Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Skydiving - Darn Near a YEAR Ago!

OK so most of you already know that I went sky diving last June.  And those who know have been waiting with baited breath to see the video I told you I had.  I didn't post it right away, because I wanted to edit the video myself before showing you.  Well I finally got around to editing it 2-3 months ago!  Yay!  I have no idea why I waited 2-3 months to post the video on my blog.  That, my friends, is a mystery.

But it is here now!  I don't think I need to write much on this blog - it is pretty much all explained by the video.  Enjoy!


KAREN GOES SKYDIVING! THE MOVIE


Sunday, November 27, 2011

iFly

This particular post is going to consist mostly of a video, as there really isn't a whole lot that can be SAID about this adventure, it has to be SHOWN.

A few weeks back Troy and I went to iFly, an indoor skydiving joint in Orlando.  Check it out at: http://www.iflyorlando.com/ifly-indoor-skydiving

iFly simulates sky diving (without a parachute) by shooting air in a vertical wind tunnel at speeds up to 150 mph.  It does feel a lot like skydiving though it isn't QUITE the same experience.


I actually did go skydiving earlier in the summer, but just haven't had a chance to edit the video for that one yet.  That will be coming before too long though, I promise!

We paid for two 1 minute flights each.  That might make it seem like in 4 minutes Troy and I would be on our merry way, but the way it worked was that we didn't get to go twice in a row, rather we were in a group of about 14 people and had to wait for everyone in our group to go once before we could go our second time.   There were a couple of very small children flying (I believe the younger limit to enter the wind tunnel is 3 years old) and it was quite entertaining watching them fly!  They were certainly braver than I was at that age.

I would definitely recommend this place to anyone who wants to experience skydiving without actually having to go skydiving.  Scaredy cats, this is for you!  This is probably the closest you will ever get to the experience, and you are completely safe the entire time, especially when compared to free falling from 10,000 feet!

Check out my flight experience on this 5-minute video (oh, and be sure to stay tuned for the instructors turn at the end... awesome stuff going on there)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Package from Stacy

This is the kind of stuff you get if you are lucky enough to get a package from Stacy!

  • 25 tea bags in the following flavors - 4 bigelow green tea (one with lemon), 5 twinings mint green tea, 3 salada green tea, 2 traditional medicinals organic chai, 1 traditional medicinals organic rose hips, 2 traditional medicinals organic lemon yerba mate, 3 bigelow orange and spice herb tea, 1 tian hu shan jasmine tea and 4 trader joes english breakfast tea
  • 2 packs Stride gum (spearmint)
  • 1 Bic pen (blue)
  • 1 pair chopsticks
  • 1 "Act for Autism" CVS puzzle pin
  • 2 deflated balloons (orange)
  • 1 child-proof safety outlet cover
  • 1 refrigerator frame with photo of Blake family
  • 1 framed photo of Olivia in tutu
  • 1 "I brake for Intercourse, PA" refrigerator magnet
  • 1 package of cookies and cream magic milk straws
  • 1 opened package of magnet sheets "create your own photo magnets"
  • 1 spool of purple ribbon
  • 1 goodie bag from Olivia's first birthday containing crayons (4), ringpop (watermelon), glow bracelet (that did not glow), ladybug bubbles
  • 1 dice keychain from Merv Griffin's Resorts
  • 1 dead bug in tuperware container

Friday, November 4, 2011

Swimming with the Manatees

A couple Saturday's ago, the Mchugh girls, Mr. Funk and I went swimming with the manatees at Crystal River with the "Manatee Tour and Dive company" ( http://www.manateetouranddive.com/ ).

What an awesome experience! I have gone snorkeling only twice before this - the first time was in Florida, and I really didn't have a terrific experience - it was before my laser eye surgery and I didn't realize before signing up that my glasses wouldn't fit under the goggles... so I wasn't even able to see the barracuda swimming below us; the second time was in Australia where I also didn't have a terrific experience - even though I could see, I had gotten seasick on the way out to the barrier reefs. That was my first time being seasick, and despite what you might have heard from other people, being seasick is NOT a good time! Anyway, this manatee snorkel was MUCH better than both of those experiences.

