The thing I like best about Florida doesn’t have anything at all to do with the huge theme parks it’s so famous for… For me it’s all about something at a much simpler level (and without any of the queues) – the wildlife!
Where else can you see an alligator whilst out for a walk, or stumble across an armadillo late at night whilst walking your Mother in Law’s dog (Mr R didn’t believe me for ages until he saw a squashed one on the road!)? Where else can you witness crazy legged Sand Hill cranes sauntering past as you eat your breakfast, or spend time admiring red cardinals over your morning grapefruit? And (perhaps not quite so appealing to some) where else can you find a tree frog in your spa or a snake in your swimming pool filter? And then there are wildcats and pelicans of course, not to mention wild dolphins, lizards, and turtles.
The people in the picture at the top do not share my love of industrial photography, and are not there simply to admire the power station itself, they are there to catch a glimpse of a creature that Florida is also home to (and in my opinion is perhaps the most special of the lot…) – the not so graceful, but incredibly sweet manatee! And a spot of manatee viewing is what you can see happening in these pictures (there were over a hundred here on this occasion) as these gentle giants take protection from the cooler winter weather in the warm clean waters regurgitated by this enormous electrical plant.
Unfortunately (and quite typically) I didn’t have my polarising lens with me which would have made for much better pictures of the manatees themselves, so you will have to take my word for it that they are easy to spot and swim really close to the viewing platform. The air is filled with gentle snorts as they rise to the surface to take gulps of air, and we stood admiring them for quite a while (and imaginarily commiserated with them over the battle scars quite a few of them bear from the odd collisions with boats).
Then it was time for a quick pit stop at the cafe, before venturing down through the mangrove boardwalk to spot the manatees from a different angle. There’s also a really nice butterfly garden at the end of the experience too, and a gift shop selling all things manatee, and all staffed by really nice volunteers.
If you are planning a trip to Florida between November and Mid-April, then please do add this to your list. It’s a great place to witness some of what Florida should really be most famous for, and quite surprisingly it’s also free – but you might want to leave a donation in lieu of payment, as all monies raised go towards the sanctuary of this gorgeous creature…