We have five grandkids that live in Wesley Chapel–little more than an hour south of us. The two older kids are busy being pre-teens and we don’t see them as often. But the three younger still like to come about once a month. And every time they visit, I say, “What do you want to do?” And it’s always, kayak, fish, go out on the boat, make cookies……and definitely…go to the zoo.
On the most recent visit I suggested heading to Weekie Wachee State Park. We hadn’t been there in a few years. I thought the two girls would be all about those mermaids. Nope. That mermaid show had a scary person in it and they didn’t want to go back.
So we went to the zoo. And I must explain to you why they call the Homosassa Wildlife Park a zoo rather than a park. Because a park has swings. A zoo has animals. ’nuff said.
They have been there so often, they just lead the way.
First they pose…
And then we descend into the Fish Bowl…
We go to the Wildlife Encounter…
Have a photo session with the bear
And check out the newly renovated Children’s Education Center which has been renamed the Discovery Center.
When we entered the park, the volunteer at the cash register said that the gates were being opened today and that there were 15 manatees waiting. To those of you that don’t live right here in the heart of Manatee Mania, let me explain. There are a few captive manatees that depend on the wildlife park for their existence. And there are hundreds that just want into the spring to survive the winter. During the warm months, the captive manatees enjoy the entire spring in their fenced enclosure. Once the weather cools down, these manatees are moved into a “pool” and two gates are opened so the rest of the manatee population can get out of the cold water and into the 74 degree water of the spring.
Now I’m going off track again to explain that the wildlife park saves animals. Injured or ill creatures live there while they recuperate. When they are able to make it on their own, they are released back into their habitat. Some animals such as the bears and the Florida panther will spend their lives at the park because they have become accustomed to people taking care of them. Others will stay there because they never fully recuperate and would not be able to fend for themselves in the wild.
As I mentioned previously, the grandkids have been to the park numerous times but never tire of it. The volunteers and employees are always eager to explain what they are doing and answer any of the kids’ questions. On one visit a few years ago, a volunteer told the two girls all about two young manatees, Cee Cee Baby and Crystal, that were rescued. The manatees have since been released but my granddaughters still talk about them and wonder if they are among the many manatees waiting to enter the spring. Seeing the gates being opened was a huge event for the kids. They were mesmerized as the ranger jumped into the water with his wet suit on and opened up one of the gates with a curious manatee checking out the progress.
When the grandkids return to visit us during the winter school break, we’ll be back at the “zoo”. We’ll also go to the Holiday Light Show at the park at least two times–once for the kids and then the Christmas Eve program for Great Grandma. We are so fortunate to have this great state park right around the corner from us.