Archive for the ‘Reptiles’ Category

Florida Manatee Adventure Tour

7 June, 2011

Florida Dolphin ToursSo in my last post I shared my experience of snorkelling with the manatee, but I wanted to write a bit more about the rest of the trip.  The trip was known as the Florida Manatee Adventure Tour and we first heard about it through the airlines.  However, when we tried to book they wouldn’t let us saying we could only book with them if we had booked our whole holiday not just flights.  I didn’t let that put me off though and with a little search on google found lots of hits of tours where you could swim with the manatee.  Unfortunately most of them required you to self-drive and that is all they included.  We had really liked the idea of having our whole day planned for a change and let someone else take care of the driving so I persevered and found the Florida Dolphin Tours offering the same trip (and clearly where the airlines used as the wording was identical!).

Our trip started at 7.30am when a mini-coach picked us up from a hotel just near our villa.  After a couple of other stops to pick up more guests we headed to a Sizzler restaurant for an all we could eat breakfast buffet.  My favourite chain for doing the breakfast buffet is still the Golden Corral restaurants, but the Sizzler was quite nice and had a good choice.  I always go for the pancakes with fresh melon, pineapple, strawberries and some chocolate sauce!

After breakfast we headed to Crystal River which is where we got to go snorkelling with the manatee.  The drive probably took just over an hour and wasn’t the most exciting of scenery, but they showed a film on the coach so the time flew by and it gave us time for breakfast to go down!

BobcatAfter the snorkelling we got back on the coach to go to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park.  On arrival we were all given a good packed lunch of cheese roll, crisps, cookies, fruit, fruit drink and a bottle of water.  Stef and I headed into the park and found a park bench overlooking the hippo pool to eat ours.  Here we were quickly joined by two rather hungry looking squirrels who didn’t want to leave us alone!

After lunch we were free to wander around the widlife park.  The 210 acre wildlife park was set around a 45 foot deep natural spring and contained much of the wildlife that is home to America – such as the bobcat, cougar, bears, alligators and of course the manatee.  The park is nicely laid out with board walk areas around the springs.  Most of the enclosures were a reasonable size and the animals seemed well cared for.  I was of course keen to see the bobcat and the cougar.  We were lucky to catch the bobcat up and about for a while, but the cougar was fast asleep right up close to the viewing area so nowhere I could get a good photo.

Patriotic EagleI spent a little time trying to get some good shots of some of the birds, but the sun was quite bright, and the enclosure often quite dark so it was difficult to get a shot right in the time I had.  I was very pleased with one of the shots I got of the bald eagle though – they’d put this American flag up at the back of his enclosure which made the photo look a bit different!

After our visit to the park we headed out on the coach again back in the direction of Kissimmee, but we had one more stop first.  We stopped at Wild Bill’s Airboat Tours in Inverness.  The airboat tour lasted 45 minutes and took us down the Withlacoochee River in search of alligators and other wildlife.  We chose the front of the boat and managed to get quite sprayed with water – so not too many photos from this part of the trip! 

Stef with Alligator 4After the airboat ride we had a short wait for the second half of our group to return.  During this time Stef got to hold a baby alligator and I got to take lots of photos and have a quick stroke of it’s tummy.  Finally we returned back to Kissimmee to arrive about 5.30pm.

The whole day trip cost about $118 which when you consider how much we got I think is extremely good value and I’d say was well worth every penny. More photos from the day on my Florida set on Flickr.

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A fifth successful IBM Community Grant for Marwell Wildlife

28 April, 2011

I am delighted that for a fifth year running IBM, where I work, have donated an IBM On Demand Community Grant for Marwell Wildlife in recognition of the volunteering that I do there.  I have now been a volunteer at Marwell for over 6 years, and spend around 200 hours a year helping out in various ways – from driving the trains and talking to the visitors, to organising and running various workshops and activities for staff at the zoo.  Marwell Wildlife is a charity that I am very proud to support as they do a lot of amazing work both locally and overseas.  It makes me also proud of working for IBM when they support this, and other, charities giving money and equipment, but also time and skills of their employees to make a difference.

Today when I got to take up the cheque from IBM I got to go and cuddle a Royal Python!  The grant money on this occasion has gone towards purchasing a new massive flat screen television for Marwell’s Encounter Barn.  They now have the ability to show some of the barn’s reptilian inhabitants up close and personal through using a small video camera which is linked up to the screen.  This enables the staff at Marwell to help educate schools and visitors.  In the photo below, you can just see the camera and the small lizard at the bottom left of the picture, which is then being projected on the screen above my head!

Helena with snake 2

Earnley Butterflies & Noah’s Ark

4 September, 2009

Black and redYesterday we decided to visit Earnley Butterflies and Gardens near Chichester.  I see the brown tourist sign every time I head along the A27 and thought it would be a good opportunity to get some nice butterfly shots.  Alot is under cover too so thought it would be good in case the weather didn’t hold out.

On arrival in the carpark we had a feeling it didn’t look promising inside as the outside isn’t that well presented.  As we entered it got worse!  The reception area and shop looked a bit like an old charity shop.

The butterfly room was pretty tiny and there wasn’t very many butterflies at all.  It was rather sad, as the room they had at Epcot wasn’t much bigger but had been presented so much nicer.  I don’t think it would take too much work to make it nicer, but it just felt neglected.

I did manage to capture a few nice butterfly shots but overall I was really disappointed – as after all it was supposed to be a butterfly place!

Sleepy lovebirdAfter the butterfly room we went into a bird room.  This felt slightly better – it looked a little better kept.  Many of the birds are rescue birds so it was nice to see they were taking care of them in their new home.

After the bird room we wandered into the gardens, and wished we hadn’t bothered!  Maybe at a different time of year it may look pretty if there are flowers out, but at the moment it was a very sad excuse for lots of interlocking areas with hedges and not much else.  The Japanese garden only differed from every other part by the fact someone had stuck a Japanese style ornament in one corner!

Big boyFinally we wandered into the Noah’s Ark Animal and Reptile rescue.  This seemed much better kept.  The animals all seemed happy and well looked after and there was plenty to see.  There was a variety of animals from farmyard – goats, chickens, rabbits – to reptiles such as snakes, lizards and tortoise.

There is also a nostalgia centre there but it looked like a dark, dingy and run down museum so we didn’t waste any time going in there.

Overall I am happy to have spent the £6 entry fee (normally £7 but they have a voucher on their website for £1 off) as I think the money will go towards a good cause of caring for the animals.  I was very disappointed with the butterfly enclosure – which is after all the reason I went in the first place.  The whole place is in need of some care and attention and I wouldn’t go again or recommend it unless you were going for the Noah’s Ark rescue centre which is nice enough.


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