Monday, December 06, 2021

Tampa and Fort Myers Adventure, Day 1

[Composed 11/21/2021]

We're spending our traditional Thanksgiving Travel adventure in Tampa and Fort Myers, Florida this year. Our nieces and nephew are in Tampa, which is where our fun began.

We landed at the Tampa airport and spent an eternity (OK, more like an hour) collecting our bags, making our way to the rental car facility and getting through the rental car process. I'm an advocate of checking bags, but even I will think twice about doing so when flying to Tampa next time. Hopefully this was a one off annoyance.

We enjoyed a quick lunch at Thinh An Kitchen & Tofu. I know the place was good because I called the waiter over not once, but twice, to confirm that my soup was in fact vegetarian. The tofu skin tasted too good not to be meat. Yum!

We then scooped up the kids and their parents and headed to the Manatee Viewing Center near Apollo Beach. We thought seeing manatees in the wild would be a thrill for us all. But as we were driving towards the Viewing Center I admit I got nervous. What if we arrived and there was nothing to see? Perhaps we should have selected a more fool-proof activity, like say the plain old aquarium?

My fears were allayed as soon as we pulled into the parking lot: the place was packed. There must be something to see here!

Once we arrived, it was just a few minutes until we were on a boardwalk overlooking the power plant's 'discharge canal' and we could see massive shapes swimming in the water. Manatees! The experience was sort of like going whale watching; you see a tail here, or a snout there. I'm not sure the kids were blown away by it as much as I was, but they certainly enjoyed it.

We then made our way to a touchtank where the kids could observe and carefully pet the cownose rays swimming there. This was a thrill for the kids and definitely made the 40 minute drive worthwhile.

There are a couple of walks you can take in the area, one out to a pier and one out to an observation tower. We visited the pier but were too late to visit the observation tower. Maybe next time.

The pier was fascinating in its own right. For one thing, you walk through a mangrove forest which, I suppose, is relatively easy to dismiss. And yet these trees are thriving at the junction of salt and fresh water, something that would kill the vast majority of plants on the planet. Along the pier Shmuel noticed some massive fish casually swimming along. Our guess is that these were Tarpon.

Farther away from the pier, we'd see bursts of activity as shark fins broke through the surface of the water. Everyone loves the warm water from the power plant, and I suppose sharks are no different.

After the pier, we took another quick look at the rays and then headed home for dinner. We called it a night relatively early, as we had a big plans for the next day.

A keen observer will notice that I'm in more pics belon than usual. When we got to the Manatee Viewing Center I asked the kids if they wanted to try out my DSLR with telephoto lens. T and G were in! Many of the pics of me, the family and the animals were taken by T and G. It was a real treat to see them take an interest in photography and share some of the basics.

No comments:

Post a Comment