Cool Facts About Florida’s Diverse Wildlife

Florida is home to a diverse array of wild animals. They come in all shapes and sizes, from big and furry to small and slimy. They can be familiar and friendly or elusive and majestic. The presence of these creatures and their habitats make Florida one of the most fascinating biospheres to explore. No matter how or where in Florida you venture off the beaten path in search of natural wonders, keep on the lookout for these amazing animals.

Florida Panther

Perhaps one of the most famous wild residents of Florida is the panther. These mysterious creatures have been designated an endangered subspecies since 1967, because of the very few wild panthers that still roam the Florida wilds. If you catch a glimpse of one, you should count yourself as one truly accomplished explorer. These tan-colored, stealthy cats are shy and reclusive, hanging out in dense ground vegetation such as forests, marsh shrub swamps, and prairie grasslands.

Bald Eagle

Florida is an epicenter of Bald Eagle nesting activity. This national symbol frequents Florida’s lake, river, and coastal areas – wherever there are suitable nesting places and plenty of fish. A large, dark brown bird with a striking white head and a large, hooked beak, Bald Eagles are most plentiful around Florida’s inland rivers and lakes and along the Gulf Coast. If you find yourself surrounded by big, tall trees near shallow water, be sure to have a lookout for these majestic raptors.

Alligator

If you find yourself near a pond, lake, river, or wetland in Florida, be aware that an alligator may be nearby. These large reptiles love to lurk beneath the waters and stroll along the banks of Florida’s inland waterways. If you encounter an alligator, you’ll know it by its size of 10+ feet, its dark green and grey color, and its huge, rounded snout. Even though they look sluggish, alligators can be unpredictable. If you see one, keep your distance but don’t forget to take time to marvel at this prehistoric wonder.

Salamander

Florida’s lush wetlands are home to a wide array of salamander species. These little amphibians hide under leaves and dart around streams in wetland environments. The rich variety of species that live in Florida means there are many kinds, colors, and sizes of salamander to spot. From Mudpuppies to Newts, Sirens to Giants, these colorful, slimy little denizens of Florida make a fun discovery if observed in their natural habitat and left undisturbed.

Turtle

Florida is an ideal habitat for a wide range of sea and land turtles. The varied climate and access to land and sea allow for lots of turtle species to thrive. The Gopher tortoise digs sandy burrows amid grassy, open plains. The Alligator Snapping turtle lurks in murky marshes, snapping up fish that pass by. Softshell turtles glide through lakes and ponds. Cooters swim up rivers and wade in muddy banks. And sea turtles arrive from journeys in the deep ocean to surf the waves and glide in the shallow waters of Florida’s coastlines, bays, and estuaries.

Florida is Full of Wildlife

Florida is one of the most diverse biospheres in America. From semi-arid savannas to sunny beaches, murky swamps to ghostly groves, thick forests to fertile grasslands, there are many varied locations to explore and adventures to be had. Whenever you venture into the wilderness of Florida, you will have an amazing encounter with some type of wild animal. You just need to be aware of their presence and keep your wits about you as the experience unfolds.

Why Florida Is A Great Place For Visiting EcoParks

EcoParks, also known as Nature Parks, are recreational facilities that feature nature trails and ecological tourism. With open hours from sunrise to sunset, you can choose to enjoy them at whatever fascinating time of day that suits your schedule and desired to view and whenever you want to get an unforgettable glimpse of the preserved beauty of the state.  

Florida is one of the planet’s most ecologically diverse places. The Sunshine State is known around the world for vacations that include theme parks, cultural, shopping, and other experiences, the real Florida and its natural lands are also available on self-guided eco-tours. 

Some of the outstanding Florida EcoParks are the following:  

Everglades National Park

The most popular and well-known destination is the 1,508,976-acre Everglades in the counties of Miami-Dade, Collier, and Monroe with its airboat rides on the “River of Grass” and the 99-mile “Wilderness Waterway. The Everglades is the largest United States tropical wilderness, the largest wilderness of any type that is east of the Mississippi River, and the western hemisphere’s biggest contiguous mangrove forest. It is a habitat for endangered and rare species such as the American crocodile, the manatee, and the Florida panther.

Thornby Park

This 40-acre wooded property in Deltona includes a 1,000-foot shoreline on the St. Johns River. There are 40 acres of wooded property and 1,000 feet of shoreline on the St. Johns River. Volusia County and the city of Deltona are co-owners via an ECHO grant that provided construction funding for an “Inspiration Playground” for children with disabilities. The nature trail is being expanded to an outdoor classroom, nature and historical features, and is also being upgraded to ADA accessibility with boardwalks, ramps, benches, and a bridge. There had been an eight-year struggle to keep the property from being changed into a condo development. 

Lakeshore Ecovillage 

Also in Deltona, plans are to have a multi-room lodge, a camp, mini-houses, a restaurant, tree houses, and bike and kayak rentals that will be intended for nature park enthusiasts.

Crystal River Archaeological State Park

At this 61-acre National Historic Landmark, you can discover a Pre-Columbian Native American temple, a plaza, six burial mounds that is one of the longest continuously Florida occupied sites, and a substantial midden. A midden is an archaeological term for a garbage or trash heap with concentrated artifacts which is the result of a deliberate discard of food remains, refuse, and domestic materials such as broken tools and crockery.

