There are lots of reasons people head to the Sunshine State for their holidays from the great beaches and stunning attractions to the good old fashioned southern style comfort food. But there are a whole host of amazing wildlife and rare inhabitants to be discovered here too.
FL Waters are filled with bottle-nosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Photo Credit
If you fancy exploring Florida’s wilder side, then here are some great places to nature’s curiosities in their natural habitats.
Big Cat Rescue
There really isn’t a better place to encounter nature’s biggest felines that the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. The park aims to protect lions, tigers and other exotic cats from being held in captivity or being otherwise mistreated.
Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa, FL. FLICKR Photo Credit
Only a 30 minute drive from St. Petersburg, a trip to the huge cat sanctuary is definitely worth it. You’ll see a range of cats from leopards and tigers to bobcats and lynx. Unlike a zoo, the sanctuary prides itself on being an educational experience for all visitors. You can also take guided tours of the sanctuary, including a night tour – a great way to see these fascinating animals in the wild.
Manatee Springs State Park
Northwest of Orlando is home to Florida’s hotspot for wild Manatees. These curious looking sea creatures tend to populate the area in winter, swimming up from the cooler Gulf of Mexico into the warmer headspring.
Manatee just chillin’ in Blue Spring State Park FLICKR Photo Credit
You can dive in for a closer look at these coy sea creatures otherwise you can stay on the viewing platform, or take a ride out in a boat. Usually joined by perch, turtles and flounder, there’s plenty of marine life to discover here.
Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge
June and July is the perfect time to visit the 20 mile stretch of shoreline to see loggerhead turtles nesting and laying hundreds of eggs on the beach. You can join a three-hour guided tour of the beach to learn more about the habits of these fascinating creatures.
A sea turtle egg looking like earth rolls along the beach FLICKR Photo Credit
It’s also likely that you’ll see up to four other species of these prehistoric creatures. Up to 18,000 of the creatures have been known to inhabit the shoreline for nesting between May and October.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Located near Cape Canaveral and only a stone’s throw from the Kennedy Space Centre, this protected refuge is home to Manatees and sea turtles, as well as American alligators, bald eagles and 15 endangered species.
The ideal place for wildlife spotting in this 220 square mile area is the Black Point Wildlife Drive – a seven-mile route which takes you through a range of environments, allowing you to stop and take a closer look at the wildlife.