on April 21, 2007
Just about 90 minutes south of Cedar Key is Homossassa State Park, home to the endangered manatees. It originally began as a private enterprise, but is now run by the state. This is your best opportunity to get an up close look at manatees, or sea cows. They resemble small whales, but are actually related to the elephant. These incredibly gentle creatures have no natural enemies, but their curiousity and slow speed means that they often have enounters with the problems of man, getting injured by boat propellers and underwater debris. After parking in the front lot, walk through the headquarters building to either the boat dock or the tram station. Either one will take you through a bit of a wilderness ride to the real park entrance where you will purchase tickets. After receiving the hand stamp, head off to your left to see the manatees. If you arrive in time to see a feeding, try to sit as low as possible on the bleachers and near the front. You will be viewing the manatees here from above the water, and it is difficult (especially for children) to see beyond the first couple rows of the bleachers. Don't worry about being splashed as the manatees move very slowly. You will also see some mullet fish jumping out of the water as you wait. Next, continue on the path to the floating observation deck. You can see the manatees, and the feeding show, from the top deck. Also, walk down the steps to the lower level to see the manatees and plenty of other fish from below the water. Continue on the path to the rest of the zoo exhibits. There are about two dozen open air exhibits featuring mostly Florida native animals. There are portions of the path that do not have much shade, so if you are visiting in the summer heat, be sure you wear a hat and carry your own water. The bird exhibits are particularly extensive, including some bald eagles and a large collection of flamingos. The entire loop takes about two hours at a leisurely pace. In addition to seeing the rare manatees in their natural habitat, this is a good small zoo for young children short on attention spans and stamina.
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