Homestead and the Everglades

Yesterday we stayed around the Homestead area. I got my favorite milkshake ever (and I’m not a big milkshake fan) at Robert Is Here fruit stand. They make them with real fruit and they are amazing! I always get one with coconut because I love that I can chew on it after I sip it. You can get up to three flavors in a milkshake (you can get a smoothie as well and they use milk instead of ice cream). I went for strawberry, coconut, and mango. They have a ton to choose from and some are a little more expensive than others, like the mango.

We were going to check out an alligator farm, but we didn’t know that it included shows and an airboat ride and didn’t have enough time to enjoy it before our afternoon appointment. Instead we checked out a trail in a local park (lots of tree roots and not very exciting), took some pictures of a Buddhist temple (more Jef’s thing than mine), and tried to find a park that had peacocks, but it was not where the map said it was located. We grabbed lunch back at the RV and then went to our Zoo Wildlife Miami appointment. We had a two hour tour booked with the option of interacting with the animals. We were both very excited.

The zoo is located in a residential area at the end of a dead end road. You would never know it existed save for the signs and glimpsing some cages over the fence. We got there early and the woman checking us in had a baby kangaroo in a shoulder bag hanging around her midsection. She said that it was a twin and the mother kicked him out so they had to carry him around to give him the same experience as if he was with his mother. She said he weighed about 7 lbs. All you could really see were his long legs sticking out of the bag. I peeked inside to see his cute little face.

Our tour guide, Amber Lynn (I think), had two rules: no putting our fingers or hands anywhere near the cages or the animals, and follow her wherever she went. We saw quite a few different animals. They had a good number of monkeys and lions, but we also saw emus, tortoises, alligators, crocodiles, a giant anteater, sloth, and porcupines. In the lion family we saw a male and female liger. The female was born at the zoo, which is almost unheard of since males are generally sterile. They also had an adorable baby cloudy leopard and some serious looking jaguars (one was black and the other had the leopard colors you might expect). While we were learning some really cool information about the animals, we noticed a couple next to the lion cage with a few employees opening a section. The male of this couple was a big dude (he probably weighed about 300lbs). They gave the couple one end of a rope and put another knotted end through the gate and asked the female lion to grab it in her mouth. She did so and they had a tug of war that she easily won without much effort. They said she weighed about 450lbs. It was something I had never seen before.

A good number of animals were given to the zoo because people could not take care of them anymore. They had at least two capuchin monkeys that were once pets. Although you can easily own one of these monkeys in Florida, Amber Lynn did not recommend it. Apparently they act like 5 year olds for about 50 years. I don’t think I need that in my life, you? We also learned that anteaters are good swimmers and have vicious claws. The red lemurs gave us a show because the female was upset so she was screeching at the male (who looked oblivious). I couldn’t believe the noises she made! It was a combination of growling, screaming, and keening.

After the end of the tour of the facilities, we entered an open air round tiki hut area. It was here that we were able to handle, pet, and view some of the animals close up. They started with a baby alligator, which we could pat. Then they brought out a boa and a python. I opted not to handle either of the snakes. (I’ve held them before and it’s not my favorite.) The macaw, Scarface, would put up with getting on your arm, but he didn’t want to be petted. He was a beautiful bird.

Scarface

Then she brought out a baby capuchin monkey complete with diaper. Apparently she did not like her stomach touched so that it why they gave us a pillow. She kept jumping all over me, even when I tried to use the pillow, but it was pretty neat being a jungle gym for a tiny monkey.

Finally she figured out how to sit for a second
She really liked my sunglasses
She did not want Jef to wear his face mask around her.

After we played with her, they brought out some bearded lizards. While Jef was holding him, I petted him and since he felt rough I thought I could handle holding him as well. His name was Bruce and he gave me the evil eye the entire time I held him. After they took him away I realized he pooped on my hand! Oh, Bruce!

Bruce and I did not bond, but he takes a good picture.

One of the workers brought the cloudy leopard to visit us. She was not trained enough for us to touch her, but she was so beautiful to see outside of the cage, none of us really minded.

My very favorite animal that we got to hold was Godiva. She was a baby bear cat or binturong. Godiva was adorable and she smelled like popcorn. She cuddled right up to me (gave me a little bit of a claw on my shoulder, but I didn’t mind) and I got a sniff/kiss on the cheek. She was so sweet.

Look at her adorable face!
Her kisses tickled me.

We also got to pet an ape that looked just like a giant teddy bear. He was pretty cute. All in all, it was a really neat experience. If you love animals and want to give money to a group that is taking in unwanted pets and caring for them for life, you should check them out.

Today we drove to the Everglades and checked out some trails. We saw a giant alligator hanging out on the side of the road and we watched some manatees mating at the Flamingo marina. (I wouldn’t have known they were mating, but a ranger told us they were. They just looked like they were playing in the water.) We walked a few trails such as the Mahogany Hammock and Ahinga, but we didn’t see too many animals. It was a strange weather day, which may have contributed to the lack of birds and other wildlife. We also stopped at the Nike Missile base and learned about the missiles they had there back in the 60s and how they were prepared to defend the U.S. from Cuba. The most interesting fact was that they could change the warhead from regular to nuclear, but these missiles were created to hit the planes in the sky. If they put on a nuclear warhead, it would explode above the planes and the pressure of the bomb would push all the bombers into the ground. Creepy stuff!

We have a lot of things we still want to explore here in the Miami area, so I’m sure that we will be back soon. For now, we had a nice glimpse of this area and have some ideas on what to do next time. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them! Perhaps things will be a little easier next time we visit.

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