Palm Beach Zoo

March 21, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Posted in For the Family | Leave a comment
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Another beautiful South Florida day means another perfect day at the zoo.  I know what you’re thinking.  “This girl goes to the zoo a lot!”  OK, guilty, I do.  I happen to live an hour or less from 3 great zoos and I have a 2 year old son, of course I do!  Plus, with annual passes, why not!  This AZA accredited zoo is a great place to spend just a few hours or the entire day. During the summer time I can promise you won’t see so many trips to the zoo.  But that’s not what this post is about, we’re here to talk about the animals we saw!

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The first direction we always head when entering this zoo is to the left.  Call it habit.  We love to see some of the zoos larger reptiles, including Mardi, the zoo’s White Alligator.  Seeing him is always very cool… My son loves alligators and this is one you’re able to see quite close, I always find myself amazed that Mardi is one of only 10 White Alligators in the world (truly white, not albino, they have blue eyes), making him an incredibly rare sight!

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There are a lot of other adorable and entertaining animals as you make your way into the zoo.  You’ll come across animals from the slow Sloth to two breeds of quick little Tamarins, colorful Macaws, and the always playful Ocelots.  Today the Ocelots we playing with whatever was nearby, chewing on bundles of plant debris and ambushing each other and they moved around their enclosure.

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In the Australian area of the zoo you’ll find some of coolest and cutest Aussie animals out there.  The New Guinea Singing Dogs aren’t always super active, but today we got lucky!  The pair actually approached the fence, tails wagging, and actually seemed genuinely interested in visitors.  The kids loved that they were able to get so close and the dogs even licked their hands through the safety of the fence, we even got to hear one “sing”.  You’ll also see Wallaby’s and Australian water fowl when you enter their habitat, being separated by a mere gate on the boardwalk.  The Australian Birds habitat features some of the islands famous feather species.  On this particularly cool day we watched at the Red Kangaroo did absolutely nothing.  Sounds exciting, right?  It was actually quite adorable, it laid itself out in the sun as if it were a tourist laying out at the beach.  And of course, the Australian Exhibits main focal, Oz and Abby the Koalas.  Palm Beach Zoo was chosen by the AZA to participate in the Koala Species Survival Plan, recieving this adorable pair in hopes that they will reproduce.  Their enclosure is fronted with glass, allowing people to get a close look at these precious little marsupials, and hopefully leaving them with a lasting impression to care and take action toward Koala conservation.

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The Asian area of the zoo has a good selection of critters from Asia, including the Howler Monkey who’s yells are rivaled only by my son and a walk through Asian Bird aviary with colorful birds from the continent.  The big feature of this area is obviously Asia’s famous big cats, the Tigers.  This May, Tiger Cubs Jaya, Bunga, and Penari will be celebrating their 2nd birthday.  Their births at the Palm Beach Zoo was a huge success for their breeding program and the zoo deserves a high five for taking such great care and ensuring the success of their program of this critically endangered species.  With any luck, they will continue with their success!

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Over in the Tropics of the Americas display you’ll find some wonderful animals from Central and South America.  Here you can see the beautiful resident Jaguar, check out the Nocturnal Animal Observation, and kids can take their pictures on structures in the Mayan Plaza.  When you cross the bridge you may catch a glimpse of Tapir’s swimming in the water and Patagonian Cavy’s lounging around.  Also be on the look out for Delilah, the zoos baby Giant Anteater.  Look carefully, that adult Anteater doesn’t have a hunched back, that’s actually little Baby Delilah hanging on her mothers back.

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Heading along our way, we walked past the Spider and Capuchin Monkey Islands.  The sight on the Spider Monkey Island stopped me (and everyone else) in my tracks… a little bitty baby hanging on its mother.  It was too cute for words!  I watched as Momma Monkey climbed down the tree and over to the water to grab herself a drink.  Just as I thought for sure there was no way possible the sight could get any more adorable I was proven wrong.  Anyone who argues that animals don’t have emotional feelings needed to see the precious moment we watched.  Momma Monkey walked over to another monkey sitting alone and they threw their arms around each other and embraced in a monkey hug.  It was a moment I almost missed capturing on film because I was too busy “Awwwwwww”ing the precious moment between these two friends.