We started our journey off with a way too looooong car drive. It was early, and we were running late. Mr. T., my GPS, told us that we were going to be arriving about 15 minutes after our scheduled time... and then topped it off by calling us fools. 15 minutes isn't so bad... but unfortunately, we ended up hitting an unexpected pocket of traffic which pushed us to being 45 minutes late. Luckily the tour group waited for us to arrive before setting off on the river. Really though, that wasn't a huge surprise as we were the majority of the group...

Before we changed into our (provided) wetsuits, we were required to watch a movie about how not to bother the manatees. They are a protected species, and if you harass them in any way you can be fined or jailed. Of course, as far as I could tell, none of us came to annoy the manatees. Except perhaps Mr. Funk.

Anyway, after we watched the video, we suited up in the wetsuits and got into the boat. We looked pretty sexy, fo sho.

The boat traveled for about 10 minutes before anyone saw any manatees. To pass the time, our guide and Mr. Funk were wondering out loud what manatee meat might taste like. "I bet they are pretty fatty...." "No actually, you would be surprised, there really is very little fat on them!"

Eventually we got to the manatee zone. They require that you keep boat speed to a minimum in manatee areas, as they have a tendency to travel close to the surface and can easily be injured by boat motors. If you look at the back of a wild manatee, more likely than not you will see scars from past motorboat injuries.

Just then the guide perked up. "Ok guys and gals, look over there!" "There" there was a couple of manatees swimming around (or so he said, but I couldn't see them from the boat). The guide dropped anchor and said, "OK, this is it. When you get in the water, make sure that you don't touch the ground with your feet or you will kick up the sediment at the bottom and the water will look cloudier." We all kind of looked at each other... the water seemed like it was REALLY cold... and no one wanted to be first to get in. The water on this river is actually 72 degrees all year round, but as warm as that sounds, it can still cause hypothermia with prolonged exposure. The guide obviously saw our hesitation because he followed up with "Don't worry, I promise, the first 60 seconds are the worst, but then the water inside your suit will warm up." I turned to Mchugh #2 and said "also, I heard that if you are really cold, you can always pee in your suit to warm yourself up..." (true fact, I learned that in Australia - not that I peed in my suit of course) She looked at me like I had lost my mind. "Um, yeah... but I'm not planning on doing that!"

Mr. Funk decided to be the brave first soul to get in, and when he didn't freeze immediately into an ice cube I got in next. The experience pretty much went like this: "AHHHH! BRRRR... cold... cold..." chatter... chatter... "oh... my... god!!!!" "oh wait, ok, it's really not that bad.... lets find some manatees!"

I put my head in the water and began to swim towards the direction of the manatees. It wasn't very easy to see underwater, the river really was quite cloudy - hopefully this wouldn't result in me not being able to see the manatees. In order to closer to these gentle sea cows, we had to swim under the water to get past a pipe sectioning off the area. None of us wanted to swim under it and have our snorkeling gear completely under water... but this time I was the first to, shall we say, take the plunge?



Above you can see me swimming like a fish. I don't know who owns the house behind me, and I haven't a clue whether they like the fact that the people of Manatee Tour and Dive are bringing people to scuba dive in their "back yard"... Luckily no one came out to shake a fist at us. "You divers get off my yard!"



Anyway, eventually I was able to find one of the manatees, but he kept a pretty good distance from us. He was not in a friendly cuddly mood. Although the water really wasn't as clear as I would have wished... I did try to take a few pictures.

For the most part, I was trying to stay away from the rest of the crowd on our tour (it was actually just us and two other boys, only one of whom went in the water - so I guess it really wasn't much of a 'crowd').




Snorkeling is incredibly relaxing! All you have to do is float face down in the water. I wonder if this is what mob victims feel like? Though I do definitely prefer being a snorkeler.

