Monday, December 21, 2015

December 12, 2015 - Clermont, Apopka and Celebration, FL

Edith had heard so much about the wildlife drive in Apopka, FL and wanted to go there today, since the weather was lovely.

We got on Route 192 going north, then Highway 27. We stopped to check out The Showcase of Citrus. It is a place where tourists can pick their own citrus or buy pre-packed bags.  It was established in 1961 and is a prominent spot along Highway 27.  There are groves and groves of different kinds of citrus.  There is a map telling tourists what grows within the area.  There are swamp buggy tours that tourists can ride in for one hour to see other areas. It is $20 for adults and $10 for kids.

The Showcase of Citrus Store
Swamp Buggy

Shark eating up Erwin?
The Orange Grove
Dancey Tangerines

The map to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive that we asked the guest relations department at Mystic Dunes to print for us was incorrect.  It led us to the EXIT, not the entrance, so we had to google for a while to find where to go from there.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is operated by the District’s Bureau of Land Management. It is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The 11-mile drive is a one-way that begins at Lust Road and ends on Jones Road. The drive is open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays between sunrise and sunset. The speed limit is 10 mph.  There are several designated pull overs that allow other vehicles to go by when you want to park the vehicle, get out and take photos.  Even though hiking is allowed there are alligators in the ponds and canals, so one needs to be very alert.  

At the entrance there was a gentleman getting out of the van, taking out his photography gear.  WHOA! A 600mm lens that Edith had always wanted to have and he mounted it on one of two tripods that he owned.  We approached the guy and talked with him.  Edith asked him if he was in business selling photos. No, it is his hobby.  We shared information about photography gear and he checked Edith’s 100-400 telephoto lens and said it is a good one.  

We saw different species of birds and ducks.  Alligators were spotted, some small and few big.  Edith had a hard time getting pictures of a belted kingfisher.  It flew so fast and got so skittish when we got too close to it.  Edith managed to get one or two good photos.  One Great Blue Heron did not mind the company of few photographers getting so close to it.  Edith even joined in and was thrilled to be able to capture close up shots.  

Eastern Phoebe
Alligator (that was the biggest one we saw during the drive)
Great Blue Heron in Flight
Pied-billed Grebe
While we were cruising we were flagged down by a van behind us.  We stopped to get out and see what was up. Oh, it was the gentleman that we spoke with at the entrance. He asked us if we had seen baby alligators.  No, we have not.  So, we followed him back to the spot where there is a bridge.  There were about 18-20 baby alligators.  “Is their mama around”, Erwin asked.  No, they are on their own once they reached a foot or so.  These were about 18”.  

On our way to the exit an immature red-shouldered hawk was on top of a pole.  We were hoping to see eagles, but none were seen flying around.  We saw two birds that we had not seen before and Edith got a shot of it in flight.  

Immature Red-Shouldered Hawk on top of the pole
We really enjoyed the drive so much that Erwin wanted to go back again.  We were really hungry and went to Panera Bread, few miles out.  After our supper it was getting close to 4:30 pm and the gate at the wildlife drive closes at sunset, which is around 5:30 pm.  Let’s come back another time, we agreed.

Yes, it was a long long drive from the resort to the wildlife drive, but it was worth every mile of it.  We really enjoyed our day so much.

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