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Our last stop at the zoo was the Florida Wetlands area.  Here you can see on display our very own wildlife found here in Florida.  There is an aviary with Roseate Spoonbills and Scarlet Ibis, a pair of beautiful Bald Eagles, an Alligator display, and Florida Black Bears just to name a few.  A favorite of so many, including my son now and myself as a kid (and admittingly now) is the River Otter display where you can watch Otters swim and play and glide by you.  They seem to love an audience, even pressing against the glass when people gather to watch them.

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Naturally, no Florida display would be complete without the Florida Panther.  This endangered cat’s population is dangerously low in the wild with only around 100 cats remaining, though this is a serious improvement from the estimated 30 in the early 90’s.  Last march the zoo lost their Panther of 17 years, Colin Patrick, but were fortunate enough to add two new cats over the summer, both orphaned rescues.  The two here at Palm Beach Zoo are still considered kittens, and boy were they acting like it today! They were pouncing at each other, chasing one another, and climbing everything in their enclosures.  In case you’re looking at one of the above photos and thinking “Why is there trash in their enclosure?”, it’s not.  The cardboard box is part of the zoos enrichment program, giving the animals safe objects to play with they they don’t usually have within their enclosure, providing physical and mental exercise. They seemed to love it and be enjoying life.

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IF YOU GO:

This is a great zoo to visit and time of year.  During the summer it is well shaded and has a fountain the kids can play in.  They also offer special events throughout the year after regular hours like overnights and nighttime parties as well as birthday parties and weddings.  For more information, visit them here…

http://palmbeachzoo.org/

Welcome Spring 2013

March 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Posted in For the Family, Furry, Feathered, Finned (and Scaley) Friends | Leave a comment
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It’s official, Spring is here!  So because I still have a good half a dozen stories to write, instead of babbling on here, I welcome Spring by giving you photo’s of adorable baby animals to gawk at.  Enjoy!

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Tortuga Music Festival is Coming Soon to Ft. Lauderdale!

March 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Animal Events, Breaking Tradition, For the Family | 3 Comments
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It’s almost here!  In just over one short month, Ft. Lauderdale Beach will be taken over by the wonderful music of artists such as Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Jake Owen, Michael Franti & Speahead… and so very many others that you’ll just have to look at the photo above to get an idea.  And more artists are still joining in!  All for an awesome cause – to help save out oceans!

The Tortuga Music Festival, brought to you by Rock The Ocean and benefiting the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, is a weekend long music festival to help out our oceans, presented by Landshark Lager. (Thank you Jimmy Buffett, feel free to drop on in!)  Think it’s not a big deal?  Flashback to geography class and remember that 3/4 of our planet is ocean.  That’s a big part of our world, and considering how much they provide all of us with, the big blue sea is something everyone needs to care about.

So come on down, catch some amazing music and eat some fantastic food to your hearts content, all while helping support the cause – to help raise awareness and educate folks on marine conservation and supporting a sustainable ocean.  I’ll be there, son (and sun) on my shoulders, rockin out!  And don’t forget your Guy Harvey shirt!

IF YOU GO:

You can learn more about the festival, purchase tickets, sign up and join the loyalty program for a chance to win tickets and other exciting prizes (wanna to snorkeling with Gloriana?), or even donate to the cause here…

http://www.tortugamusicfestival.com/

Learn more about Rock The Ocean and see if they’ll be having an event near you here…

http://rocktheocean.com/

And learn more about the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation here…

http://www.guyharvey.com/our-mission/

Hope to see you all out there!

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Sea Turtle Day

February 28, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Posted in Animal Events, Endangered Encounters, For the Family | Leave a comment
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Here we are, the last day of February.  Spring is just around the corner!  The month of March begins tomorrow, and what an important month it is!  Obviously I’m talking about my birthday being in March, next week I turn… ummm… you know what, let’s talk about what else is happening in March.  St. Patricks Day!  Also a big deal to me personally, but the subject’s I write about here aren’t really into green beer.  If you’re near the coast you probably already know that March 1st is the official kick off to Sea Turtle Season!  Soon enough Leatherback Sea Turtles will be making their way to shores and laying their eggs, followed by other species later in the season.  Welcoming Sea Turtle Season in a big way is Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, FL, celebrating it’s 8th Annual Sea Turtle Day this Saturday, March 2nd.

