Monday, March 5, 2018

Florida Spring Break: Tampa

Dear Husband and I started our Florida Spring Break vacation in true fashion: hectic, running for two flights, only one of which we made. Loathe to wake up much before 4am, we had set our alarm too late to make a 5:30am flight in a big-city airport. (If we’d been at one of the Central Illinois airports, we’d have made it, no problem.) So we were rerouted through Baltimore, where we met my paternal unit for breakfast. That almost turned into disaster, because going back through security took half an hour, most of that waiting for someone to swab the granola bars in my book bag for explosives. (Apparently some bad guy has made edible explosives-? I didn’t know that was even a thing, and our snacks were not so suspicious flying out of Pittsburgh.) In the fuss I lost one of my pink flamingo earrings, adding insult to injury.

Nevertheless, we arrived in Tampa just in time to make our 1 o’clock wild dolphin boat tour from the Florida Aquarium (this is a view of the rear of the aquarium as we returned). It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day to be out on the water. There were two “dolphin sightings” close in the port that may have just been fish stirred up the tug boat docking a freighter. Mostly we admired the scenery and listened to the naturalist describe how to differentiate between black cormorants, laughing gulls, and brown pelicans; the process of dredging the channel to build various islands; and why dog beaches protect sea turtles. We also learned that the tug boat had something called a "Z drive" that lets it move sideways faster than our little double decker could move forward!

Then we wandered through the aquarium, which is not particularly large but does have an impressive variety of creatures, from alligators to enormous river fish called red drums to roseate spoonbills to jelly fish to big spiny lobsters to a puffer fish to sea anemones and corals. They are currently running an exhibit about Madagascar, including lemurs and hissing cockroaches, as well as one about the Gulf of Mexico. We learned that there are something like 10,000 wild invasive snake species now living in Florida. (Our Lyft driver the next day told us we were safe up in Central Florida but that it was particularly bad down by Miami.) DH remarked that I resembled nothing so much as the alligator backed snapping turtle we watched placidly eating anything it could reach. (The one below is some kind of painted turtle.)


Later I was trying to get a picture of the big crustacean on the left, and this ugly toadfish on the right swam up. DH wanted to see sharks the most. He also got to touch a sting ray for the first time. I was impressed at how well seahorses swim with just their little back fin and “ears.” Another invasive species in the area is the lionfish, brought in by aquarium enthusiasts; it is reportedly edible and tastes good as fish nuggets! I wonder what the animals think of all of us: the spider crab at the bottom stood up like it was posing as soon as we approached its tank. Do you think it was trying to intimidate us away from its mate? By the time we had seen everything, we tired of looking. The first day closed with a family dinner (we’re staying with DH’s relatives).

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