As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m verrrrrrry picky about animal encounters, and as I learn more and more, I’m becoming increasingly critical. With the availability of information and reviews online, there is just no reason to frequent an exploitative inhumane tourist trap. I’m especially skeptical of attractions with animals in captivity or experiences in which the animals are made to perform or interact with humans, and you should be skeptical, too. Please do your research!
All of that said, I have only great things to report back about Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout in Roatan, Honduras! As soon as I heard about the opportunity to hold a sloth, I instantly started doing research to see what I could find out about this rescue sanctuary in French Harbour. I was pleasantly surprised to read good reviews, so Chris and I decided to check it out on our trip.
We specifically chose a day in which no cruise ships would be in port. (To get the cruise ship schedule information, just search the port name and “port schedule” and you can usually find a calendar online.) Only a couple of other guests were visiting the same time we were there, so we were treated to immediate entry with no wait, and we met a sloth named Patricia first thing!
The animals in the sanctuary are all rescue animals that were previously kept as pets, with the exception of some animals that were born in the sanctuary. Patricia seemed happy and relaxed, and our guide explained that the staff monitors and rotates the animals to ensure that they are never agitated or stressed out from being handled. Additionally, if none of the animals are in the mood to be held, then none of the animals will be forced to interact, so this does mean that it’s possible that a guest won’t be able to hold a sloth on any given day. I wholeheartedly approve of this policy!
We lucked out with super sweet Patricia, who didn’t seem to mind a quick snuggle. Our guide instructed us to remain still like a tree, and he very gently placed Patricia in our arms. She willingly hung on and chilled with both of us. It was such a cool experience!
This is Syd, who we found at ground-level one moment (they have some freedom to roam)…
…and then spotted again overhead not too long after! I learned that sloths are quicker than I previously thought.
After observing a raccoon and a coati too high up to photograph, we headed over to the monkey enclosures. We waited patiently as the guests ahead of us visited with a couple of capuchin monkeys, since only a couple of people are allowed inside at once. When it was our turn, I politely declined to enter since we were planning to go out to lunch afterward (and I don’t know if it happens often, but with my luck I would have been peed on). Chris bravely took the risk and met a playful monkey named Pauly D. I took photos and video from the other side of the wires, and I’m happy to report that Chris was not a pee victim.
Lastly, we visited some incredibly gorgeous Scarlet Macaws and parrots. While I don’t know much about sloths or monkeys, I do know a bit about birds and I can attest that they all seemed perfectly healthy and happy. Their aviary was clean and spacious, like all of the other enclosures in the sanctuary. The parrots were brightly colored with smooth feathers, relaxed and friendly, and free from signs of distress.
Based on what I could gather from research and my own visit, this sanctuary definitely gets my stamp of approval. The establishment seemed humane and ethical, impeccably clean, and the animals are well cared-for by knowledgeable, devoted staff. I’m curious about how the place feels on a busy cruise ship day in high season, but I suspect the caring staff are able to manage the crowds and keep the animals’ best interests at heart. I’m comfortable recommending a visit to this unique experience! We drove ourselves from the east end and purchased tickets at the entrance for $10 each, but this excursion is often included in various tour packages on the island and through the cruise ships.
After our tour through the Hangout, Chris and I headed to a nearby restaurant in the French Harbour for lunch. I hope it’s not totally weird that I got a little soapbox-y about my concern for animal ethics and now I’m showing you that we went to town on some ceviche, King Crab, and coconut shrimp. Our lunch at Gio’s was so fantastic, albeit a bit pricey. We ate fairly modestly throughout the week, so this was our last-day-of-vacation splurge. This was actually my first time trying King Crab and it did not disappoint!
Up next on the blog: tales of my first time bringing a drone into another country!