Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition – Animal Kimgdom, Walt Disney World

September 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Posted in For the Family | 2 Comments
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When I started this blog, I promised I would post stories of places that were a good time for the entire family. Who does “family” like Disney?! While I’m not into the zoo scene, if a place has animals in captivity and are taking excelent care of them and giving them ample space to roam and be themselves all while educating the public and making positive efforts toward conservation of wildlife everywhere, well I’m all about that! Animal Kingdom itself is huge and has something for everyone – animals everywhere for the animal lovers, thrill rides like Expedition Everest, and a huge play area for the kids at DinoLandUSA. My personal favorite at this park is Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Riding Kilimanjaro Safaris is like taking a a ride through The Lion King. Disney has done en excelent job of recreating the African savannah with open grasslands, watering holes, and even fake termite mounds like you would see on an actual African safari. The ride is set yo take you through the Hambre Wildlife Reserve on a photography expidition. And so the story goes, your vehicle gets called away to help with poachers on the reserve. It can be a little bumpy at times, but it’s a ride that anyone can go on.

Some of my favorite animals on this exhibit are the King of the Jungle himself, the Lion. Their habitat is situated up at the top of some rocks and the way it’s designed makes it look like they could run right down to your vehicle if they really wanted to, adding to the authinticity. Typically rather lazy, we caught these guys up and about toward the end of the day, probably as they were getting ready to have dinner and go in for the night.

The Elephants are a big part of this attraction, and the storyline behind the poachers. When I went last year, they had a rather new baby, who I’m assuming is that same baby in the top picture but a little more grown up. They are absolutely adorable! We watched the baby pushing on a palm tree and then watched as a bigger one came over to show him how it was done. How that palm tree didn’t snap in half from the force of an elephant shoving on it is beyond me, it was sure shaking like it was going to. After the tree shoving lesson, they “held trunks” and it was honestly the sweetest thing I had seen all day.

Some of the other animals on the safari you can admire from a safe distance ate the Hippo’s and Crocs. Again, their habitats are designed to keep them from running over and sitting on your lap, but you’d never know with the way it looks. It really is a great way to safely admire animals that are typically not known for being super friendly.

Of course, other areas of the journey offer a much more up close and personal experience. While these are living creatures with minds of their own and it’s never guaranteed that every animal will end up right next to your vehicle, typically you can get a glimpse of all sorts of animals in the grasslands. You’ll encounted animals like giraffes, wildebeest, antelope, ostrich, and many others, often times within just yards of where you’re sitting. The tour guides try their hardest to make sure you get the best viewing possible. Be quick with your camera, you never know what they’re going to do!

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

OF YOU GO:

I cannot emphasize this point enough… if you go on a day that seems even somewhat busy, get your Fastpass for this ride! The lines can be, well, about as wild as the ride itself. Also, set your camera to “action” if you have the setting for it so if an animal takes off or you’re trying to take a picture during a bumpy part of the ride you don’t end up with a big blob of a photo.  For the best animal action, try to go first thing in the morning or very late in the day (we wen’t right before closing). The animals are awake, feeding, and active during the cooler parts of the day, usually suring the mid heat of the day they’re hiding out in the shade and taking a nap.

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/animal-kingdom/attractions/kilimanjaro-safaris/

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That’s The Spot! Or Stripe… Just Keep Scratching!

September 27, 2012 at 3:35 am | Posted in For the Family, One Shot Wonders | Leave a comment
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There’s nothing like a good friend to scratch that spot you just can’t reach! Or, in a zebra’s case, that stripe you just can’t reach. On a recent outing to Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach, my friend, myself, and out kids had a great time beating the Florida heat by enjoying all the wild animals from the comfort of our car in the drive through safari. 4 miles of wild animals! The zebra’s were some of our favorites with their playful antics and sweetness amongst each other. Seriously, how adorable are these two?

Pretty In Pink, The Roseate Spoonbill

September 27, 2012 at 2:35 am | Posted in Creature Feature | Leave a comment
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It’s not every day I see a beautiful pink bird, but every so often Mother Nature is kind enough to surprise me with the presence of a Roseate Spoonbill. I’ve seen them most flying over the Everglades while driving across Alligator Alley, and on occasion I’ve seen them at Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach, but this one in particular I happened upon in Loxahatchee.

 

Often confused with a Flamingo, the Roseate Spoonbill is smaller than it’s pink cousin with a distinctive spoon shaped beak. (Hey, is that how they get their name?!) They get their pink pigment the same way Flamingo’s do, through their diet. Once hunted to near extinction in the 1800’s for their beautiful pink plumes, the Spoonbill population is on the rise thanks to the protection it recieved while on The Endangered Species List. Though it has been removed from the Federal list, it is still considered a speciec of concern in Florida. Habitat loss is it’s biggest threat now. This delicate bird is also a great indication of the health of the environment it lives in. I can only hope that the more often I see the uncommon bird, the better the environment is doing, and that there is a chance out children can enjoy creatures like this for years to come.

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

This Otter be interesting…

September 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Creature Feature | Leave a comment
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Oh, Boca Raton – famous for your riches, snobby residents, and otters?  Well, a few years ago it was anyway when a rabid otter was wreaking havoc in the Western suburbs of Boca, attacking joggers, dogs, and a teenage boy who captured it on video who quickly became the butt of jokes by shows like George Lopez and Tosh.0 not because of the attack but because of his ability to scream like an 8 year old girl.  Luckily for the residents of Boca that otter is gone and times are back to normal.  But that doesn’t mean the otters are gone from Boca!

