You don’t always have to go far to show a baby something she’s never seen before. Dannie and I sometimes complain that our home is 40 minutes from any place worth going, but if we’re willing to make that drive there’s actually a lot of cool stuff around. Yesterday we made a little day trip to Homosassa Springs State Park to show Lisa some wildlife. She had a blast (as any child of mine would!) and we got some really cute pictures.
We’d been to the park before, so we knew what to expect. Alligators, big cats, birds, canines and manatees all call the park home. And all the animals are Florida natives, with the exception of one really big Hippopotamus, who was grandfathered in when it switched from a zoo to a state park. Our favorite thing about Homosassa Springs is that unlike many zoos, most of the animals are rescued or recovering, so we don’t feel sorry for them while we visit.
If you come for photography, your best bet to get a picture of the big animals is to stick around for one of the feeding shows. It’s also a good opportunity for some education about the animals and the history of the park. I forgot to get a schedule on the way in, but the ice cream vendor knew it off the top of her head (she probably gets asked a lot… tourists!). Of course Lisa wasn’t really in the mood to sit through all that talking so we had to move on halfway through the manatee feeding, but we’d heard it all before anyway.
I’d mentioned in a previous post that we wanted to get Lisa used to animals. We’re probably going to see a lot of them in our travels, but right now she seems to be kind of scared of them. She seemed to enjoy all the birds and beasts from a distance, but as you can see in the video below, she’s still a little uneasy when she gets up close (even when it’s not a real kitty).
The park is built around the Homosassa Springs, which pump out millions of gallons of water every hour. It’s the constant temperature of the spring water that makes it ideal for manatees, especially in the winter when the oceans cool off (that’s the best time to visit the park by the way). Even though there’s a lot to see, it’s not a huge place and you could probably walk all the paths in less than an hour if you never stopped to look at anything.
The best way to enter the park is through the main entrance. That’s because you get to take a boat up the river (free) to the wildlife area. You can spot turtles and fish in the water while volunteers tell you about the park, the river, and all the things you can expect to see. It’s a really great experience, and you shouldn’t miss it. The other entrance on the western side of the park has a cafe (overpriced) and a tram that can take you back to the main gate.
We didn’t really focus very much on photography during this visit - it was all about showing Lisa a good time. We probably should have waited until it cooled off a little more in the fall, but we didn’t really want to wait, especially since we’re going to be busy traveling and photographing weddings in the fall and winter. Luckily, just as we were getting overheated Dannie remembered the ice cream vendor who helped told us the schedule. We went back and found a shady spot to cool off. As much as we’ve enjoyed this place in the past, it was a whole new experience with baby Lisa - a little more exciting and a little more magical. I don’t think we’ll ever run out of first time experiences, as long as we keep looking!