I don't know if you've ever realized, but I'm a bit of an animal nut. I can tell that you are just shocked by this statement, but it's true. So, when I was thinking about what else we wanted to do while we were in Florida, a couple of animals came to mind.
Namely - alligators and manatees. I was DETERMINED to see an actual wild alligator! In the wild. On the side of the road. It would be awesome.
And I sooooo wanted to see a manatee ... just hanging out in the water with it's little manatee nose sticking up. That, too, would be awesome.
So, what did I do? I began researching where to go. Because, well, I like to research. And I found a couple of interesting places...namely Merritt Island and the Manatee Observation Area. Both of which were nearly guaranteed to bring me my long awaited animal sightings. Not to mention the fact that Merritt Island is on the Atlantic coast. I have flown over the Atlantic Ocean, but have never actual stuck my toes in the water. It was going to be a great day.
Here we are, driving out to Merritt Island and I'm watching ever body of water that I see because I am going to see an alligator - did I mention that?
I'm pretty sure I saw a small alligator in a ditch on the way there, but it was hard to see and I keep talking myself out of the fact that I saw it, but it could have been.
Merritt Island is a cool place. It's actually owned by NASA so they have a good buffer space for the shuttle lift offs. First stop was the visitor center where we were almost guaranteed to see the resident alligator in the pond behind the building.
Doesn't that spanish moss in the trees just look southern??
Alas, no alligator. Ho hum. But, we still have a little bit of time.
After driving on a VERY bumpy road for about a half an hour, we stopped at the bathrooms because, well, you can probably imagine. Anyway, just as we were getting ready to get back in the car, this woman says to us, "There a big gator down there if you want to see it."
Boy, do we!
Our very first wild gator. It was pretty big....probably 6 or 7 feet. And it was only about 20 feet away, which in retrospect was kind of close, but it didn't move at all so at the time I didn't think about it.
WOHO! One animal down!
Then we continued on our drive and I saw another gator...
I can't remember how big Brent said this one was, but we were just across a small canal from it. Again, in retrospect, maybe not the best idea.
Then I got bit by a fire ant. At least I'm pretty sure it was a fire ant. Something bit me and made my whole foot feel like it was on fire. Just a guess.
So, that's two animals that start with 'A'.
Then we headed to the beach.
Strangely, it looked much like the Pacific Ocean.
But there were a TON more shells...
Now I can say that my feet have been in two oceans! Well on my way!
And as an extra bonus, you could see the shuttle on the launch pad.
As we were driving out of the beach road, we saw this little guy:
An armadillo! (Three animals that start with 'A') When I worked at the zoo, we had armadillos that we took care of. They ate the little pinkies - baby mice that haven't gotten their hair yet - and made crunchy sounds. It was kind of gross. But I've never seen one in the wild. He just looked at us and went on his merry way. However, he should have a tail, which he does not have. I wonder what happened.
Now, on to the Manatee Observation Area.
We looked and looked and looked and we saw...
A big old river. Not a manatee in sight. Bah! We did see a couple of captive ones at EPCOT so now I have actually seen a manatee, but not in the wild. Bummer.
Did you know that the closest living relative to the manatees are elephants? That's kind of interesting.
Oh, and another interesting manatee fact. Manatees live in warm water. In fact, they only live in this little area of the word. (There are dugongs in Australia that are closely related.) Amazingly, a manatee was spotted in the Chesapeake Bay, which is up near Maryland and Virginia. Definitely not warm water. So they got this HUGE campaign going to save Chessy! (That's what they named him.) They spent thousands of dollars to rescue him and take him back to Florida. The next year, he was back. And for quite a few years after that. Guess he needed a vacation too.
But, we did see three animals that start with 'A'. Well, technically 4 if you count "A lot of birds."