In 2012 I was lucky to be accepted as the "artist in residence" at the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, also known as Aviarios Del Caribe. My primary goal was to take photos of the sloths, as I had never seen one in the wild or at a zoo, and was curious to find out what they were like.
As a professional pet photographer, I was also curious to see how my pictures would turn out! I traveled to the sanctuary from the capitol city of San Jose, which is about a five hour trip via car, and was met with a massive sign with a sloth on it, and when I first walked upstairs I was greeted by none other than Buttercup, the original sloth and famous Internet meme.
She was resting in her basket chair just like I'd seen online, and when I approached she reached her hands towards me. I didn't know what to do, so I reached my hands towards hers, not sure if I was violating a sanctuary policy or not. Luckily, the Sanctuary's owner, Judy Arroyo, was nearby, and assured me it was okay. Buttercup took hold of my hands gently, and as I looked into her eyes I knew immediately these are gentle, curious animals, and I was overwhelmed to have been able to touch one.
The sanctuary has since discontinued its visitor and artist in residence program in order to focus its energies full-time on the sloths in its care, so I was extremely lucky to be able to experience the sloths up close like I did.
Overall it was an amazing trip, and Judy and the rest of the staff were extremely hospitable. I'd love to go back someday, and the sanctuary offers tours and lodging if you want to experience the sloths for yourself. I highly recommend it! - josh