My first solo trip was to Costa Rica — and I was surrounded by sloths the entire time. I wasn't roaming the wild, but volunteering at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center in San José, San Miguel, Costa Rica. My main job? Feeding the many, many sloths and animals at the center.

Sometimes I was cleaning cages or helping with injuries, but the majority of my day was spent in the kitchen cutting up fresh fruit and veggies for the hungry resident sloths. Sloths weren't the only animals I fed, but they were my favorite, obviously. 

Charlotte Ross

So. Many. Sloths.

The "teen sloths" were the most fun to care for. Not only was it adorable to watch them eat slowly and climb around, but they shared an oddly similar diet to me with lots of carrots and watermelon. Which, supposedly, helps both humans and sloths reach the "perf beach bod" .

Sloths, or perezosos in Spanish, translates to "lazy bears." After watching them hang goofily from branches or sit upright to take their sweet time eating, the name seems perfectly suitable. Sloths are one of the slowest processing animals of the jungle, while being as cute and cuddly as teddy bears.

Meal Time 

In the "cocina de animales", or "animal kitchen," two to three volunteers would prepare each meal. Every day we would cut up potatoes, lettuce, green beans, carrots, watermelon, pineapple, papaya and mango to make creative combinations of the same base ingredients. It was all fresh and vibrant in color, so of course we would snag a few bites for ourselves along the way.

Charlotte Ross

When it was time to actually feed the animals, we would either discretely place the bowls next to them in their cages or tie the meals with ropes from the tree tops. I would also sneakily give an extra carrot or two to nearby sloths. Often times, they would mistake me for a branch and try to climb up my arms in search of more snacks.

Snackin' Too Hard to Care

Charlotte Ross

Ross, the two-toed sloth on the left, actually dropped his green bean in the dirt after taking this photo (but still continued to eat it, gladly). For the sloths, it didn't really matter what sort of fruit or vegetable they were given; they would chew it down eventually, even if it took an hour or they had to take a nap halfway through. It's even very common for sloths to fall asleep mid-bite while hanging upside down. 

All of the rescued animals at the center ate a wide variety of fruits and vegetables prepared by volunteers. Some, like the chickens, pigs, birds and goats, were also given a sort of pre-made grain protein. The sloths were by far the most entertaining to watch however, with their delayed delight at the food in their claws and their slow chewing. 

Want to be a Chef for Sloths?

Charlotte Ross

I found this opportunity through the volunteering organization GoEco, but there are many other traveling and volunteer companies you can look at for similar opportunities. Through my program, I lived and worked at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, where I met some of the most amazing people (and sloths) from all around the world.

Traveling on my own, speaking a new language and working with all kinds of animals helped me to discover my passions in life. My entire experience ended up being life changing for me. So yes, I would recommend you to become a personal chef for sloths, too.