An educated guide leads adventurers on an Everglades Day Safari Eco-Tour starting as early as 7:45 a.m. daily from Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach and Naples. This all-day adventure includes a riverboat ride into the mangrove estuaries, a nature walk in a Cypress swamp and a complete lunch with native appetizers. Also, enjoy an airboat ride into the saw grass prairie and a search for birds, alligators, snakes and butterflies.
Adult price is $140 per person Child price is $104 for children 5-11. Reservation requested. 472-1559 or (800) 472-3069.
Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve is the second largest preserved green space in Cape Coral*. Located just north of Veteran"s Parkway, Four Mile Cove / “Eco Park” is a brackish water wetland area that features a walking trail, visitor center, Veterans Memorial Area, and seasonal kayak rentals. There is an 800’ portage along the kayak trail, therefore it is not for beginners and children under 6 are not permitted in the kayaks. However, visitors of any age can walk through the preserve on the boardwalk. Possible wildlife sightings include eagles, ibis, herons, other wading & migratory birds, raccoons, snakes, etc. Be sure to stop at the visitor’s center for information on programs, local wildlife, and trail guides. Weekend kayak rentals October-May. Free admission. The park is at the end of S.E. 23rd Terrace, just north of Midpoint Memorial Bridge, Cape Coral. Call 549-4606 for more information.
Spend a day traveling by kayak with a professional naturalist through back bays, aquatic preserves, wildlife refuges, creeks, bayous, rivers and mangrove forests to see otters, osprey, bald eagles, alligators, manatee and more. Check their website for all locations. $50 a person full day (shorter tours available). Reservation required. 694-5513 or visit their website.
Lovers Key Beach is nestled between the quaint town of Ft. Myers Beach and the City of Bonita Springs inside Lovers Key state park. Once slated for development of luxury high rise condos, the land, thankfully was donated to the state and has become the most visited destination in Southwest Florida. Lovers Key Beach is consistently in the top 5 most visited state parks in Florida. Kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, or pedal boats are available for rent to explore the 2.5 mile estuary. See manatees, dolphins, alligators, ospreys, and much more as you paddle peacefully through this mangrove protected trail. Guided kayak, canoe, and paddle board tours are available. Call (239) 765-7788; website: www.loverskeyadventures.com/
Manatee Park is a non-captive warm water refuge for the Florida Manatee. Optimum viewing months are late December, January and February when the gulf temperature is below 68F. Manatees are generally not present during the warm summer months. The park has an extensive butterfly garden, and is a demonstration landscape for the Florida Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) program. Birds and other wildlife can be found throughout the park. Visitor Center with gift shop and kayak rentals open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free guided walk through the native plant habitats every Saturday at 9 a.m. Kayak clinics every 2nd Saturday and gardening workshops every 4th Saturday of the month. Space limited; register/info: 432-2038. Canoe launch and fishing pier on the Orange River, picnic shelters, butterfly garden, and more. Parking 75 cents an hour, $3 maximum a day. No pets. State Road 80, 1 1/2 miles east of Interstate 75 (exit No. 141, old No. 25), Fort Myers. Information update line: 694-3537.
Explore and discover the natural beauty of Southwest Florida. Learn about the unique ecology of the barrier islands and estuary ecosystem by visiting the Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center, located at 718 Fisherman’s Wharf on San Carlos Island in Fort Myers Beach, FL under the north side of Matanzas Pass Bridge. For 25 years, the Center provides a Marine Science Experience through interactive exhibits, aquariums, touch tank, one of a kind collections and unique displays. Call for feeding times, it"s an opportunity to see many of our reclusive marine specimens that come out of hiding for lunch. Touch a starfish, put your head in the mouth of a shark, see how sea turtles hatch, and much more. Open Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. with both guided and self-guided tours. A donation of $5.00 per adult and $3.00 for children over 6 years of age is suggested.
Call for detailed information and reservation 765-8101.
Environmental education is part of the SCCF’s core mission. Their 6,900+ sq.ft. nature center houses a touch tank and exhibits about the ecology of Sanibel and Captive. They provide a wide variety of activities and programs to engage the community and visitors in experiences designed to increase their awareness and understanding of the natural world. A variety of venues for learning about the islands and the waters surrounding them are offered to people of all ages with an emphasis on utilizing the outdoors as a classroom. Visit the Nature Center or enjoy a guided beach and trail walk. Nature Center admission is $3 for adults and free for children under age 17. Dolphin watch and natural history boat cruise is available daily. Cruise costs are $20 for adults, $10 for children. Reservations required. For daily cruise information call: 472-5100. Location: 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road. Sanibel, FL 33957 ph. 472-2329.
Get back to nature at Babcock Ranch with Babcock Wilderness Adventures and "Take a Ride on the Wildside"! You"ll find yourself face to face with wildlife and farming in an Old Florida setting. Babcock Ranch offers visitors the perfect environment to immerse themselves in nature and the way the original settlers and farmers lived in our area coping with the difficult territory. Well over 100 years back the ranch was purchased by Mr. E.V. Babcock. The area was chosen for its long leaf pine, perfect for their lumber business. In the 1930"s the ranch moved into the cattle business which is the main business on the ranch to this day. You will see horse-mounted cowboys herding cracker cattle, the native breed introduced to the ranch in the early 1900s.Through the years they also had a tree farm, and raised alligators and ostriches. Mr. Babcock"s friends loved the ranch and said he should show it to others, thus the tours began... Aboard a converted school bus with doors and windows removed very knowledgeable guides lead narrated tours through sections of the preserve’s more than 73,000 acres of freshwater marsh, prairie lands, functioning cattle ranch, and pine forest, as well as the 10,000-acre Telegraph Cypress Swamp. They will point out plenty of photo opportunities as endangered, wood storks, alligators, wild turkey, wild pigs, deer, fox squirrels, birds and rare Florida panthers can be seen through shrouds of native vegetation. - Enjoy a 90-minute swamp buggy tour through the Babcock Ranch and Telegraph Cypress Swamp. All tours are by reservation only. November-April: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Experienced guides offer in-depth descriptions of birds, animals, plants, and the horses and cattle that are raised on the ranch. Visitors can see panthers, alligators, bison, and other animals. A three-hour, 10- mile, off-road eco-bike tour is also available during dry months. Call for schedule. 8000 S.R. 31, Punta Gorda. (800) 500-5583.