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If you’re in the area, be sure not to miss this wonderful event.  It’s a great family day – there will be face painting, crafts for kids, guided tours, animal presentations, and so much more, all to benefit our friend the Sea Turtle and raise awareness about the harm that light pollution causes this endangered species.  Come out for the day with the kids and check out some of the patients in the turtle hospital, animals who were sick or injured, rescues, and are now being rehabilitated until they are able to be released back into the big blue.

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While you’re here you can also learn about FAU’s research and what they’re doing to help the Sea Turtle survive.  You can pop inside one of the labs and see young Turtles of several species under the care of the research team.  Come late turtle season, this facility will be filled with new hatchlings, gaining size and strength before being released into the ocean.  You can also learn about the centers Sea Turtle Walks, night time walks to hopefully catch a glimpse of the amazing sight of a mother Sea Turtle coming ashore to lay her eggs, and Hatchling Releases, the adorable sight of watching little ones that were under the care of Gumbo Limbo scurry into the ocean, their home for hopefully the next 100+ years.

So head on out, enjoy the day!  Sadly, I will not be able to attend, so enjoy it for me! (I will be taking advantage of one last cool weekend in Homosassa Springs to see the Manatee’s before Manatee Season comes to an end at the end of March)  If you go, let me know how it was!

For more information on Sea Turtle Day, or Sea Turtles in General, please visit here…

http://www.gumbolimbo.org/Sea-Turtle-Day-2013

Whistling Ducks, Wood Storks, and Wee Ones at Wakodahatchee

February 23, 2013 at 4:01 am | Posted in For the Family, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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For as close as Wakodahatchee is to me, I don’t visit nearly enough.  Green Cay is my staple for wildlife walks, but after about a dozen text messages from a fellow bird-nerd friend about her wonderful visits to Wakodahatchee in Delray Beach I decided it was time to visit and see all the nesting birds and hatching babies.

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I’m a believer in first impressions.  When I pulled into the parking lot cars were EVERYWHERE, even parked along the road and in places what didn’t look like they could be converted into parking spaces, but creative drivers managed to make it work.  I couldn’t help but think that something had to be going on today.  As soon as I hit the boardwalk, I saw this Black Crowned Night Heron hanging in the tree where he usually sits.  First bird impressions are a good sign, and I knew if I was already seeing something like this shy bird that it was going to be a good day.

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Shortly after heading up the boardwalk I was surprised by the sight of 5 adorable Black Bellied Whistling Ducks.  Every so often I might be lucky enough to see a pair, but not usually 5 together.  This was already the hilight of my day, I love their adorable “quack” that sounds more like peeping or a whistle. (Hence the name.)  After I was done gawking at them I continued up the boardwalk and saw 3 more.  And then more, and more after that.  All together that day I saw at least 25 Whistling Ducks!  For this bird nerd, that was an exciting day!

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In between all of the Whistling Ducks were some of my other favorite birds as well.  There were quite a few Blue Winged Teals, a Purple Gallinule, several Green Herons, and plenty others that I’ll get to in a little bit…

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As usual, it wasn’t just about the birds either.  There was a rather large Alligator on the same tree that I always see one sunning itself on. (And if this was the same one I used to see last year, holy smokes did it get big!)  Turtles were all over as they usually are here.  Even fish were making themselves seen, like this school of Tilapia that was hanging directly next to the boardwalk, undoubtedly waiting for someone to drop something at least partially edible in the water.

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If there’s one thing Wakodahatchee never seems to lack, it’s nesting birds.  There are several islands here that serve as home to nesting birds of all kinds – Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets in their impressive breeding plumage, Wood Storks, Anhingas, and Cormorants and some of the most popular families you’ll see hanging in the branches and tending to their nests.  Nearly everywhere I turned birds were arranging their nests, building nests, warming their eggs, and taking it easy before the arrival of their little ones.

