation - they showed us where to put our hands so the little guy would be supported properly, and our slothy friend was handled like a delicate baby.

John with the sloth

He seemed perfectly content to just cling onto us. He looked around every once and a while, and we we were told he was slowly trying to decide which tree he was going climb up onto once we were done. This seemed like a decision that he wasnt going to make easily… there was a lot of pondering going on in his little head. I could just picture him sitting back in an armchair slowly sipping a cup of tea and thinking about his options for the entire afternoon. He made no signs of wanting to move any time soon, and just sat there quietly.

I nearly died when it was my turn. It was like cuddling a koala bear that doesn't stink, isn't going to go to the toilet on you and has no interest in scratching your eyes out. He wrapped his arms around my neck, holding onto my back with his claws. The claws were very long but not at all sharp. I was tempted to just walk off with my cuddly little friend, and I don't think he would have minded. But I think we would have had some concerned caretakers chasing after us!

After we were done cuddling him, John placed him back onto a tree with the help of our young leader. He looked around and very slowly made his way back up into the branches, trying to find the perfect spot to hang from.

Inspecting the branch

We went to check on the baby again before we left, and I nearly died when I saw the other caretaker playing with it. Sloths only produce milk for two weeks and they only carry their babies for a few months. After that they're on their own. This one was still very small, but it was starting to look around as it gets ready to explore on its own.

I'm not sure sure if the monkeys were messing with it or if it was being returned from an exploratory mission, but the guy had it sitting on his chest. It looked so tiny next to a full grown person! It was just this little furry ball clinging to his shirt. I got the impression that they didn't handle it very often and I've never seen two boys fuss over something so carefully before. They agreed to let me hold the baby when I nearly exploded from excitement and cuteness, but I'm not sure they were very confident about it. I was given very specific instructions on how to hold it. The little thing fit right in my hand! I held my hand out to support it and it latched onto me, wrapping both legs around the bottom of my hand. It gripped on tight!

You can just see his tiny little claws clinging onto the bottom of my right hand

The boys weren't happy with that, so they detached it from me and then placed it on my shirt, where it could grip with tiny little claws. I nearly passed out from the cuteness overload.

I didn't get to play for long, because they wanted the bubba back on mum’s tummy. It's still very young and and I don't think they've really let anybody else handle it before. It wanted to go exploring along the branch, but eventually it snuggled into her fur and wrapped itself around her as much as it could. So. Cute.

We got to visit with some birds before we left, which was actually pretty cool. They had Macaws and some green parrots, both of which are native to Honduras. I think he Macaw is actually the national bird. I had no idea how big they were! We got to go in the enclosure and feed them, which was exactly like feeding a normal parrot...If the parrot was the size of a small dog and had the ability to bite off your hand along with the birdseed.

Xxx Monique

Click here for LOTS more pictures!


  1. OMG! I am SO excited to have found your blog. Monique & Garth you are living my dream life for sure. Is there an email I can send you a longer private message? My husband and I will be making our first visit to Roatan in November and based on your stories we can hardly wait. All the best,Amy & Mark amy-bennett@uiowa.edu

  2. Hi Amy! We loved Roatan, it was a really chilled out place :) Being at Fantasy Island definitely makes life easier (whether you're on the dock or anchored) because of the supermarket bus and the vege truck every week.
    My email is monique.h.williamson@Gmail.com, and we're on Facebook as SV Heartbeat. Don't hate me if I'm a bit slow to reply though! Xxx