(I’m posting less frequently during the summer as we wind down one aspect of our naturalist and volunteer work and take on another)
We donned sunscreen, hats, and light clothing in anticipation of the predicted hotter than average weather, and headed to the park. The kids did not remember it from their last visit five years ago, hardly surprising as they were 3 years old and 5 months old at the time. For summer visits we loosely schedule activities and events in the generally cooler morning, and either return home for lunch or find an interesting place to eat, with afternoons dedicated to playing in the pool and relaxing. The relaxing time for the adults of course.
Our early arrival meant plenty of room on the boat, so we opted for the boat ride along Pepper Creek. For those who haven’t visited in a year or so like us be aware, the boat ride is no longer free. That was not mentioned at all on the signs showing admission prices at the time of our visit. The tram remains free. We paid the admission fee plus the additional $3 per person and took the boat. The captain gave a narrative interpretation of the creek, flora, and fauna, and also an overview of the park. He mentioned Lu, the 61 year old hippopotamus in residence and the only animal in the park not native to Florida. Lu, or Lucifer as he was known at the time, was granted citizenship of Florida in 1991 and allowed to stay when the park changed its theme and restricted it to Florida animals only. That intrigued our young guests so Lu became the first stop.
We continued on, and saw most of the animals, the heat didn’t stop them or at least hadn’t yet. The black bear surprised us as it was not only out, but right in the front of the enclosure. (Note: the aviary was closed and under construction) Whether the day or because we came early there were no volunteers giving presentations or wandering around as usual. One of the Florida panthers walked directly along the front of its enclosure but we did not know which one. That did not lessen the thrill of course. Two manatees floated at the top of the water by the underwater aquarium, exciting everyone.
We took the tram back and as we walked into the building saw the tour boat leaving, full this time. Lunch by the river and then home for pool time.