I was swimming around looking at the manatees for another 15 or so minutes, hoping that one of them would come a bit closer to me (I really wanted to get that money shot for my blog) when suddenly I realized how quiet and empty it had gotten around me. I lifted my head up out of the water to see

where everyone else was, but all I saw was this:

Where were all my people? I looked over to the boat and saw that everyone (minus me) was in it. I am also pretty sure they were talking about me. I swam hurriedly back to the boat. "How long was everyone waiting for me?" I wondered out loud. Mchugh #1 said, "We all swam back one at a time as we got bored and cold. We were going to leave you! The tour's only two hours!"

Add Video
I looked around all the chattering teeth around me. o...k... I was a bit confused. Was that it? Were we all done? Is that all there is to a manatee tour? If that's all there is, my friend, then let's keep dancing!

I was very disappointed. I didn't think anywhere near two hours had gone by. Then Mchugh #2 said "I am NOT going back into that freezing cold water unless the manatees are doing back flips out there." Yay! So that means we were NOT done! We boated a little while longer until we got to the next spot.

"This next place you have about a 25% chance of seeing a manatee, but the snorkeling is really beautiful. To get to the good spot, all you have to do is go past those two white signs. There are all kinds of beautiful fish, turtles, and underwater plants." Mr. Funk was the one that spoke what we were all thinking. "Ummm... The signs that say 'danger'? Are you serious?" "Yes! It's really pretty in there!"

The two Mchugh girls decided that the water was too cold for them to get back into, and as they had already gone swimming with the manatees once before they were OK with missing the pretty and dangerous part of the river.

Mr. Funk was the first to jump in again and he headed straight for the signs. I jumped in next, and almost immediately I saw this little guy:

Mr. Funk had swum right past him without even stopping. You can actually see his feet in the above picture. I figured maybe he was more looking forward to seeing the pretty part in the dangerous river. Me, I wanted to get to know this little manatee better! The water was plenty clear in this part of the river, and the manatee seemed very photogenic!






I named him Mr. Freckles, just because I wanted the most absurd manatee name I could think of. Also, Mr. Freckles is a friggin cute name!

This picture makes me feel as though he is professing his undying love to me. Or saying, "Who, me?"











I loved this picture as well, his pose is fantastic!














And here he is, taking a little rest on the bottom of the riverbed! And you will be VERY happy to know that I did get some video of the manatee as well!




Having seen enough for now of Mr. Freckles, I decided to go off to the "pretty" area behind the dangerous signs. It really was nice snorkeling, lots of schools of fish, and interesting underwater plants. There were also a lot of leaves floating around... this must be the only way you could tell it is fall in Florida.

The current was extremely strong in the river, pushing back against me as I was trying to swim. Perhaps this was the rivers way of saying "Nooo! Go back! Danger!" but I am not known for listening to rivers.

Enjoy some of the pictures I took while snorkeling.


















I was trying to get a cool picture here of both above and below the water... it didn't turn out as good as I hoped it would though!







































Underwater growth...

















Here's a picture of me from underwater. My goggles kept fogging up on me for some reason. I think the guide said something about what to do if that happened but I am pretty sure I just wasn't paying attention to him...









There was a whole group of scuba divers in the river along with us. That is what I have to do next... learn to scuba dive. Gotta wait for the Groupon though :)


















Eventually I decided to try to get back to the boat. I say try because... well... as most people who know me will understand, my sense of direction leaves much to be desired. So I did get a bit turned around before I made it back to the boat. I thought maybe if I just went in the direction of the current (and let it carry me) I would easily find my way back, but I didn't want to take the chance of floating aimlessly down a river, so I had to ask directions from a passing scuba-ist.

After another quick stop to see Mr. Freckles, I was back on the boat with my peeps. On the boat ride back, we saw another manatee which had a floatie tied to its tail which marked its location. Our guide told us that it was a previously injured manatee that wildlife officials wanted to keep track of while it's being rehabilitated. We were not permitted to swim with this particular manatee. We watched as it rolled around and around under the water (I was thinking about how Mchugh #2 said she would only swim with a manatee doing back flips and wondered if this would have been close enough for her). The guide told us that while it looks like they are playing and having fun, the fact that the manatee was rolling around like that was a sign of extreme stress. Wanna check out the video? Go ahead!




