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Florida Ecology

October 1, 2009

Florida is replete with natural scenery, despite the large population of people and the big cities. All one needs to do is do some local travel through Florida, and you’ll feel like you’re in another place and time… you can see Florida before it became a popular living and tourist destination.

One such place is the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, just east of Titusville. This huge place to experience Florida ecology is composed of approximately 140,000 acres, where you’ll see over 500 types of animals (including some that are endangered) and over 1000 plant species.

If you’re a bird lover, you’ll particularly enjoy seeing your feathered friends here, as it is one of the gateway sites for the Great Florida Birding Trail. This 2000 miles long trail is considered one of the world’s best birding destinations and is comprised of almost 500 sites along its self guided trail.

Conveniently, there’s a free loaner optics program where you can borrow a pair of binoculars to enhance your bird watching along the trail. Additionally, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge offers a wildlife drive and manatee observation deck, as well activities such as boating, paddling, fishing, and hunting.

View of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

View of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Visit the Enchanted Forest: While in the Titusville area, why not experience something a little different from the Wildlife Refuge: The Enchanted Forest. Here, along the several miles of hiking trails, you’ll see a wide variety of plants - both temperate and subtropical.

It can certainly seem a little surreal seeing subtropical plants in such close proximity to the more temperate species of plants. (i.e., almost desert like scrub to lush, green trees with huge canopies). Not only will you see plants, you’ll also see wildlife, such as snakes, lizards, tortoise, armadillo, bobcat, and white-tailed deer. Guided tours are available. For more information, call 321-264-5185.

The Florida Keys contains many eco attractions that shouldn’t be missed. The Dry Tortugas National Park (305-242-7700) is about 70 miles west of Key West and consists of seven islands, which prominently feature coral reefs and sand. Here, you’ll see plenty of birds and marine animals.

Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas State Park

Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas State Park

If you can’t get enough of the coral reefs, then you should take a little time out to check out the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (305-451-6300), located in Key Largo. The park offers glass bottom boat tours and snorkeling and scuba tours. The boat tours take you to the reef, where you can stay for 1.5 hours, while the snorkeling and scuba tours let you explore the reefs up close.

Christ of the Abyss at John Pennekamp State Park

Christ of the Abyss at John Pennekamp State Park

Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden: If you have a yearning to see plant life while in the Florida Keys, the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden is a great choice. It’s the only United States botanical garden area that remains frost free throughout the year. Here, you’ll find numerous different flora and fauna, even those on the endangered or threatened list.

Plus, many rare birds make their home here in this tropical garden. Additionally, there’s a one acre butterfly habitat to further brighten your day. These butterflies aren’t just the kind of butterflies you can find back home; over 20 butterfly species have been discovered here.

As you can see, there are plenty of eco attractions because the Florida ecology offers so much variety and beauty. Why not go out of your way to enjoy one of these special attractions soon.

Here’s a list of all the places recommended above and there is a map with directions and pinpoints below:

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
SR 402, Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge
Titusville, FL 32782
(321) 861-0667
Enchanted Forest
444 Columbia Blvd.
Titusville, FL 32780
(321) 264-5185
Dry Tortugas National Park
(305) 242-7700
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
102601 Oversea Hwy
Key Largo, FL 33037
(305) 451-1202
Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden
5219 College Rd
Key West, FL 33040
(305) 296-1504

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