Florida Aquarium and Manatees!

We had a very nice day yesterday. Also, we accomplished everything we wanted to on the sight-seeing front, and so that gives us a free day today.

Our first stop was the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.

We visited the Florida Aquarium some 20 years ago as a part of a summer vacation to Florida with the kids. It was August, humid and hot. What were we thinking visiting Florida in August? It gave us an appreciation for what people meant when we were living in Phoenix, and they'd say, "But it's dry heat, right?" Well, yes. But hot is hot...humid or dry...and it was plenty hot in Phoenix too.

So anyway...the aquarium was smaller than we remembered it, and some of the exhibits had changed. We enjoyed it just as much, however, and it was as if we were seeing it for the first time. I could have taken thousands of pictures...and I did take hundreds...but I'll only show you a few.

This first one is the roseate spoonbill. I waited patiently for him to preen his feathers while dozens of young children swarmed around me. Mike said something along the lines of "We have to get out of here!" as if we were in danger of being mauled to death by a pack of 6-year-olds. Nevertheless, I was determined. Finally, he looked up from his feathers and showed me his spoonbill, and I captured him. Then we made our escape.

Just to his right was an exhibit I remembered most from this aquarium. It was a pond with half a dozen little alligators. It was memorable because they were floating just below the surface. At first glance, they looked like logs, but then just breaking the surface of the water were their eyes, looking like bubbles. Once you saw them, you could see all of them. It was eery how menacing they appeared, even thought they were only about two feet long. Fast forward to today, and there are only two alligators in this exhibit...both huge. I imagine they are some of the same ones we saw 20 years ago. They were side by side, staring out at us. We probably looked delicious...very meaty and tender, if you know what I mean.

Sharing their exhibit was this weird-looking Alligator Snapping Turtle. When I was young and we lived in the south, I was sure snapping turtles were all around, waiting to bite me every time I went swimming. At a swimming hole, I was always on the lookout for bubbles on the surface because I knew for sure and certain that those were snapping turtles. My brother, 7 years older, was no help in this regard.

Then there was this guy. Doesn't he have a lovely quilted shell? This is the Diamondback Terrapin.

Mike and I didn't become certified scuba divers until about 15 years ago, and so on our first visit to the aquarium, the tropical reef exhibit was all brand new. As we stood before it this time, we realized we'd seen virtually all these fish in the wild while scuba diving at tropical locations. It was kind of fun to see them again now that they are old friends. The exhibit was beautiful.

There was a Madagascar Exhibit where we saw three lemurs all snuggled up in a tight knot. Just by luck, all three raised their heads at the same time, and I was able to get this shot of them. Squee!

And let me tell you...there are some weird fish in the world. This one is the Bat Fish.

This next one is the Toad Fish.

This one is obvious...the Sea Horse. I have a special place in my heart for a species that forces the men to give birth.

There was a tankful of lobsters. We apologized to them for eating their cousins while we were in Maine. I don't supposed it was any consolation knowing how delicious they were.

This is a hermit crab. The hermit crab picks up the discarded shells of other creatures and takes up residence inside. I can recall noticing a conch shell while diving in Belize. It left a trail in the sand, and I was certain no conch had done that. When I swam down to take a closer look...sure enough...it was a hermit crab.

Mike and I have seen lots of eels while diving, but this one was the largest we'd ever seen. It was as long and big around as my leg.

This next exhibit is where the Florida Aquarium really shines. There's a whole big room where one can sit and watch a huge tank full of many different kinds of fish and turtles. There were even two divers in the tank yesterday.

We got front row seats and sat for around half an hour just watching. The longer we watched, the more we saw. There were enormous Southern Stingrays in the tank as well as a host of other predator fish.

Here's a barracuda.

Here's a green sea turtle...to his left is a large shark.

Here's another shot of the shark. We estimate the shark was around 8 feet long. We wondered why the predator fish didn't eat the smaller fish. No indication via signage or anything else. We're still wondering.