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Not all birds were peacefully relaxing, some of them already had little beaks to feed and were working hard to care for their noisy little offspring.  There were little white fuzzy baby Anhingas all over and some of the Great Blue Herons already had little ones as well.  Now I don’t speak bird, but I’m pretty sure I could hear the bird term for “Feed me!” ringing out across the wetlands.  Noisy as they are, they’re adorable, and I will make sure I’m back sooner than later to see them grow and see who else is hatching.

Babies On Safari!

January 24, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Posted in For the Family | Leave a comment
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It was a beautiful January day here in Florida.  My friend and I decided to take our kids to Lion Country Safari and take advantage of the “cool” 68* weather we were having.  Turns out, we weren’t the only ones with babies by our sides.  Forget spring, it seems winter is prime baby time!  I’m excited to share this one, one of my cutest stories!

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Babies were present in the very first section of the drive through.  Lion Country Safari is home to a population of Brown Pelicans, all injured wild birds deemed unreleasable due to injuries.  They have made themselves quite a home here and are even bringing in the next generation of pelicans.  I’ve never seen a pelican this young before, and while many baby birds have a face only a mother could love, these kids were quite adorable all covered in fuzzy down feathers.

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Further in to the drive, we saw lots of babies along the way, grazing or resting with their parents.  We saw Greater Kudu and Impala little ones, resting Water Buck, and adorable tiny Blackbuck’s that looked like they were actually smaller than my dog.  The Blackbuck’s were actually quite well hidden, laying down in high grass, and we didn’t see them until the herd of bullying Nilgai began chasing them away.  While the mother in us got mad at them for picking on creatures smaller than they were, it was nice of them to help us see what was hiding in the grass.

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One of my favorites on the safari is always the Rhino’s.  This baby is probably almost 2 years old now, but I still love seeing it’s sweet little face!  Always close to mom, it’s been fun watching him grow during my trips throughout time.

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The babies were getting increasingly more adorable as we drove along.  Soon we were upon a herd of Zebra’s.  There were two precious little fuzzy babies that we saw within the herd.  The one above was just too much!  He had been nursing from his mother, became quite tired, let out a huge yawn, and decided to crash to the ground to rest.  He then realized he was still hungry and slowly grazed in style.  We thought that it wasn’t going to get much cuter than this.  Until we came across the Giraffes…

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The highlight of adorableness on this trip was, without a doubt, this little girl.  Born not even 48 hours before our visit, in front of people driving through the safari on Monday, was a brand new baby girl Giraffe, basking in the sun.  We plotted to bring her home, clearly this itty bitty could fit in the car!  She’s another one I’m looking forward to watch grow.

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Stay tuned for future posts on these little ones growing up, and hopefully more babies as well!  For my full scoop on Lion Country Safari, see my previous post here…

https://wild4creatures.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/lion-country-safari-west-palm-beach-fl/

Return to the Crystal River

January 16, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Endangered Encounters, For the Family, The Wild Side | 2 Comments
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It had been just over a year since the last time I found myself in Homosassa Springs and I couldn’t wait to get back!  So in December, what started with just my two cousins and I wanting to see manatees from their world, turned into a much larger family trip of 12 of us. I had such a wonderful experience the year before, I wanted to make sure my family had the same great time.  And who do you trust with a dozen of your craziest relatives?  None other than Captain Glenn and River Ventures!  Once again, from the minute I had booked months in advance, the folks at River Ventures were awesome… making reservations was easy as could be, changing the reservations when more people wanted to come was just as easy, changing the reservations once again because we don’t do anything organized the first two times was not a problem either, and finally the day of was a breeze.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to coordinate 12 people ages 12 to, well, I won’t say the oldest age because I’ll be in trouble for announcing that on the internet… but they managed with ease.  I’ll tell you from being related to my group, that is no easy task!

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It was a chilly December morning, around 37*.  Steam was coming off the water from it being about 35* warmer and my family was shooting me looks of “Are you kidding me right now?!”  They had no idea what they were in for.  The chill in the air reminded me of how cold I got last time, though I wasn’t about to tell that to my sleepy mob.  Unlike last time, when, having visited just before official “manatee season”, the manatee sanctuary zones were up, a “human-free” area where manatees can hang away from people.