One last thing that caught my attention during my manatee tour. Check out these ducks:



Yeah, they are fake. But when I was looking at them, I thought they were real. "Wow! Those ducks have been perfectly still for a while!" Don't laugh, my eyes were still blurry from the water and the camera can see closer up than I can. It reminded me of the time when Mchugh #1 and I saw an iguana in the street, and started directing cars around it so it wouldn't get hit. When we went to try to pick up the lizard... we realized it was just a toy. Yeah, we are that cool.

Anyway, we got back and changed into our warm clothes (that water really was freezing, especially after you get out.) and I just couldn't help myself. I had to visit the gift shot and by myself these!


Awww! Baby manatee pajamas! I also got the matching tanktop :) I am such a sucker for pajamas.

This was an awesome trip. I already am planning on going back the end of November or December when there are more manatees about. If anyone wants to join, let me know! Feel free to fly down to Florida. The weather here is FANTASTIC in November and December. At least compared to where most of you are...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beach Horses!

OK... Yet again I waited wayyyy too long to write in my blog. But I am always so tired after a full day of work, and I just want to sit back and relax! *whine whine*. Not that I don't love writing in my blog... it just takes me a lot of time, especially with Blogger. I hate to change my blogging software now since all of my past adventures are here on Blogger, but this program certainly doesn't make it easy for me. Adding pictures is such a pain, and very time consuming. Does anyone have any experience with another blogging software that makes things a bit easier?

Anyway, around 2 months ago (yes, 2 months! Stop rubbing it in how lazy I am!) Troy and I went horseback riding with two friends - my co-worker and her sister. Before you yawn, this was not just ANY horseback riding, it was BEACH horseback riding. Check out the company's website here - http://www.beachhorses.com/

This adventure was another wonderful Groupon opportunity that was purchased almost a year ago. Oh Groupon, how I love thee! Giraffes and Big Cats and Horses oh my... and on Saturday, Manatees! (I will tell you about that later).

Back to the horseback riding. So, Troy and I met up with our two friends in Bradenton, an hour and change from where we live. We pulled into a little dirt clearing where a few other cars were parked... we were pretty sure we were at the right spot when we saw a horse trailer on the side of the road, and horses frolicking in the water.

We walked up to the trailer to sign in and begin our ride. As we were walking I could see the last group of people in the water with the horses. This really looked like fun! It was a hot sunny day, perfect for anything water related.

I was wearing pants, and looking at everyone around me wearing bathing suits, shorts, or dresses - I started second guessing my attire. When I was getting ready I had thought that if I am going to be on a horse, I probably didn't want to wear shorts or a dress, right? The pants were very lightweight, but I was still going into the water... and both my co-worker and her sister wore shorts or a dress. Yup, I was kicking myself for the pants - but alas, it was too late now to change. I was stuck with my pants.

After signing a waiver or two, we were each assigned our horses. I was given "Sadie", who was definitely the best horse there. She had such personality, with a lot of spunk. "Well, get on!" said my horse guide. It was then that I noticed that we would be riding BAREBACK. Wow, I had been horseback riding a few times before, but never have I been given the opportunity to ride bareback! How exhilarating, how thrilling... how... TERRIFYING! If you have never sat on a horse bareback, let me tell you how incredibly different it is. There is nothing to hold on to! Nothing at all to prevent you from sliding off the horse. Throughout the ride I was squeezing my legs together as tightly as possible because I really thought I was going to fall off.

"Uhhh, Karen, are you going to be alright?" Great. Apparently I look just as uncomfortable as I felt! My co-workers sister was looking at me with humor and concern. Of course I played it off, because I'm a trooper. "Yep! I'm great!"

Here you can see I look as comfortable as I would be if I was lounging around in a pair of flannel jammies. Ok, I am also holding on for dear life. And giving Sadie a hug. I am a multi-tasker.