And, wow...I might have to take away first prize from the Oregon Aquarium when it comes to their jellyfish exhibit. The Florida Aquarium had at least six tanks of the most interesting jellies. Remember the fabric I bought the other day? Doesn't this look just like it?

There were several different varieties.

The thing about the jellies is that you have to see them in motion. It's absolutely mesmerizing. Here's a little video so you can see for yourself. If you can't see the video, then click right here.

Toward the end of our visit, we came to a couple of tanks containing clown fish. I'd never seen these black ones before.

But we found Nemo!

I forget what kind of a fish this is, but he was very cute...about three inches long. To his left you can see the antenna of a little red shrimp.

When our eyes were full, we moved on down the road. We needed some more jack pads for the trailer. Since arriving in North Carolina, we've been parking on a lot of sand. This whole area used to be a vast ocean, and the sand lives on, no matter where we stop. To avoid the kind of problem we encountered when we unhitched here, Mike wanted a couple of pads to put under the jacks to keep them from sinking into the sand.

While we were there, his debit card was declined, and we received an almost instant phone call from our bank back home. It seems his debit card has been counterfeited, and now it's been shut down. Someone tried to make a $1,000 purchase at a Hard Rock Casino. (Really?) Anyway...that was a bummer. If you've ever lost your debit card for some reason, then you know it's almost as bad as losing a limb. Fortunately, we're visiting our mail forwarded address here in Florida in the next couple of weeks to pick up our forwarded mail. It was good timing for this because we're having a new debit card forwarded there. I don't know how we could have accomplished it otherwise.

So that took some time, but eventually, we were able to get some lunch and then move on to the Manatee Viewing Center at the Tampa Electrical Co-op (TECO). The plant was belching steam into the air while we were there.

It's surprising what they've done there. There were some nice hiking trails, including an observation tower, a birding trail, butterfly gardens, and a manatee viewing area. We were only really interested in the last of those. The water was still murky, but not as bad as the Lee County Park. Looking out across the water, we could see dozens...maybe hundreds...of manatees.

And some were close enough and willing to be photographed.

We'd still like to get a better view of them, but we now feel as if we can say we've seen them. We're still hoping for clearer water when we visit my friend Karin at Crystal River (next stop).

After that, we stopped off at the grocery store to pick up a few things from our list. When we got back to the RV, we wasted no time getting Smitty out for a walk. While we were out, the mighty hunter caught a shrew.

Sadly it ran under the RV where leashed kitties cannot go...a problem with the hapless humans that follow behind...and that was disappointing. He never eats the shrews anyway...he just plays with them until they die from exhaustion. I imagine the shrew was grateful for the leash.

So we got everything we wanted to get done yesterday. Today we'll probably do some hiking in the park. We have nothing on our agenda. It's pretty cold this morning, but the sun is shining. We're expecting it to warm up a little. Several of you have warned us about the weather, and we do appreciate it. Also, I appreciated your many funny comments about the unhitching debacle from yesterday's post. You guys crack me up.

As for the weather, we seem to have avoided the worst of the cold, and that's kind of unusual for us. Usually we drive smack into the middle of bad weather, and so we're feeling pretty smug about this. It's cold here, but even last night's temperature didn't go below freezing. We're just plain lucky that we've timed our travels right for a change. All the areas we visited in the previous couple of weeks are experiencing snow and ice right now. Fingers crossed it just keeps heading away from us and we avoid any bad weather in our future travels. Sorry for all of you in the grip of it though. Please don't mistake my smugness for indifference to your pain. Crank up those furnaces, bundle up and stay warm and safe. And for goodness sake, don't lose your electricity.

And I'm editing this post to say I'm joining in to January's OMG Challenge. We're still traveling, and so sewing has been sporadic. It's hard to know when I'm going to have a day to set things up and get going on something. Nevertheless, I hate to be left out, and so I'm joining in come snow or high water. And just to show you I'm serious about this, I even have a uniform to show that I'm an RV quilter.