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Manatees and exhausted humans weren’t the only ones out early this morning.  There is a variety of wildlife in the area, including many kinds of birds, otter, even the occasional dolphin.  We were greeted at Three Sisters Springs by the sounds of singing birds, a Great Blue Heron hunting in the mist, and an Osprey that had just come in for a landing.  Of course, we were also greeted by the sound of manatees surfacing for air.

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Shortly after anchoring, the red carpet was rolled out and we had a welcoming committee playing with the ladder.  Everyone carefully entered the water, doing our best not do disturb our playful little manatee friend.  The warmer water was almost welcome… after the shock of water touching everyone anyway.  I waited back as my family slipped into the water one by one, ready to hand out floating noodles to those who decided last minute that they needed one.  Finally, after a little bit of madness and confusion what comes standard in my families DNA, we were all in the water and off to meet some new friends.

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To say that manatees were everywhere isn’t an exaggeration, they really were.  There were points in time where I was getting bumped from different directions by passing manatees… apparently I’m not much of a road block for a 2,000lb animal, which thinking about it as I write this makes me worry less about eating healthy today.  We headed toward the entrance to Three Sisters Springs slowly but steadily, admiring the many manatees as we passed.  Some were resting, some were feeding, some were playing; it was impossible to keep track of them all.  I spent half my time observing the manatees and the other half observing my family, all of whom seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

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The Springs were quite busy this morning, there were several tour boats, kayakers, and people on their own boats.  Naturally the more people you have in a crowd the more likely someone is not to listen.  I can proudly say I am actually NOT speaking about anyone in my family!  There was a couple on their own boat who, despite Captain Glenn warning them where they were headed and why they shouldn’t go there, managed to startle sleeping manatees.  The ones they startled went into a panic and ran into others, who did the same, and you can imagine the chain of events – a manatee stampede.  The splashing picture above doesn’t do the actual event justice, it was pure madness for a few seconds, and afterward there were manatees covered in sand like the one pictured above from the ground being kicked up.  Lesson of the day – Always listen to Captain Glenn!

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After the manatee rodeo, we headed into Three Sisters Springs to see if anyone was hanging out inside.  The current was quite strong getting inside!  The kayakers that were heading in to check out the beauty of the springs didn’t seem to be having as much trouble as we were.  We had to use the rocks to help us along, almost like a lateral rock wall.  But it was worth the fight of the current, the springs are absolutely beautiful inside.

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Once inside, the waters turned into a clear blue tone.  It wasn’t quite as clear as last time I was there, but last time I visited was during a slower time of the year, so there were more people present and understandably the sand on the bottom was being kicked up more.  Inside the springs there were a few resting manatees hanging out being admired by swimmers and kayakers who could easily see down into the water.  Fish were taking shelter under the resting manatees and keeping warm where the spring releases its warm water.  Even on busy days when the water isn’t crystal clear, it’s still worth the trip into the springs, even if just to observe your surroundings and take in how gorgeous this natural wonder really is.  The manatees being present just adds to the awe.

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Soon enough, we had spent nearly 2 hours in the water and it was time to head back to the boat and into the freezing air.  As one last goodbye, after a good amount of our group had already retreated to the boat, my cousin and I were approached by a friendly youngster.  He swam up to us and was rubbing himself on our legs like he had an itch he couldn’t reach.  As with a few others that day, he began playing with my feet and was even trying to take hold of them with his flipper and also held onto my leg as if he wanted it for himself.  This kiddo was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.  The last few of us holding out, afraid to face the much colder air, finally made it past the manatees blocking the ladder and back onto the boat… and directly to the hot chocolate kept on board to help thaw out human ice cubes.  It was an event that all 12 of us agree was truly wonderful.  If you have a family of 12, you KNOW this is a miracle in itself!

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IF YOU GO:

This really is something to be enjoyed by people of all ages.  An adventure you can take on your own, or with a boat full of friends and family.  For sure, something to add on to your bucket list!  Try to go during cooler months and be sure to book in advance!

