Jacksonville, FL is known as a natural paradise with sandy beaches, abundant waterways, subtropical temperatures, and some of the most diverse wildlife in America. Of the many attractions in Jacksonville, those highlighting the native and not so native animals that inhabit the local parks, sanctuaries, and menageries are definitely worth taking a walk on the wild side for!
The Catty Shack Wildlife Sanctuary prides itself in giving endangered big cats, as well as a few of their non-feline friends, a second chance. They rescue those that are in serious and potentially deadly situations and provide them with a safe and loving forever home. Here you can visit tigers, lions, pumas, leopards, lynx, foxes, and coatimundis, which is a ring-tailed member of the raccoon family. They offer educational school tours year round and are open to the public on select weekends. The ranch is run strictly by volunteers, some of which make up the medical facility located onsite. Thursday daytime tours begin with an introductory video, followed by a guided walking tour, which showcases their resident animals and lasts approximately 45 minutes. After the tour, you are welcome to wander around and revisit the animals and take a break at the concession stand.
If fresh air, exercise, and the opportunity to see wildlife in their natural habitats are what you have in mind, plan a day to travel the paths of the University of North Florida's National Recreational Trails. Plan your route on arrival using the trail map display, located at the parking lot or download it online in advance. Trails vary in length with plenty of restrooms and areas for picnicking, as well as plenty of shade from the canopies formed by the trees that follow along the paths. The outermost ring of the preserve is called "Turtle Trail" and for good reason, as it is populated by a multitude of turtle dens. You can often find them outside their nests, enjoying sunning themselves on the warm, dry sand. This underrated area is perfect for hikers, joggers, photographers, or anyone that loves the outdoors and its creatures.
For a more diverse set of critters, check out the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and spend your day observing native and exotic animals. The zoo is broken up into exhibits which groups the animals in a fashion that ensures that you won't miss your favorite! Wild Florida, Plains of East Africa, Monsoon Asia, and Land of the Tiger are only a few of the areas will heighten your animal instinct. In addition to the thriving fauna is the flourishing flora, located in the botanical gardens. Three major zones make up the botanical gardens: the Main Path (also known as the River of Color), Themed Pocket Gardens, which correspond to the animal exhibit that follows, and the Primary Gardens. In addition to being able to observe the plants and animals that are housed at the zoo, there are also several opportunities to learn about them through guided tours, outreach, field trips, night hikes, and scavenger hunts.
For more information on these adventures and even more that Jacksonville has to offer, contact us at Mirador & Stovall at River City!