Vacation for Nature

Adult and unrelated baby manatee at aquarium in Bradenton, Florida

Orlando, Las Vegas, and New York City stimulate the senses, but at the end of a vacation there you feel exhausted. Why not try a place that offers natural beauty and wildlife along with the essentials of peace and quiet? As most people in the world live in urban areas, it makes sense to prioritize escapes to less urban, more natural areas. Run away to nature.

You don’t have to go camping or otherwise give up civliization (aka hot showers) to dip your toes in the ocean. I relaxed this past week at a timeshare in Fort Myers Beach that is within walking distance of a state park and bird sanctuary. Hot showers (and hot tub) at night; kayaking and bike riding during the day.

Have you ever watched a wild dolphin leap into the air? Or stood on a bridge above a manatee mother and her baby? Or spotted a shark from 400 feet in the air, while parasailing? These were just a few of the wildlife highlights of the week.

Fling! There goes another mullet (the fish, not the haircut). A trio of dolphins were playing with their food. With the foot-long fish in its mouth, the dolphin tossed it into the air and then chased it down again. At other times the fish popped out of the bay water vertically, as if the dolphin below had flicked it with its tail. Funny to watch, but for the dolphins it must represent some hunting strategy. Mullets are great jumpers naturally, but being tossed into the air unwillingly may stun them into submission.

At another spot near the inlet I also observed a baby dolphin, about 3 feet long, surfacing alongside an adult, presumably its mother, who had a jagged dorsal fin, as if it had been bitten twice. The baby was mostly hidden by the seven-foot mother and could not be seen from a distance or even up close if looking at the other side. Luckily I was on a kayak and could float around without disturbing them too much. Another dolphin eyed me when surfacing about 20 feet away, and it continued swimming at a steady pace. There was no reaction to indicate if I was considered a threat or a curiousity. Within minutes this pod had swum out to sea where I couldn’t follow, disappearing into the horizon.

That was a good vacation.

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