For 17 years, Flamingo Gardens has gathered plant experts, landscapers, and other gardening connoisseurs to its annual festival. This year, the Broward Bonsai Society joins in the fun with an exhibition of the varied shapes and levels of perfection its miniature trees can hold. Displays from Alexander Farms, Greenhouse Orchids, and other vendors entice the eyes while guests wander about, taking in colorful performances from butterfly stilt-walkers and West African drummers. At the Butterfly Encounter, guests learn lepidopterist lore from expert Mike Rich while feeding live butterflies and teaching them about the updated food pyramid.
Wee ones, meanwhile, can head to the Kids Gardening Zone to decorate their own pots and plant a seed or romp through the gardens on a scavenger hunt. Plant experts also hold classes and demonstrations, including "Mounting Orchids & Basic Orchid Culture," and take guests on guided tours through the botanical gardens.
Imagine standing eye level with a giraffe, holding out your arm for parrots to land on, or touching the head of an endangered rhino. At Zoo Miami, these experiences happen every day, fulfilling the institution's mission of encouraging the conservation of wildlife. More than 2,000 animals—from chimps to tigers to koalas—populate the African exhibit, Asian exhibit, Australian exhibit, and the most recent addition, the Amazon & Beyond exhibit. Many of the individual exhibitions don't use cages, but are instead bound by moats throughout more than three miles of walking trails. This setup allows guests to get closer to animals as they romp in their habitats. More than 1,200 plant species populate these habitats, which are re-creations of the animals' native environments.
Guests can use free WiFi to download a free mobile app for iPhones and Androids. The app then delivers functions such as location beacons so that family members keep track of one another, show times, and GPS-enabled maps that show the nearest dining venue or restroom. Transportation options within the zoo range from an air-conditioned monorail to tram tours, which provide behind-the-scenes insights such as which animals have recently had babies, what they named the babies, and each baby's first word. Developed specifically for kids, a children's zoo offers camel rides and a playground.
Lion Country Safari is a zoo with no cages. Instead, more than 900 animals, including the largest zebra herd outside of Africa, roam its 320 acres freely. During drive-through safaris, cars tour seven sections of the preserve—which represent different areas such as western Zimbabwe and the Serengeti—to see llamas, asiatic water buffalo, chimpanzees, and white rhinoceros. Lions have a section all to themselves so that they don't prey on other animals or disturb them with giggles from the pride's late-night slumber parties.
In addition to the four-mile drive, Lion Country Safari's Safari World allows guests to explore rides and attractions as they visit with animals on foot. They can feed giraffes, practice animal-massage techniques at the petting zoo, or hop on the carousel next to Lake Shanalee's paddleboat rides. After kids splash through the interactive Safari Splash waterpark, they can hop onto the ferris wheel or ask exotic birds for advice on how to fly.
In 1980, Harry and Darlene Kelton moved their houseboat to the Pelican Harbor Marina and discovered an injured brown pelican. Without the aid of animal-care experience, they removed a fishhook from his mouth and rehabilitated him. This led them to form the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station in their shed. With the help of volunteers and trained staff, the seabird station rescues, treats, and rehabilitates sick and injured wildlife, and promotes their preservation with educational programs and research efforts. The center specializes in brown pelicans, most of which are entangled in fishing tackle, but will treat any animal brought in for care. In 2007, they treated 87 bird species and 39 mammals, nonmigratory birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
Laced with the sounds of water churned by unseen forces, the thick air that hangs above the Everglades whispers the rhythms of gator country. The murky water—obscured further by curtains of cattails and floating lily pads—defies human incursion, its protective spells demystified only by the airboat captains of Sawgrass Recreation Park, who gamely shuttle laypersons through the swamp in tours by day and night. While gliding across the shallows at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, guides halt the propellers of their enormous fans to point out wildlife—which include alligators and various waterfowl—and impart nuggets of history from the days when the Seminole and panther once shared their claim over the terrain. As a part of a conservationist group's effort to educate the public about ongoing rescue efforts in the Everglades, the exotic-wildlife exhibit brings guests face to face with the swamp's most majestic rarities, including black leopards and Florida panthers. In the park's reptile exhibit, dozens of scaly creatures count among them a 1,000-pound alligator named Cannibal, and guests can cradle prehistoric cuties in the Hold a Baby Alligator experience. The swamp-yard-animals exhibit encourages guests to meet or catch a glimpse of pigs, bunnies, and ducks, letting guests establish a deeper bond with the denizens of the swamp.
To properly care for these baby birds, SNC's professional staff and volunteers feed them, supply a heat source, and give medication when needed, along with keeping the bird enclosures clean. When the birds are ready, they're moved to larger cages, and finally move to the flight aviary where they strengthen their wings. The SNC relies on donations to help it accommodate the extra charges it receives during breeding season, including the costs of purchasing specialized food and other necessary resources to care for the birds.