photo courtesy of C. Boucher

One of my favorite things to do here in Florida is to go Alligator hunting. Not REAL hunting, but hunting with a scavenger hunt. There is a wetlands near my house in central Florida where we drive along a loop road to play a little game like “Where’s Waldo” to see if we can find “Where’s the alligator” instead. The wetlands near our house is closed because of the pandemic, but the Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is open. Black Point is a seven mile drive where you can see all kinds of beautiful wildlife, including wildflowers, birds( including a bald eagle), snakes, river otters or bobcats if you are lucky, and the most beautiful alligators I’ve ever seen in the wild. Here in central Florida, we are in the midst of alligator courtship season, which typically runs from April to May, and mating season is normally in May and June. Eggs are laid in mounds of soil or vegetation in June or July, and the average alligator can lay around thirty-two to forty-six eggs. Eggs hatch from mid-August to early September, and during this mating season alligators can become territorial. It is wise to stay inside your car in this loop, as it is recommended to stay at least twenty-five feet away from any alligator in the wild. Florida is a great place to see alligators in the wild, as it is estimated that there are approximately 1.5 to 2 million wild alligators here.

sign at the beginning of the refuge
sign at the turnoff to Black Point Wildlife Drive

The entrance fee is normally ten dollars per car and is payable with an honor system envelope provided at the little blue sign below at the entrance. Visitors retain a stub from their payment voucher in the car and deposit the remainder of the voucher in the envelope at this sign. Because of the pandemic, however, there is currently no admission fee necessary.

brochures and ticket envelopes are found here

It always amazes me to see so many wildflowers in the midst of our “moderate drought” this spring in this part of Florida.

beautiful wild gaillardia flowers line the sides of the loop road
infrequent wild pink gaillardias are found among the mostly orange gaillardia wild flowers
a wild butterfly on yellow wild flowers takes my breath away
more beautiful yellow flowers along the banks of the water
the root system of the mangrove is impressive to see
beautiful purple flowers amidst the vegetation on the banks of the water
HERE is Waldo!
Is that a log or an alligator? Sometimes it is hard to tell until you look for a while to see if it moves.

The vegetation (mangrove) grows in some of the most inhospitable substrates I have seen, and the landscape is literally dotted with young plants which grab hold of the arrid land as well as the brackish water to flourish.

possible bald eagle sighting

One needs to drive VERY slowly to see the alligators swim silently in the waters or hiding among the reeds. Sometimes they are even on the banks of the water, laying out in the sun. At times, the alligator at first appears to be a floating log, but then you see movement or the swish of a tail.

Today we were fortunate enough to see an alligator near his den, which is cleared by the alligator’s snout and feet and can be up to twenty feet deep/long. Alligators are such formidable and amazing creatures.

On the way out of the Wildlife Refuge, you can see the Vehicle Assembly Building in Kennedy Space Center. This building is where the Apollo, Space Shuttle, and Saturn V rockets were assembled and completed. It is also the world’s tallest single story building.

There is nothing like the “thrill of the hunt” when looking for alligators here in central Florida, on the Space Coast. It is a great place to get out of the house, too, during this Covid pandemic and a wonderful day trip from most of central Florida.

Life is good; enjoy the sunshine and the day. Carpe diem, friends……..

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