I tried as hard as I could after that to look and feel comfortable on the horse. "It's just like riding a bike." Lying to myself did help, though I still kept my legs clenched together as tight as possible while we were on dry land with the horses... Yep, this was going to do wonders for my leg muscles!

For the first part of the hour, we walked across the beach, adjacent to the water for about a quarter of a mile. This was fairly uneventful (I did see a dead fish - but that was about it). It was still really neat; walking in sand with a horse is a completely different experience than walking on a trail!

Next, the guides led us into the water with the horses. When we were in the water it was definitely easier to stay on. I wasn't focusing as much on not falling off the horse - I was enjoying the fact that we were in Florida, on a horse, in the ocean, in September!

The water was the perfect temperature, and the horses seemed completely at ease in it.

As we were walking, there were a few times that I had to quickly move my leg to avoid bits of floating poo that just appeared in the water... gifts from the horse in front of me. I guess when you are riding horses in the ocean, you might have to put up with some crap!

I had brought my waterproof camera (yay waterproof cameras) so you lucky people have the opportunity to see us in the water with our gallant steeds!


Man how I love my waterproof camera. After having one for these past few years, I would never want to go back to a normal camera. We were riding around in the water and splashing about with our horses for about 10 minutes when my co-workers horse decided that she hated my horse. Those big horse chompers got really close to my leg when that mean horse tried to bite poor Sadie. Luckily the guides kept our two horses apart after that, because I was sure that my leg would become a casualty to a horse fight. Those kinds of things always happen to me!


Next, the horse guides invited us to each try something different. They called it "Horse Surfing", where you would stand on the back of the horse as they trot along in the water, and your job is to try to stay on without falling. Now don't worry, it was not harmful to the horse. The guides told us exactly where to put our feet, and really, there is no more weight on the horse than if you are sitting on it. I was the first to try (being the brave girl I am) though I pretty much just stood up to prove I could do it, then sat right back down. I guess I am just as talented at horse surfing as I was at regular surfing... But at least I stayed on!

So, I didn't fall off the horse... but because it would be so much funnier if SOMEONE fell off a horse, I did manage to get a video of one of us falling... *coughtroycough*

Watch the video below and enjoy! But don't tell Troy I uploaded it for the world to see!



After most of us tried horse surfing, (which we all stunk at, so don't feel too bad for Troy) we tried the next thing - horse skiing! We held on to the cartilage part of the horses tail while the trainer rode the horse around in circles and we tried not to let go. Thank heavens none of the horses had to "relieve" themselves during this bit. And again, don't worry, this did not hurt the horses. We were not holding onto the horses hair, but the cartilage on their tails. I am sure that this place would have been shut down years ago if anyone thought the horses were being hurt... PETA is everywhere.




After horse surfing, our next task was to try to get back onto the horses. Yeah, it's not as easy as it looks. Luckily I was graceful as a swan pulling myself back up on the horse... I do have a funnier picture of my co-worker getting onto her horse, but I guess I shouldn't share those pictures without her express written permission. Troy does not get the same treatment... I live with him so I don't mind showing embarrassing videos of him and spreading his name all over my blog :)



Now for the sad part of the story. It was about this time that I realized something was terribly wrong with my camera. It sounded like it was still taking pictures, but the view screen was completely black, and it had no viewfinder to fall back on. I had no idea what was wrong with it, but I just kept taking pictures, hoping I was pointing it correctly. I figured that at least the pictures I had taken up to that point would be ok, and if I was lucky, the pictures taken after were ok too. (When I got home, I opened up the camera and it was SOAKING wet inside. The waterproof seal had broken! I pulled out the memory card, dried it off, and plugged it into my computer, and thankfully the pictures were all ok... but the camera was kaput. How sad... this was the camera I had purchased in Australia after I broke my OTHER camera by dropping it in the sand during my Frasier Island tour. But hey, on the plus side, at least the stories of how I break my cameras are all very interesting.)