When visiting the The Conservancy Briggs Nature Center you will have a chance to learn about and explore many of the distinct native habitats and wildlife found in Southwest Florida from the comfort of an elevated boardwalk. An informative center and a butterfly garden offer additional educational opportunities.
Coastal development has destroyed many of South Florida"s vital estuaries, where fresh water from the land meets and mingles with ocean salt water. In recent years substantial efforts have been made to preserve these irreplaceable resources. A campaign to save Rookery Bay, 10 miles southeast of Naples, began in 1966 when a small group of concerned individuals grew alarmed at the area"s proposed development. Two years later, the citizens group incorporated as the Collier County Conservancy became The Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
In 1978, the conservancy"s dedicated efforts paid off. Rookery Bay was designated a National Estuarine Research Reserve, under management of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The Briggs Memorial Nature Center, which opened to the public in 1982, serves as the reserve"s interpretive center.
An elevated 0.5-mile boardwalk takes visitors through the 12,700-acre reserve"s six environmental communities: oak scrub, pine flatwoods, wet hammock, fringe marsh, brackish pond, and mangrove fringe. Before you set off, walk through the interpretive center"s Butterfly Garden and see how many of the native plants and 27 species of butterflies you can identify. The one-way boardwalk is circular and offers information at each numbered station.
- Hands-on exhibits, nature trails, guided walks, live snakes, half-mile boardwalk, butterfly garden. Mondays through Saturdays 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission is $7.50 for adults (includes admission to Naples Nature Center), $1 for children ages 3-12 and free for children under age 3 and Conservancy members. $35, yearly family. Phone: (941)775-8569
A visit to Audubon"s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a journey into the heart of the Everglades ecosystem. Discover the rugged beauty of this famed natural area on Corkscrew"s famous boardwalk - a 2.5-mile adventure through pine flatwoods, wet prairie, around a marsh, and finally into the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America. Located about 30 minutes east of Naples, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is home to hundreds of alligators, otters, white-tailed deer, and red-bellied turtles. A wide variety of wading birds, songbirds, raptors and the fabulous Painted Bunting can be seen throughout the year. Photo opportunities are available at every turn of the boardwalk trail. Regular hours: visitor center open daily 7 a.m.-5 p.m. an 11,000-acre natural ecosystem. $7, adults; $5.50, full-time college students; $5, Audubon members; $3.50, ages 6 to 18; free, children younger than 6. 375 Sanctuary Road, Naples. Thirty miles east of Naples off Immokalee Road - County Road 846-or Exit 17 off Interstate 75. (941) 348-9151
Three unique locations. Group tours may be available by advance reservation year-round. All walks conducted by trained Conservancy volunteers and are subject to weather conditions and volunteer availability. Times and days subject to change. Stroll among the bays, boardwalks and beaches of some very unique natural areas. Learn about shells, plants, mangroves, wading birds and more. Advanced registration not needed. Come back again to view specific times and dates.
Hands-on exhibits, special nature programs and presentations offered daily. Canoe rentals and nature trails. Daily naturalist-guided trail walks and boat tours through a mangrove forest. Mondays-Saturdays year round: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission is $7.50 for adults (also includes admission to Briggs Nature Center); $2 for ages 3-12, and free for children under age 3 and members. $35 yearly family membership. 14th Avenue North, off Goodlette-Frank Road. Call (941) 262-0304, Ext. 233 or go to www.conservancy.org.
The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens has about 70 species, though not all of these are on display at any given time. The main path is about a mile long, and winds past the main animal exhibits through a tropical garden first planted in 1919. Primates in the zoo are housed on islands in a man-made lake, and can be viewed from catamarans when visitors take the Primate Expedition Cruise. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is open every day except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Inclement weather may cause an unannounced closing for the safety of our guests and our animals. Address: 1590 Goodlette Road N, Naples FL 34102, Ph. (239)262-5409
This heavily visited refuge is reputed to be among Florida’s best wildlife spots. It is located on subtropical Sanibel Island, a barrier island just North of Ft. Myers Beach. There is an excellent visitor center, several foot trails, two canoe trails, a five-mile wildlife drive (closed on Fridays), an interpretive tram, and naturalist-led tours.
Banana Bay Tour Company is conveniently located at Cape Harbor in Cape Coral. They promise more dolphin encounters than on any other tours. You"ll experience an enchanting wildlife wonderland, with views of nesting ospreys, wood storks, egrets, pelicans and heron. On occasion a bald eagle may be spotted. They offer a variety of tours to choose from, including sunset tours. Check their website: http://bananabaytourcompany.com/tours.html, Ph. 1-800-979-3370
No other cruise in the area can offer you the Good Fortune II eco-tour experience. Join the Coast Guard certified boat captains and a trained volunteer guide off the beaten path for a two-hour eco-leisurely cruise aboard a quiet pontoon boat. Venture through the mangrove-lined channels of Rookery Bay – one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America. Assorted wildlife like dolphins and manatees, including hundreds of species of birds and many threatened and endangered animals thrive in this unique environment. (239)403-4236