Looking for a daytime activity away from the beach but still wanting to enjoy Sarasota’s sunny weather, I decided to visit Sarasota Jungle Gardens. This family fun attraction has been a Sarasota area favorite since 1939. I arrived around 2 pm on a Saturday afternoon and just in time for the Birds of Prey show where I saw a Great Horned Owl, a Hawk, and a Kookaburra. Visitors have an opportunity to hold or pet some of the animals after the conclusion of the animal shows.
Next, I took the Inner Jungle Trail through the Tiki Gardens. The trail was shaded under a canopy of Palms and other Florida native trees, which made the walk a surprisingly cool reprieve from the hot afternoon sun. Informative signs tell visitors about some of the animals in the Tiki Gardens (such as skunks and iguanas) as well as a little bit about the vegetation and plant life. One such sign explained that the garden contained more than 100 different Palm types and that there were approximately 4,000 types of Palms in the world. Walking along, I came to a break in the canopy at the Flamingo Lagoon. The water is crystal clear, and you can see big fish as well as ducks and Flamingos (naturally). Flamingo food can be purchased in either small or large bags at the entrance to the gardens and the Flamingo Café or those desiring a smaller amount of food can purchase a handful from coin-operated vending machines at the Lagoon. The Flamingos will come right up and eat out of your hands, a very cool experience.
Further along on the trail are the Koi Pond and Flamingo Café. At the café, guests can purchase a variety of snacks and food as well as ice cold beverages. For those seeking out something cold and sweet, they have ice cream cases.The pavilion near the Café is a great place for parents to kick their feet up and is within viewing range of the large Kiddie Jungle Playground. Near the café, there are also restrooms, and primates and Prairie Dog exhibits. Backtracking a bit, I strolled through the Butterfly gardens and continued along the Outer Jungle Trail passing the waterfall and the Flamingo Nesting Island. The Jungle trail contains a handful of pretty little natural springs and is also home to the Petting Zoo, Birds of Prey and the Turtle Pond. Looping back towards the entrance I saw a variety of large Alligators and Crocodiles and briefly visited the indoor area known as Reptile World where visitors can see large snakes, lizards, and other reptiles. Last but not least I visited the Bird Interaction area where for a small donation you can take a picture with any number of beautifully colored Macaws, Cockatoos, Lovebirds, etc. Don’t have a camera? No problem, for a small fee a member of the Jungle Gardens staff will snap your photo and print it out for you. Cool right?! Overall, I would recommend the park for families with young children and visitors looking to experience a bit of Florida’s natural habitat.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens is located at 3701 Bayshore Road, Sarasota, Florida.