So anyway...this month's goal is to get in at least one session of sewing in January. And if I do, I'm going to start sewing together the blocks for last year's Solstice Challenge...no promises about how much...but something. How's that for a definite maybe? And I got a start when I fixed the fifth block of the challenge just the other day.

And since I have to link up with a picture, that one will have to do.

14 comments from clever and witty friends:

Quilting Babcia said...

Fabulous photos! And I just read about your adventure the day before. Intrepid adventurers you are! Hope you can stay ahead of all the cold weather. We're happy when we wake up and it's above zero for the puppy's first outing of the day - not that he minds the cold at all.

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

Great photos! Someone hacked my credit card a few years ago. It was the emergency card that I had for my son's to use, at college, if anything came up. Not only did we have to wait for the new cards to arrive, but, then I had to mail them off to each son. Thank goodness they never had any emergencies. Stay warm. My heater is going full blast here.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

I love aquariums as I would never get in deep water to see these lovelies. Something calming watching fish 'float' thru water. Glad you saw some manatees and that this odd weather pattern is out of your travels. The 'snow bomb' started here around 6am, so we shall see what results as the day progresses. I had a card hacked a few years ago, but my bank notified me immediately before I had an embarassing encounter - no I didn't order 2 bulldozers in Argentina!

Robin Klein said...

Glad you are getting to go to Crystal River. Don't forget to visit their quilt shop. Tons of manatee fabrics.Sorry we were not able to meet :( Hopefully in another time.

QuiltShopGal said...

Sounded like another wonderful day on your amazing adventure. I'm impressed how many manatees you saw enjoyin the warm water. They seem like such sweet animals. Definitely on my bucket list to see one day.


LadySchep said...

Oh, it's so fun to see people enjoy visiting the place I call home! Please enjoy your time here in beautiful Florida. If you're daring, grab a wetsuit and go swimming with the manatees at Crystal River--it's fun to see them up close!

WoolenSails said...

Another amazing aquarium, and glad that you finally got to enjoy seeing the manatees.
The snow stopped but the wind is horrible and will continue for a few days with the cold, really want to be in Florida with you, lol.


Kate said...

Looks like a wonderful aquarium with beautiful exhibits. If you get to Galveston Island this trip, the one at Moody Gardens is pretty good too.

The SIT was trying to get back from Florida in all that weather on Wednesday. We weren't sure she was going to make it. Thankfully the weather Gods took mercy and it was only rain in Gainsville and light snow in Charlotte. Other than a 30 minute delay at the beginning, she didn't have it too bad. As we were sitting at the airport waiting for her, I was thinking you and Mike had done well to move south and to the other side of the state.

Hope you avoid any other nasty weather during your travels.

piecefulwendy said...

What a fun day you had! That jellyfish video was so incredibly cool. I'm so glad you got to see manatees and got some pictures too. Our kids used to watch VeggieTales, which had a ridiculous song about manatees, which is now playing in my head. Haha. So Smitty was a little "shrew-ed" on his walk, eh? Good for him. Sorry, couldn't resist. Enjoy your day!

Patty said...

Thanks for linking up with Elm Street Quilts One Monthly Goal and good luck on your project.

Brown Family said...

We heard that the Manatees were all moving into the warm waters of the power plants. Signs to boaters had been poster to avoid the areas. The aquarium was beautiful.

quiltzyx said...

Wonderful photos from the Aquarium. I liked the silhouettes of the kids in front of the big tank window!
Maybe I will check out the OMG challenge. I have some things I need to sew, so must move out all the darned amazon boxes that seem to have taken root in my sewing area!

Dar said...

You got some wonderful pictures on this stop and I loved the jellyfish video. That was incredible and the colors beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen one any place in person. I did get stung by one unknowingly while swimming in Florida when I was a teenager, but I never saw him. It hurt like the dickens though.

Lyndsey said...

Fabulous photos of your trip to the aquarium. There's a big aquarium in London that I've never visited so I've added it to my 'must visit' list.