I decided it was time for me to start visiting some of the attractions on the MustDo.com site so I can experience and get a genuine feel for the attractions, activities, restaurants and more that I assist in promoting on this newly launched site for visitors traveling to Naples, Fort Myers or Sarasota as well as for the local residents to enjoy all that these three terrific destinations have to offer.
I made a day trip of it and drove about 90 minutes south down Interstate 75 from Sarasota to Naples with my mom, brother and son in tow to visit the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens. It was a special day for our family as we lost my father to Alzheimer’s exactly one year ago and wanted to spend the day together doing something enjoyable instead of moping around. My mom is a real animal lover so I thought this would be the perfect venue to check out.
It’s no surprise that people flock from all over to spend the day at Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens. This zoo – if you can call it that – is a delightful, tropical oasis with an abundance of wildlife. It’s a relatively small 52-acre park but the habitats these rare and beautiful animals reside in are incredibly spacious and open so you really don’t feel as though you’re in a zoo. We purchased our tickets and headed into the zoo where the first thing we discovered was Alligator Bay. I was stunned by how enormous some of these alligators were and even more amazed as I watched the fearless “Alligator keepers” feed these giant reptiles so calmly while I just felt a enormous sense of relief that it wasn’t me on the other side of the fence about to be gobbled up for lunch.
We strolled down the path to the Primate Expedition Cruise and hopped aboard the roomy catamaran for a 20 minute guided cruise through the various islands to see a variety of rare primates including lemurs and spider monkeys. Each species have a large island to themselves along with trees, ropes, a covered sleeping area and other amenities giving them a cage less environment and plenty of room to explore and frolic which I thought was positively brilliant and how every zoo should be setup.
The next exhibit we stopped by was the giraffe exhibit where you can feed the giraffes some healthy vegetables from Wynn’s Market right out of your hand for a small fee of $5; it was priceless to watch the younger children shriek and gasp when these long necked and very well behaved beauties stuck out their incredibly long tongues to devour these treats. Although we didn’t partake, we also watched as a few very excited kids (and adults) rode atop a camel’s back. If you have ever wanted to ride this exotic animal, you better visit soon as the camel rides will only be available until May 5.
One of the many aspects I liked about Naples Zoo – besides the animals of course – was the fact that they not only want to educate visitors about the animals but the vast mixture of tropical plants and trees onsite by labeling the majority with the name and a short description. Yes, I admit it, I am one of those touristy types who like to stop and read everything so I was usually a few steps behind everyone.
We got within inches of African Leopards, Malayan Tigers and watched in awe as a magnificent Africian lion stood up and roared as if on cue. It was simply amazing.
Also quite interesting was the Black Bear Hammock, featuring a large natural habitat as well as a backyard habitat designed to educate zoo visitors about what happens when these inquisitive wild bears wander into human territory. We discovered that this exhibit is the largest one of its kind at any Association of Zoos and Aquariums eat of the Mississippi – thirty times bigger than the state’s requirements and 50% larger than the recommendations set forth by the Association.
So, next time you feel like spending a relaxing day in the outdoors, I highly suggest a trip to Naples Zoo. You are bound to have a fun filled day and you just might learn a bit too; I know we did.
Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is a 501(c)(3) charitable institution and a nationally accredited zoo. Your admission supports wildlife at the zoo and in the wild.
The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is located at 1590 Goodlette-Frank Rd, Naples, FL 34102.