Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Tampa and Fort Myers Adventure, Day 2

[Composed 11/22/2021]

Giraffe Ranch

We started our second day of adventure with our nieces, nephew and Brother-in-Law at Giraffe Ranch. This destination was a schlep from Tampa, but the promise of a safari among exotic animals seemed worth the drive. Indeed, it was.

We opted to do the relatively affordable Covid-19 version of the 'safari.' We joined a line of cars at the gate of the ranch, and the owner came by on a Segway. After a bit of paperwork, he asked us to tune our radio to a particular FM station. We then spent an hour or so driving through the owner's property as he regaled us with facts and stories, all while we ooed and ahhhed at the amazing animals around us.

This place is a true gem and more than delivered on its promise of getting us up close to amazing animals. The drive felt like getting a private tour by a friendly zoologist, who casually rattles off amazing tidbit after amazing tidbit.

Our guide stood on a ostrich egg and explained this his measly 200 pounds was nothing like the 400 pound papa that usually sits on the eggs. We drove by the Cassowary, a goofy looking bird, and he explained that this was the most dangerous resident in the park. His dagger-like claw could slice open a human with ease. We drove by Z-donk, and learned that this was the unintended outcome of a very ambitious donkey that managed to mate with a zebra. And on, and on. I wish I'd recorded the narration, as there was no way I could remember it all.

Most of the DSLR photos below were taken by the kids, who were excited to play big-game photographer.

I'm telling you, this place is a winner.

Citrus Attraction At Boyett Groves

After a couple of missed attempts, we finally found a park to have lunch at. We then made our way to the oddly named Citrus Attraction At Boyett Groves. The description of the 'attraction' suggested it could be either a kitschy oddity, or just as likely, a tourist trap.

The $20 (or so, I can't remember the exact price) per person fee to get the attractions seemed steep, but we figured what the heck, we'd give it at try.

Once inside, my fear that we'd stumbled into a tourist trap seemed realized. The long list of attractions (Dinosaur cave! Aviary! Pan for gold!, etc) were mainly tired rooms, filled with displays that left the kids unimpressed. The 'aviary' was a dim room filled with a few bird cages with parrots inside. It wasn't quite what I had in mind.

And yet, all was hardly lost. At the start of the 'wildlife park,' we were each given a bag filled with bread, some fruit slices and some odd green cubes. We were encouraged to walk around the space and feed any of the animals we saw. The kids had a ball.

They fed the ponies, zebras, massive turtle and every other animal they could find. They tossed bread to the emus, who demonstrated their skills by catching it mid air. There was an outer fence around the lemurs that made it tricky to feed them, but one of the zoo keepers came by and let the kids into this enclosure so they could hand feed the lemurs bananas. That was a highlight. Later, the same zoo worker came by and gave the kids an extra bag of bread to feed the large fluffle of bunnies. Again, the kids were in heaven.

Everything about the Boyett Groves attraction is sketchy, and not a location I'd recommend. And yet, if you ask the kids what their favorite part of the day was, it was absolutely feeding the animals at Boyett Grove's Wildlife Park. So what do I know?

Jeramiah's & A Hike Around Lake Rogers

After a quick rest stop back home, we made our way to Jeremiah's Italian Ice, which thrilled the kids. And then we walked off the sugar by taking a two mile hike around Lake Rogers.

The hike was delightful. Shira and T walked together, with T snapping pics using my DSLR (check out all the pics I'm in below!). I kibitzed with D while C and G ran ahead. I love that the kids can knock out a two mile hike after a full day of activity without a single complaint. I'm so taking these kids backpacking next year!

We finished the hike at sundown, and were treated to a gorgeous sunset. We made it back to our car with a whole 6 minutes before the gates were to be locked. We drove out past a park worker who was no doubt staring at his watch, just itching to lock us in. But not today!

We truly had an amazing day filled with unique Florida experiences!