As I’ve said before, I can’t possibly say enough nice things about the crew at River Ventures.  They will take excellent care of you and your family.  For more information, visit them here…

http://www.riverventures.com/

This time around, we stayed the night in town.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express that we found on River Ventures web site.  Great accommodations!  They were all of 2 minutes from River Ventures, which is a HUGE deal at 6AM.  They have a continental breakfast, out and served before you go to your swim.  They’re also good about late check out so you can return and shower before you check out.  The rooms are clean and the staff is friendly, I’ll be staying with them again for sure.  Check them out yourself here…

http://www.hiexpress.com/hotels/us/en/crystal-river/crtfl/hoteldetail

You can also read about my previous visit here…

https://wild4creatures.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/the-manatees-of-crystal-river-fl/

Thank You!

January 12, 2013 at 3:49 am | Posted in For the Family | Leave a comment

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Ahem! Excuse me, I have something I would like to say! Today I received a message from WordPress wishing me a happy anniversary with their site. I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for a year! And what a year it’s been! With nearly 1,000 hits, views every day for the past 3 months, and readers in over 40 countries, it appears I have been keeping at least some people busy and hopefully entertained and even inspired. So to all of you out there reading this right now, thank you for stopping by! I keep my stories coming for all of you… And because I really like to take pictures.

Shark Reef Aquarium, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

January 11, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Posted in For the Family | Leave a comment
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I know, Las Vegas probably isn’t what you would expect to find within my blog.  But here we were, in Vegas for my Mother’s wedding (talk about something I never thought I would say), and looking for ways to entertain my 2 year old.  Luckily I had done my homework (and some scouting 3 years before during my last visit) so I knew that on the South end of The Strip, located at Mandalay Bay, was the wondrous Shark Reef Aquarium!  A beautiful, AZA accredited, nearly 1.6 million gallon underwater wonderland which is home to 15 species of sharks and over 2,000 animals.

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The Shark Reef Aquarium offers more than just aquatic life.  Upon entering you will find several species of reptiles, including the rare Golden Crocodile and giant Komodo Dragon.  Of course, if the scaled type isn’t for you, keep on walking, there is much more ahead!

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Once you’ve passed by the reptile area, you’ll find yourself looking at a wall of beautiful tropical fish and sharks.  The fish feel close enough to touch, and if it weren’t for the glass separating you, they really would be.  The animals glide by the glass, they’re not shy at all, and often stop right in front of you.  The children absolutely loved how close they were, but you could see the inner child in all the adults were just as fascinated.

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As you continue on, you’ll walk through a tunnel that will give you a full view all around you.  We thought one of the coolest sights was to see sharks gliding above us and get a good look at their sharky smiles.  It’s an area you can easily spend all day in, but you haven’t even gotten to the coolest stuff yet…

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The next area is a lot of fun for the kids!  There is a tank full of the beautiful and venomous Lion Fish, a tank full of glowing Jellyfish, an Octopus with quite a personality, a wall full of gliding Rays, and everyone’s favorite, the touch tank! Here you have the chance to touch a Sting Ray, Horseshoe Crab, or even a small Nurse Shark.  There is always staff watching over to tell you the best way to greet the animals and answer any questions you might have.

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After you pull your kids (or yourself) out of the touch tank, you’ll be on to the main event – the sunken shipwreck.  Here, you’ll stand inside the sunken ship where you can, at some points, have a full 360* view of the water surrounding you.  This area is home to over 30 sharks, as well as large fish, rays, and sea turtles.  The sharks aren’t shy at all, they will come right up to the glass, wowing anyone nearby.  It’s a place you could easily enjoy all day, and since the sharks are always on the move, you’d never get bored.

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IF YOU GO:

Plan accordingly, you’ll want to allow yourself enough time to enjoy it all!  For more information, visit here…

http://www.sharkreef.com/

Pic of the Week – 12/29

December 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Posted in Endangered Encounters, For the Family, Pic of the Week | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

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Last week, I returned to The Crystal River with my family. A whoppin’ 12 of us took a family trip to Homosassa Springs to go swimming with their resident manatees. As you’ll find out in my full story when I get around to posting it, they were EVERYWHERE! This one in particular was inside Three Sisters Springs. Happening upon it was a quiet, calm moment in a very busy day, and my peaceful pic of the week.

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