Day Trip to Sarasota Part I: Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Bushnell, FL - Events of Friday February 28, 2014
Shortly after our trip to De Soto National Memorial, our friends, Marilyn and Alan, pulled out of Blueberry Hill to drive a few miles south to visit other friends for a week or so. There were several days of rain and clouds in the forecast, so we just hung out around the motor home the early part of the week. The sky was finally predicted to clear on Friday, so we planned a day trip to Sarasota.
There is a small Amish/Mennonite community in Sarasota, FL called Pinecraft. Most of the several thousand Amish and Mennonites who stay in Pinecraft are snowbirds, although there are a few year-round residents. Young couples also go there to honeymoon. Winter is a slower time on the farm, so many weddings take place after the fall harvest.
Der Dutchman is a favorite restaurant of ours in Walnut Creek in Ohio. The parent company also owns several other restaurants in Ohio's Amish country plus Das Dutch Essenhaus in Middlebury, IN. A few years ago, they bought an independent, Amish-style restaurant in Pinecraft in Sarasota.
Sarasota is more than 1½ hours from Blueberry Hill. Therefore, we got an early start so we could go to Der Dutchman for their breakfast buffet. The buffet costs $8.89 and is served from 7:00 to 11:00 Monday through Friday mornings and until 11:30 on Saturdays.
The buffet at Der Dutchman is yummy. The one in Sarasota has all our favorites from Walnut Creek plus a few additional items like ham and a larger variety of breakfast pastries from the bakery.
Speaking of the bakery, we looked around the gift shop and then stopped by the bakery after breakfast. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, we were too full to be tempted by the many goodies. Our two Der Dutchman bakery favorites, cream sticks and apple fritters, were on the buffet, so we had already satisfied our cravings for sweets.
There are lots of sightseeing opportunities around Sarasota, but one we had picked out for this visit is an "old Florida" attraction called Sarasota Jungle Gardens.
Unfortunately, the Jungle Gardens website is under construction at the time of writing so we can't provide a link. The gardens were first opened in 1939. Although Paul can't specifically remember visiting Sarasota Jungle Gardens when he vacationed in Florida with his parents as a kid in the late 1950s, it's quite possible he did so. Sarasota Jungle Gardens covers about 10 acres and features tropical plantings along with displays and shows featuring birds and animals. Admission is $15.99 for adults with a $1.00 discount for seniors over 62.
Most of the birds and animals have been rescued or were pets that the owners no longer were able to keep. Jungle Gardens rehabilitates the rescued animals and releases them when possible, but some become permanent residents because their injuries are too severe. The high cost of rescuing, rehabilitating and keeping injured animals is the reason the admission price is a little more expensive than we expected it to be.
We started out our visit with a stop in the reptile house. Well, at least one of us went into the reptile house. Margery stayed outside while Paul went inside to snap a few photos of the many snakes and lizards.
The Burmese python is native to southeast Asia, but it has become an invasive species in Florida, especially in the Everglades, because of pets that have been released into the wild and because of the escape of snakes from a python breeding facility when it was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
While Paul visited the reptile house, Margery wandered over to an area nearby where the tropical birds were on display. Paul joined her as soon as he was finished with the snakes.
Macaws, which are native to Mexico and South America, are popular as pets because of their bright coloring and because they can be taught to mimic human speech and other sounds.
Unfortunately, macaws are also very large birds so they are messy. They are also very loud. We could hear their squawks from almost everywhere in the gardens. When people find out how noisy and messy macaws are, they frequently give up their pets. Fortunately, there are places like Jungle Gardens to take them in and provide proper care.
Margery wasn't able to escape seeing the reptiles entirely by avoiding the reptile house because there were also a number of reptiles outside. In addition to an alligator and an American crocodile there were a couple of tortoises...
...and an iguana.
In addition to all the macaws and reptiles, there were also numerous birds of prey (we'll have a little more on birds of prey shortly) and a few mammals like a couple of species of lemurs and like the prairie dogs in the next photo.
The various animal and bird displays are connected by paths lined with lush, tropical foliage. There are supposedly around 3,000 species of plants in the garden including a couple hundred varieties of palm trees.
Although Sarasota Jungle Gardens features mostly tropical foliage, there are occasional pops of color like the bright pink crotons in the container in the photo below.
There were also hibiscus blooming in several different locations.
One of the garden's most popular attractions is their flock of flamingos. Flamingos range in color from pale pink to bright orange-pink. The color is due to aqueous bacteria and beta carotene in their food. In the wild, a brighter color makes for a more attractive mate. Only the birds that are well fed and healthy have bright color, so it's nature's way of keeping the species strong.
From the flamingo area, we followed the path back toward the entrance. Along the path was a palm tree whose trunk had been completely surrounded by a hardwood tree.
We also passed another palm whose trunk arched over the path.
Near the entrance is the Bird Show Pavilion, and we got there a few minutes before the next schduled show. The birds of prey featured in the show were rescued by the Gardens. Their injuries were so severe they couldn't be released back into the wild, so they have become permanent residents. As permanent residents, they are used to being handled and to being around humans, but they are still wild birds and have to be tethered when taken out of their cages.
The first bird was a kookaburra from Australia. The kookaburra has a loud call that has become the quintessential jungle sound. It has been used in almost every jungle movie ever made.
The red tailed hawk shown in the next photo had its wing injured in a collision with a car and can no longer fly fast enough to hunt.
The great horned owl shown below was found with buckshot in its right wing. The injuries were so bad the bird can no longer fly, but she is being well fed and cared for at Jungle Gardens.
The last feature of the show was a mammal rather than a bird. It was a pygmy hedge hog from Africa. How cute!
After Sarasota Jungle Gardens, we had one more place we wanted to visit. It was right down the street, so we headed there next. We'll tell you about it in our next post.