That was the end of our beach horse ride! The guides told us that we were going to race to shore with the horses as fast as we could... but that we had to make sure to pull them to the side if they started overtaking the person in front of us - or they might run over the trainers. Hah, again this was not as easy as it sounded! My horse was still angry with the horse that tried to bite her earlier, and seemed to be determined to run that horse, my co-worker, and the guide down. The poor guide kept looking back at us and trying to speed up so Sadie wouldn't trample them, and I kept shouting "I'm trying to pull her but she isn't listening!" We did make it to the shore with no trampling injuries, luckily. Oh Sadie.

We got off the horses and said our thank yous to the guides, when suddenly a thought occurred to me. "Uh oh, we are supposed to tip them." None of us had remembered to bring cash! It was incredibly embarrassing and I felt terrible. Our guides really made sure that we had a good time, and they were incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. They were probably thinking "what dang cheapskates!" as we left. I just couldn't go home without tipping them though... I would have felt guilty for weeks! So after we dried off and got into the car, we stopped at the closest store to take out some money tip them. Unfortunately, when we got back our guides were gone, but the horse trailer was still there with a couple of people from the company. We just gave them the money and asked them to give it to our guides... I hope that it got to them and they realized who it was from! I'd hate to have anyone out there thinking I stiff them out of tips.

So, that was our horse adventure! It was so much fun, though it only lasted about an hour. I would definitely recommend anyone to do it if they find a coupon for it, otherwise it might be a bit too pricy for most people. What a great experience. If I ever see another groupon for this, I will certainly buy it again!

Don't worry, I didn't forget to tell you about the manatees! This weekend I am heading out to Crystal River to swim with the manatees with some of my best friends. I can't wait to photograph and tell you about that experience! Hooray for my brand new waterproof camera!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The "Other" Cat Place

As you probably remember, I mentioned in my last post that I would be soon going to the "Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary" (http://bigcathabitat.org/) and that I would compare it to the "Big Cat Rescue". I finally went with Troy and a couple other friends (actually, I went to this a few weekends ago, but as usual I was being lazy and putting off writing the blog. I really need to work on that). I am going to tell you right now that after visiting both places, I am biased towards the Big Cat Rescue. You may notice that in the tone of this post, but hopefully by the end of this post I will have done a good job explaining the reason for my bias!

So anyhoo, right from the start there was a HUGE difference in this place when compared to the Big Cat Rescue. Instead of having a guide take us around the sanctuary to tell us a little about each of the animals and to make sure we didn't harass the big cats, they pretty much just set us loose to look at the animals ourselves. This was both good and bad... good because it gave us as much time as we wanted to look at or photograph specific animals without feeling rushed to keep up with the rest of the group.... and bad because we don't have a chance to learn the individual stories of the animals. That is always my favourite part!

After we entered the sanctuary, the first animals we were greeted by were the bears.

That was actually pretty cool, none of us expected to see bears! I do wish that someone would have been there to tell us the story as to how these bears got to be in this sanctuary - but there was no one to be seen. I also quickly realized that the animals in this sanctuary did not have little name plates up like the Big Cat Rescue did, telling us their names and a tiny bit of their story - they just had signs up telling you what kind of animal they were. That was the first thing I noticed that this place was lacking in.

We finished passing through the bear exhibit, and came up upon some camels. Not exactly what any of us expected to see after the bears... so far this place was full of surprises! There was a worker there offering to sell us food to feed the camels. None of us indulged, but we did pet them and chat with the camel handler a bit. I tried to get some laughs in with the "watch out, they spit!" line, but camel guy ruined my shtick by correcting me with "Actually, they don't. It's llamas that spit." Try telling that to the genie, guy!


I was curious exactly what would have caused the need for the camels to come to a wildlife sanctuary... were they drug lord camels? Were they abused or neglected pets? When I asked this of camel guy, he looked at me kind of strangely. "Uh, well, we wanted camels, so we got some." Oh, of course. How silly of me!






The next area we walked through seemed more like a children's petting zoo than a wild life sanctuary. There were goats and chickens all over the place! Some were roaming free, some in were pens. You could pet the goats, and just like the camels, you could feed them for a price.








This little guy really wanted us to feed him. He was very cute, and jumped up on us like a puppy.