I was driving down Lyons Rd. (for those of you familiar with the area) when I was something in someones backyard that looked like a disoriented duck that had flown into a building.  As I passed it, I realized that it wasn’t a dizzy duck, but an otter in somebody’s backward, flopping around, cleaning himself, and playing. I quickly popped a u-turn, put on Finding Nemo for my son, and pulled off to the side of the road like a crazy person to take it’s picture.  Of course all it takes is someone seeing someone else with a camera, I quickly had attracted an Otter Paparazzi.  We stood around watching and taking his picture as he ignore our presence bu playing with blades of grass and grooming himself.  He was adorable and put on a great show.  In my 27 years down here, this was only the 2nd otter I have seen in Boca, and I hope to see them more frequently.  I keep checking where I saw him last, but no such luck… yet…

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Feeding Time at Deerfield Beach

September 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Endangered Encounters, The Wild Side | 2 Comments
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It had been a while since I had gone snorkeling, so I headed out to good ol’ reliable Deerfield Beach with my friend and her sister to see what was happening at the reef.  We had no idea how exciting this impromptu snorkel adventure was going to be!

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I’ll be honest – it started out less than stellar.  Ever since the first row of reef has been covered by sand from storms, the sea life seems a little less adundant.  It was starting to look a little bit like a reef ghost town by the time we reached the front of the reef.  We quickly learned to head to the back side of the row of reef and you’ll find more activity.  We headed South, as usual, to where the sea turtles usually hang.

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The back side of the (was 2nd row) now first row is full of colorful fish and is more or less like a nursery.  You’ll find juvenile Sgt. Majors, Tangs and Surgeonfish, Triggers, Puffers, Parrot Fish, and Wrasses as well as smaller fish like Coco Damsels and Blennies.  They’re always out and about feeding and they’re not usually terribly shy.

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Amongst the least shy of them all are the young French Angelfish that call this reef home.  What seems to be a “friendly” personality of them swimming right out to you is actually them standing their ground and letting you know thei is their home and they’re not looking for a room mate, but they’re far from aggressive (with people, anyway) and as long as you’re respectful of them they’ll put on a great show for you and happily “smile” for a photo.

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I highly recommend taking a deep breath, diving down, and getting a closer look at things.  Otherwise you might miss something cool like this Scorpion Fish, who looked like part of the rock until I was about a foot away from him.  If you’re snorkeling, diving down gives you a great chance to see a lot of different things that you wouldn’t see from the top.  On the same note, if you decide to go in for that closer look, DON’T grab on to anything to hold yourself down.  Aside from the damage you could do to the reef and anything alive that you might accidentaly touch, it’s very easy to cut yourself or get stung by something living on the rock.  Also, trust me when I tell you, you don’t want to ever grab a big handful of Scorpion Fish as certain species can pack a nasty venomous punch.

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It was at the time that we were admiring a rock covered in colorful fish, including the Scorpion Fish, that I had the feeling we were being watched.  There’s nothing creepier than feeling eyes on you out in the ocean, or at least there’s not when you were watching Shark Week an hour before being in the water.  I turned to my right to find this adorable Sea Turtle who appeared to be fish watching with us.  It seemed to be more than happy to be in our presence.

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We were clearly too busy admiring the Sea Turtle to even notice what we had swam into… that is, until we saw it taking a big bite out of a Jellyfish.  We looked around and realized that we had swam into a mini swarm of jellies!  That quickly explained why the little Sea Turtle wasn’t in a rush to leave, we had accidentaly stumbled into its buffet.  Normally, panic would have kicked in, but considering we hadn’t been stung yet (and with my luck, if anyone was going to get stung, it would have been me) so we hung out and quietly cheered him on as he demolished jellyfish after jellyfish.

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This had turned out to be the coolest Sea Turtle encounter we had ever had!  After feeding, he swam amongst us as if we belonged in the same world.  He even approached my friends brightly colored fins like he was going to touch them.  As we had learned in SCUBA classes, brightly colored air tank boots often attract Sea Turtles, so we joked that this little guy must have had a crush on her fins.  We could have stayed out there forever, except now we were starting to feel the jellyfish!

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IF YOU GO:

The reef structure at Deerfield is much different than it was before a year ago, you have to swim out further to get to the reef.  It is now more important than ever to make sure you have a dive flag!  Sure, lifeguards will alert boats coming too close to shore, but boats don’t always hear or pay attention.  It’s for your own safety!  Also, as always, while you can come in to shore from anywhere, you must go out to the reef from the private stretch of beach.  If you’re looking for the turtles, go out there and swim South.  That is where I find them every time!  JUST REMEMBER – Sea Turtles are ENDANGERED and federally protected.  While it goes without saying to respect ALL the sea life you encounter, be mindful of these guys.  While photographing this turtle there was no chasing or touching happening, he was with us on his own and if he swam away that would have been it.  The best thing to do is let them be and remember you’re a guest in their world… this typically leads to humans seeming less threatening and a better viewing of wildlife.

Have fun and enjoy!

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