Throwback Thursday -Serengeti Safari, Busch Gardens

Back in 2008, my friend and I decided we would like to join the Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens Tampa so we could feed the giraffes.

As reservations were ‘encouraged’ we pre-booked online and back then it cost $33.99 on top of your entry ticket.

It was February so the temperatures were warm rather than Florida hot which worked in our favour as there were lots of animals out on the Serengeti Plain.  We checked in at the Serengeti Outpost in Nairobi and joined our tour.  Even before we left the Outpost we could see one cheeky giraffe poking her head over to see if the food truck was on it’s way.

This giraffe was Dolly – she was a lovely girl, 28 years old then I believe and not at all camera shy.  It probably sounds ridiculous but I had no idea just how big giraffes were.  You travel in the back of an open top truck while a guide tells you about the animals in the safari and then stopping to feed the giraffes.  We were exceptionally lucky as due to the cooler February temperatures we also got to see close up and feed the Bongos – which are usually nocturnal and very shy.

During our safari we also got to see zebra, rhinos (with calves) and ostriches.

It was an amazing experience, I absolutely fell in love with Dolly the Giraffe. Highly recommended.  Children must be 5 or over.

Throwback Thursday – Peabody Ducks

If you turned up at the Peabody Hotel on I Drive at 11am and 5pm you used to be able to watch the resident ducks get the red carpet treatment as they either arrived or left their lobby fountain home.  Guided by “Duck Masters” they were directed with walking sticks.  They even had their own private elevator which linked their lavish rooftop enclosure with the lobby fountain that was designed just for them.

The tradition ran from 1986 right through to October 2013, when the tradition ended as the Peabody was sold and became the Hyatt Regency Orlando.

We used to enjoy a trip to see them on the way to the I Drive Outlet shopping – stopping in the air conditioned lobby with some toast and coffee for breakfast they were a joyful start to the day.

Hopefully, the Peabody ducks are all enjoying their retirement, at the time it was reported that they were going to be cared for on a private farm.


Throwback Thursday – swimming with manatees

A few years ago now, my friend and I decided to do something a little different and we booked to swim with manatees.

Governed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service you are able to swim with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida.

We used Sunshine River Tours – it was  8 years ago though so I couldn’t recommend them now as it is so long ago.

It was February so the morning was cool.  We had to get up very early to arrive there for approx 6.30am and we were a 1.5 hour drive away.  The tour started at 7am, but they suggested to allow 30 minutes to get your wetsuit on etc.  The road trip was lovely – we saw the mist rising, a deer and had really clear roads so no trouble getting there.

The tour price included wetsuit, mask and snorkel hire.  Our tour began with an informative video regarding the ‘rules and regulations’ for swimming with the manatees – the key thing to remember is that you should lie still in the water and let the manatees come to you.  Manatees are the most beautiful, gentle and inquisitive creatures – they are also very BIG!  I had quite a shock when one rose from the depths and appeared underneath me.

We were the first tour out so we got some quality time before other tours arrived, it did become quite crowded in the water towards the end of our session, so we got back in the boat and enjoyed a hot beverage.

I, personally, wouldn’t do it again.  I appreciate that I have done it so it is easy to say, however, I would and have many times been and observed the manatees at Blue Springs State Park and I enjoyed that much more – I didn’t have to get up so early and it didn’t cost as much either.  All that said, it is a once in a lifetime experience that you can’t do many places in the world.

Manatee Swim_Crystal River_2b_Find Orlando Fun

Happy Canada Day – Epcot

A few years ago we were at Epcot on Canada Day – it was wonderful to see all the Canadians celebrating their day – they were going around the World Showcase testing all the different beverages – it was all in good nature and was fun to see.

Canada in Epcot is very well staged.  It has O Canada a Circle Vision 360 film which lasts 14 minutes – once seen is enough – but it can be a nice break from the sun/heat!  Canada also has beautiful gardens – the Victoria Gardens which are based on the world famous Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island and Rocky Mountain staging plus a beautiful steakhouse called Le Cellier.

Le Cellier is one of the more expensive restaurants in Epcot and if you want to dine there you are well advised to book in advance (you can book up to 180 days in advance) as on the day bookings in peak holiday season are rarely available.  Offering great steaks, prime rib, seafood, chicken and some vegetarian dishes.  The cocktails, wines and beer are also very good.

There is also a resident band in Canada called Off Kilter – it is a rock/bagpipe band – that plays up to 5 times a day with their CDs also available in the Northwest Mercantile.