Florida Guide > Other Florida
A Walk On The Wild Side!
Any visitor to Central Florida cannot help noticing how much land remains undeveloped. For us thrills and excitement are not found at the theme parks but in this natural environment. Swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove is amazing but nowhere near as awe inspiring as being in the water with wild manatees.
Florida’s wildlife goes largely unnoticed by most visitors but it is never far away. Any reasonable sized body of water will contain a gator at sometime but it is really not a cause for alarm. There are warning notices in areas gators regularly inhabit and it is illegal to feed or harass them. If you don’t bother them, then they won’t bother you!
Visitors may also come across Racoons. These can be a pain around rubbish bins. Be very wary opening a wheelie bin with a hinged lid, racoons are very adept at getting in and out of these.
It is easy to seek out wildlife as it is never far away. Sadly a Florida panther was run over on Interstate 4 recently. If you are staying near a golf course or any non built up area you could see deer, armadillo or even wild boar, plus many bird species large and small, including the magnificent sandhill crane.
There are numerous State parks in the Central Florida area including the 5, 000 acre Lake Kissimmee State Park and one of our favourites, Lake Louisa State Park near Clermont, with its six lakes and unusually for Florida, its rolling hills. There are well marked walking trails and excellent interpretation signs explaining the flora and fauna.
With so many lakes in the area anyone serious about wildlife needs to take one of the numerous boat trips on offer. A pair of binoculars will make this more rewarding and there will be plenty of photo opportunities. If you don’t want to travel too far then a boat trip from the Kissimmee waterfront is well worth doing, as is the scenic boat tour from Winter Park up in Orlando. If you don’t mind an hours drive then don’t miss the boat at Mount Dora! This is our particular favourite. We especially enjoy the canal that links the two lakes. It’s like stepping back in time and the wildlife is not only abundant but appears to have had Disney training. This is a wildlife photographer’s paradise. Though you don’t have to be a good photographer or have a powerful zoom lens, the wildlife here is completely unfazed and the boat will take you very close.
If like us you’re interested in Florida’s flora and fauna we can recommend the ‘National Audubon Society Field Guide To Florida’. Through it we are gradually getting to know the names of all the new animals, birds and plants we come across. It is a compact but extremely comprehensive book. The clear colour photos make it easy to identify species. As well as having all the flora and fauna it also contains sections on topography and geology, habitats, conservation and ecology, weather, the night sky and a guide to the national parks and preserves.
If you’re wondering about those manatees, then you need to drive a couple of hours from Orlando to Crystal River. They are only around from October to March when they come in from the sea to seek warmer water. If you want to see them both captive and wild and don’t want to get in the water with them, then Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park near Crystal River is a great place to go.
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