What’s better than a baby sloth? A basket full of baby sloths! This is a lame attempt at humour but the fun we had in Puerto Viejo was no joke. Fresh air and furry friends, life doesn’t get much better.
Everything in Costa Rica is expensive so we decided to make a couple of tactical stops to break up the trip, but mostly we were just passing through. Puerto Viejo is a small beach town on the caribbean coast, just across the Panamanian border and is a little backpacker hotspot. Most people speak English as well as Spanish and the streets are filled with gringos on $5 per day pushbikes. This is quite simply because the beaches all along the coast on either side of the town are perfectly explored by pedal power. The waves are great and while you can take your pick between white or black sand, the water only comes clear and warm.
The Jaguar Rescue Centre was an absolute highlight and we met some new friends that will be hard to forget. Like Yoda the howler monkey who wraps himself in a blanket like a little ewok and rocks backwards and forwards when he is nervous. This poor little guy is permanently scarred from his previous life on a chain. When he gets a burst of confidence he will stand up and push out his bottom lip and his stomach to show that he wants to be friends, he generally prefers this gesture to be returned to show you’re down with the Yoda speak. Our guide was a sassy young Aussie vet who had great passion and a wealth of knowledge. She explained that the monkeys are kept in the centre until they are well enough to be taken out to the rehab forest during the day. The monkeys are taken out and play in the wild under the supervision of the volunteers until it’s time to go home. They are all very obedient in coming back, until they don’t want to anymore, and then it’s time for them to be free. This method works really well but unfortunately Yoda is one of the many residents who may never be released back into the wild. Even though he is showing positive signs of slow rehabilitation, he is very damaged and insecure and may not ever survive in the wild.
The most popular guests at the inn are certainly the sleepy old sloths. Sadly they are the most common animal to be dropped off and usually arrive as orphaned babies who have lost their parents, or as adults who have been electrocuted or attacked by dogs. The volunteers working here are all very dedicated and respectful of the animals, they don’t touch the sloths with their hands due to the oils of our skin effecting their fur biology. And like the monkeys the sloths are all moving slowly towards release (excuse the pun).
Another of the residents to tug at me ol’ heart strings was the croc. He had been rescued from the local bar “Hungry Mon” where he was tied out the front with barbed wire after being poached from the wild. The man who’d hunted him was cruelly boasting about his prize and beating him with an iron bar. Someone called it in and he was rescued and brought to the centre and nursed back to health. Unfortunately it’s now a tough job to release a big croc who associates humans with food and only has one eye, so they are still searching for an answer to this logistical nightmare.
The Jaguar Rescue Centre also gets jungle cats, hence the name. Their efforts to rehab and release these guys has now been taken to the next level with GPS trackers to tag and trace the kitties who are released to make sure they go on to lead successful and happy lives in the wild. Unfortunately one of the spotted cats just refuses to leave, he has been released twice but keeps attacking local chickens before breaking back into the centre with his eyes on the other guests as food. So he will be a permanent resident and is currently being built a larger enclosure so his remaining days will be more comfortable.
We biked the 7kms out to make the 9am tour, I was surprised to see the huge line of visitors but they split everyone up according to language and ran groups of 12 people which seemed to work well. The tour cost $20usd, but after seeing the amazing job the volunteers do and how well the animals are treated I would highly recommend a visit! Also, if you want overloads of cute on your Insta check out their page here
The other things we did in Puerto Veijo? Just chilled on the beach with a couple of rums, ate pizza and sang karaoke at the Hot Rocks bar… We also may have bought fireworks. DISCLAIMER: All of these things in one day may lead to bad judgement so be careful out there. Fireworks are a lot of fun can be painful when handled irresponsibly.
ALL PHOTOS CREDIT TO SHAYNA ROBB