St. Vincent Island

This is a Gulf of Mexico National Wildlife Refuge in Northwest Florida on Florida’s Forgotten Coast. It is a 12,300-acre barrier island that is undeveloped and is a beautiful and pristine place with nine miles of beaches, many trails, and fabulous wildlife and birding viewings. It is the home of nesting shorebirds, San Bar deer, an exotic elk, and more. Additionally, there is a successful Red Wolf Recovery program in the “Island Propagation Site.” 

Punta Gorda

This Southwest Florida town is full of history and the old Florida charm as well as being the gateway to preserved land. Protected is more than 80% of the Charlotte Harbor coastline and is the nation’s 17th biggest estuary. Also, close to 200 miles of blueway trails provide paddlers with great birding and wildlife viewing.

Is It Worth Going On A Safari When You Visit Florida?

When it comes to Florida, you must know that it has a wide array of wildlife species that you can see. From giraffes, alligators, wildebeests, zebras, sloths, lemurs, and rhinos. This forms the basis of why it would be a great idea to try a safari experience in Florida. 

Safari experiences in Florida

A wide array of parks in Florida offer you a chance to get up close with your favorite animals. Note that we are not talking about zoos or amusement parks that mostly control their wildlife behind glasses. 

Some of the parks you may want to check out include:

  • JN. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
  • Lion Country Safari 
  • Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge 
  • St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge 

What to expect

Drive through safari experience

Most Florida Safari destinations we have mentioned have a drive-through option. With a drive-through option, you are more likely to get more freedom. This is because you can get more access to more animals at your own pace. You can also have more personal time with your family, friends, or significant others as you enjoy the giraffes roaming around in the JN Darling National Wildlife Refuge or the zebras enjoying the sun at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  

Remember that you will need to be precautious if you opt for a drive-through safari. It is essential to remember that even if you are free, you are still in the wild animal’s habitat, and thus, it is necessary to exercise caution in the long run. Some of the measures you can exercise are:

  • Avoid making noise, hooting, and revving up engines is not something you should do as it antagonizes some animal species.
  • Avoid approaching animals too closely  
  • Avoid carrying fruit in a wildlife area. Some animals have a very keen sense of smell and will be curious to know what you are carrying in your car.

Benefits of going on safari in Florida are: 

It is budget and time friendly

Most people do not travel because they do not have the time or the money. With drive-through safaris in Florida, you get to save on trying to sync everyone’s calendar so that you can book a flight outside to go on safari. This makes it easy, and you will not have to spend money booking a hotel or for a place to stay. 

You do not have to worry about packing

Packing up a suitcase can be very hectic. You have to figure out what to leave or what to carry. You will mostly pack what you will need for the day. This takes off your mind from not having to worry about whether your luggage will arrive on time when you travel overseas for a safari. If you are going on a very short safari, you might consider using a backpack instead of a large bag. 

You spend less time planning for a safari

Think about it this way you do not want to spend more time worrying about logistics but your safari experience. Planning for a safari in Florida, you will only thing you have to worry about is driving to your park choice and what you have to carry for the day. Also, remember that short safaris are easier to plan, so opt for fewer days.

Is A Safari On Horseback Better Than A Traditional Safari?

The couple on horseback stand three feet away from the giraffe and her baby. Sitting silently on horses, they are an integral part of this environment. The moment is magical. The mother giraffe accepts the horses and doesn’t flee. That’s how it is when riding horseback in the nature park of Masai Mara. Walking safaris and driving safaris are other ways to see the different habitats, but they don’t provide quite the same experience one gets from seeing things from horseback.

The original way of going on safari was walking. Many people still prefer this type of trip. It’s one of the ways to become fully immersed in the smells and sounds of the environment. Experienced guides, who are usually armed, are essential. The animals can be unpredictable, but a knowledgeable guide can “read the surroundings” and know if an area is safe. Accidents are rare, but there is an element of risk to being on foot in animal territory. An experienced guide can also teach about the unusual plants and can track the animals. Usually, the walks are between two and four hours long and are open to guests over the age of sixteen.

Most people going on safaris go by vehicle to see the big game animals. It’s safe and convenient. A guide picks up the small group of participants and nothing is left to chance. Prices vary. Safari goers can choose to be greeted by native helpers at each stop with the tents and bedding all set up and dinner on the table along with wine, cloth napkins, and china. Less luxurious trips that serve regular camp fare and tented sleeping quarters are available. Seeing “big five animals” is almost guaranteed, and the guide will know exactly where to find them. For safari-goers who want to see as much as possible, this mode of travel works well. Participants can cover a great deal of ground and see many different animals and terrain.

The experience of being on a horseback safari can be unforgettable. Leaving the vehicle behind is a sure way of becoming one with the environment. It’s possible to reach terrain on the back of a horse where a truck cannot go. The idea originated in Kenya in the 1970s and has become more popular every year since then. People who have done the safari on horseback liken the experience to flying. The energy between horse and rider is tremendous. Riders are usually in the saddle for up to four hours, and the horses chosen for them are amiable animals used to traveling the different areas of the reserve and being around the wildlife. Participants don’t have to be experienced riders. It’s essential when booking, to be frank about riding ability and choose the right difficulty level of the ride. The experienced guide will want to keep everyone in a cohesive group and not have slower participants holing up the other riders. Safaris on horseback can be lodge-based or trail-based. The lodge-based rides end with a little luxury, perhaps with a massage and a gourmet dinner. The trail-based ride has more of a wilderness feel and participants sleep in tents, and the meals are a lot less fancy.

Taking a horseback safari from July through October is especially exciting for horseback riders. As well as mingling with herds of zebra, it’s a sure way to witness the yearly migration of millions of wildebeest and possibly canter along with them.