Not sure why this goat had to be in the pen when the other one got to roam free!



In the petting zoo section, there was also a bird that brought back memories to my days in Australia. That's right, folks! They had an emu! It was a bit of a scary bird... it wouldn't move at all. It just stood there... staring at us. Kind of made you wonder when he was going to strike! Yes, these birds can be creepy. Imagine this guy standing over your bed at night!






And of course, no children's zoo is complete unless it has turtles! These guys were pretty "randy" while we were there. If I had ever before wondered what sounds a turtle might make while... pro-creating... well, I certainly don't wonder anymore! If you get my drift. Ahem.





Behind the turtle enclosure there were a few aviaries full of birds. It was mostly full of cockatiels, but there were a few parrots as well - and this was the noisiest part of our little tour.


A woman in the bird area told us that these birds were mostly pets that the owner was not able to care for them... or in the case of some of the bigger birds, the birds had outlived their owners. She also told us that the emu we had just seen was a HUGGING emu. And that it welcomed hugs from one and all. So, we gave it a try!


Yeah yeah, I know I'm more "posing" with the emu than "hugging" it. But really, who are you to talk! I don't see you hugging a 4 foot tall bird! I guess if you really want to see the emu being hugged, I can show you this video of the bird lady hugging the emu.







Right next to the aviary there was another throwback to my Australia days... they had wallabies! I wonder if these guys were abandoned exotic pets as well? But who keeps pet wallabies in this day and age? I mean really!







Next came the monkeys. (Sorry guys, we are still not up to the big cats! But monkeys can be fun! Be patient!)

To me, the cages for the monkeys seemed to be really small, and the monkeys were mostly segregated from each other. Maybe I am just anthropomorphizing here, but these little guys seemed very sad and lonely. I think that even in most zoos, the monkeys have a bigger habitat than these little guys did.


"Hi, I'm in jail. But I'm innocent, I tell you!"



"Why can't I play in the trees?"



"Aren't we at least supposed to get one phone call?"




This monkey to the right was pretty insane. He was running back and forth in his cage making all kinds of crazy noises! I have no idea why he is wearing a chain around his neck, so don't ask. But looking back at this picture makes me feel so sad! It's reminds me of one of those pictures you would see on a television commercial, telling you to donate to abused, neglected or abandoned animals. I don't know, maybe these monkeys were perfectly happy here, and maybe they are permitted to come out of their cages when the touring hours are over... but I still would have liked to see them in a different habitat. Bigger cages, more toys, and more trees to swing on. But I guess I shouldn't really judge. I'm not a monkey specialist. (Yet)







In the next area, we saw lemurs! They didn't stay still long enough for me to get a very good picture, but I have this video to entertain you with. Yes, I am singing in it. But I couldn't help myself. They were doing a little dance!


And now, finally! Right past the lemurs, we saw this sign:


I was excited to get to the cat area, as then I would be able to really compare the Big Cat Sanctuary to the Big Cat Rescue.

Before we got to the cats, there were still a few more monkeys to see. For all you Lion King fans, I'm sorry to say that I have discovered that Rafiki is now a captive monkey...


And for those of you who love my fabulous videos: (by the way, video taking wasn't allowed in this place. But I am such a rebel.)


Yes, that was me pretending to be a monkey. I wasn't trying to tease the little guy, I was just hoping to have him come a bit closer. Actually, this reminds me of a time when I was a little Karen... I was outside playing, meowing and pretending that I was a cat. Suddenly, I was surprised and delighted to see a cat jump up onto the fence from inside a neighbors yard and look at me before jumping back down into the yard. I thought, "maybe I can fool it into thinking a real cat is out here!" I ran back home as fast as my little legs would carry me to get one of my toy cats, then ran back outside and placed my toy cat near the fence. I hid a bit further back and started meowing again. The cat never came out. I was so disappointed.

But anyway, back to the monkeys! I am anxious to start writing about the cats, so here are a just a couple more monkey pictures before I get down to business!













































And now, to the big cats!



