While vacationing in Florida’s SW Gulf Coast, we found many family and budget friendly activities to do when we needed a break from the pool or. Before my preteen son would express those no parent wants to hear “I’m bored”. On our way back from our Everglades visit, we decided to stop at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary for the afternoon. It was a typical muggy day in Florida and we weren’t sure we would see any wildlife it we wanted to visit and felt it was worth the time to at least stop by and view the native wildlife of this area.
We made our way about fifteen miles off the interstate into the Sanctuary. There is plenty of signage marked and we followed our car GPS with no problems. Once we arrived, we grabbed some water from the car, applied both bug spray and sunscreen then headed towards the Welcome Center to begin our self guided tour. The building is air-conditioned that houses a nice gift shop, a mini food area, a small sitting area and restrooms.
The Sanctuary is free to walk the boardwalk and the desk does offer binocular rentals as well. We also noticed many people had their own cameras and video equipment; everything from their phone cameras to the telephoto lens DSLRs. Knowing we would be walking in the heat and humidity, we packed a lot of water on our person and had sun hats to shade our faces too.
We heard from the volunteers at the desk that morning a women had capture video of a panther passing her on the boardwalk. WOW. We wondered what we would see on our journey today.
We headed out on our walk, learning very quickly the quieter we are the better our chances on witnessing wildlife. Our walk was not a race to the finish, but rather a leisurely stroll through the swamp taking in the sights, the various sounds and watching for signs of life. There are countless birds flying about singing many tunes and for the serious bird watcher, the gift shop sells a great bird identifier pamphlet.
At one point during our walk, a Hawk flew low right past my left shoulder and landed on a branch about ten yards in front of me. His stay wasn’t long as he quickly continued on before I could get a picture. (I learned very quickly you must be ready with the camera at all times if you want that great shot).
As we continued on our walk, we decided to choose the shorter boardwalk route due to the heat. This is also a great length for families with children who want to still see the swamp but not have to walk the full 2.2 mile trail. There are numerous Swamp Volunteers through the board walk willing to answer any questions and direct you to many of the sightings of wildlife. We were told there was a mother Alligator about thirty yards off in the distance with her seven babies. She was resting on what looked like a pile of leaves and other foliage so all we were able to see was her enormous size; about a nine foot. I was certainly glad I was on the boardwalk and she was thirty yards off in the distance!
We continued on and passed a couple from Colorado visiting the area and were interested in watching the cat bird. I wasn’t sure what type of bird I was looking for, but I could hear the bird who sounds very much like a cat.
So we didn’t actually see any panthers or walk passed (which I am grateful), but we did enjoy the sanctuary nonetheless. Learning how humans have negatively impacted the native wildlife and what the partners of the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary are doing for to preserve Florida’s swamp life and Eco system is a huge eye-opener on how what we do impacts our environment.
I would certainly recommend visiting the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary for families looking to do something off the beaten path. For families with younger children, an early morning visit when it is not so hot would be ideal and take the shorter path. Be sure to pack plenty of water, sunscreen, bug spray, a sun visor or hat for the hike and a few snacks for afterwards at the car. Being that this swamp sanctuary is free, it is very budget friendly as well. I’m sure that every visit would yield different sightings as well.
For more information about the Sanctuary or how you can help their conservation efforts, be sure to visit their website by clicking here.