on August 9, 2000
This tour company offers departures from two locations. One departure point is from Hontoon Island near Deland where the safari cruises on the St. Johns River. The other departure is from DeLeon Springs State Park. The cruise here proceeds along Spring Garden Creek and Spring Garden Lake. I have taken the river safari from both locations and found them both to be excellent. On both safaris the boats were comfortable, new pontoon boats and the narrated rides were informative as well as fun. I was impressed with the knowledge of the captains as they pointed out not only wildlife but also the vegetation that grows along the river. On the safari from Deleon Springs we were lucky as there were only 8 passengers on the boat and 6 of them were in our group. So we had the run of the boat. On both boats I was truly amazed at the keen eyesight of the captains and the first mates.
Examples of things we saw:
* Anhinga - Indian name that means snake bird. Name is appropriate because this bird has a long neck. When an Anhinga is in the water their bodies are totally under water and the long neck makes the bird look like a snake. This water bird does not have oil in its wings so it must dry its wings after it dives in the water before it can fly.
* Double Crested Cormorants - black water bird with a hooked beak. Similar to Anhinga
* Wild hibiscus - red blooms all along the creek edge
* Spatter dock - looks like lily pad. It grows only in water that has a current. Manatees eat the roots but not the green leaves.
* Swamp Lily - white stringy flower
* Southern Cattail
* Yellow Water Lily
* We watched wild turkeys on shore along the St. Johns River. After the boat had passed them they took flight and flew over the river behind us. We had a beautiful view of them in flight.
* Great Blue Heron - we saw babies that are pure white; juveniles that are dark blue and adults that are blue gray.
* Moor Hens - Red beaked birds seen often in the shallows.
* Many alligators of all sizes. Including a mother alligator with babies crawling all over her
* Tri-Color Herons
* Hydrilla - nuisance water plant that is not native to Florida and tends to clog waterways. It does however provide cover for alligators and manatees
* Turtles - Cooters and Florida red belly turtles
* Limpkins - resembles a turkey but lighter in color and has spots on the wings - eats apple snails
* American coot - related to Moor Hen but has white bill
* American bittern
* We saw a fledgling Osprey that was learning to fly. It was able to fly pretty well but landing was still a problem. We watched him over shoot a branch several times before making a successful landing.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009