This was probably the saddest part of the entire tour. The cats area was mainly indoors... each cat had a small caged area with concrete for a floor. Some of the cages had two cats inside - but most were one cat per cage.

When I first saw the cat area, it made me think of something the Big Cat Rescue tour guide had showed us: there was an area during the tour that showed you the size of the smallest permissible cage size for a big cat, and there was a little enclosure you could step into to see what it would feel like for a human to be confined to a cage relative to that size... As you can imagine, it was not very big. When I looked at these cages, I was pretty sure they were close to being that size - the smallest size cage permissible for a big cat.

There was a little outside area that the cats were able to go out and play in, but they were only able to do this one at a time. There were somewhere around 20-30 cats, so if even if each was to have a little time a day or a week, they couldn't really have much time out there for any one cat.



While we were there, it was this tigers turn to be outside, but it seemed that he preferred to just lay on the inside, looking out. It may have been because of the heat of the day - even though it was after 5, it was still a scorcher! I think that the cats that get the evening outdoor times are the lucky ones! It is much cooler after the sun begins to set.





Lisa, these lion pics are for you! Sorry they are caged.

Rawr!


Awwww this little guy looks like he wouldn't hurt a fly!


But really... he'd probably eat you given a chance! Yum!


Here is another lion. You might immediately assume (like I did) that it was female, because there is no mane. But actually, this guy is a male. Interesting little known fact - male lions will lose their mane if they are neutered.


Now for the white tigers! At least these two guys had company. I think I remember being told that they were brothers... but I'm not positive. One of the downfalls of me waiting so long to write the blog is that I forget what I was told. But seeing as there weren't that many workers around to answer our questions or tell us about the animals, I guess I didn't have too much information to forget.


One of the most memorable parts of our big cat visit was when one of the tigers guys peed on one of the girls with us! Ok, it wasn't really pee, it was just marking it's territory. And, ok, it didn't actually HIT her with the pee... but it did come pretty darn close!

I asked a woman worker who was monitoring the big cats if there were any interesting stories about how they came about to possess all of these cats. She said that some of them were rescued, some were pets that got to be too much to handle, but a lot of them were retired show animals. She explained that the founder of this sanctuary is (or was) an animal trainer for the circus, and the animals at the sanctuary are still sometimes out on tour with shows. Their animals are constantly handled and trained, a stark difference from the way they do things at the Big Cat Rescue.


The last cat in the row of cat cells was Charlie B. Apparently, poor Charlie has irritable bowl syndrome... and hasn't been able to eat much. Now, I'm not a vet, so I guess I have no right to really say anything without knowing the whole story... but wouldn't you think once an animal gets to this stage, you should either tube feed him or put an end to his suffering? He was alive though - I could see him breathing. You sure can't tell from this picture though.

















Poor little Charlie B. You will be happy to know that his prognosis is good though!


Well, that was pretty much the end of our tour. Honestly, I don't think I would come back to this cat habitat. I don't know if the reason for this is because the Big Cat Rescue biased me... I don't know if I would feel differently if I had come to this place first. Maybe if the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary had a tour guide who explained all about the place while we visited, and talked about each of the animals as we saw them, it would have changed my mind. But I just really liked how knowledgeable they were at the Big Cat Rescue... and I loved the big enclosures those cats had. I also liked that they didn't use their cats as entertainment... those were not circus animals. If those cats felt like being seen, they would be, otherwise they could be as alone as they wanted. But this place... it just felt... kind of sad. Like a zoo that kept it's animals in too-small cages.

Anyway, I should stop now. We all know (or most of us know) how opinionated I can sometimes! So if anyone is in the area and wants to check out the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary, I invite you to make up your own mind!

I did have a good time though. I was in fantastic company, and it is always nice to do something new.

Before I end this post, I will show you a video of the bear-guy we saw on our way out. He told us that he sings to the bears, and feeds them chocolate cake! But he did not do it for us on video. Sorry.



OK, that's it for now! Next blog will be about the horseback riding on the beach. I'm gonna try to do it this week, but you know how I am! (read - lazy)