Finding Sanctuary In The Nature And Wildlife Of Florida

In the winter of 1989, I relocated from the LA Basin to the Space Coast of East Central Florida. I had only known California up until that point and was a bit overwhelmed by the thought of relocation. Trepidation set in as I engaged in that transition and I sought to find the positive in the myriad of challenges that the change brought. My path to calmness set in during a temporary residence at the Cocoa Beach Hilton, part of the transition.

During that one week, pre-move, I struggled to understand the why and where of the move and found myself on the hotel pool deck on a nightly basis. As it happens, there was a family of raccoons that resided under the deck and I spent night after night attempting to gain their trust with trail mix and patience.


Then it happened one night, on that same deck, that one of the raccoons came up to me, balanced his paw on my left hand, then confidently grabbed and ate trail mix from my right hand. It was at that moment that I found the possibilities and plusses of the move.

My lifelong affinity for wildlife and has led me to embrace every possible encounter that has been come my way. It seemed that Florida might provide opportunities for more encounters than were previously available in California. I found solace in that initial encounter and sought out others every chance I had.

I immediately found refuge in the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary on Merritt Island, close to where my new home was located. I went there weekly, seeking encounters with any manner of wildlife (which included dolphins, manatees, indigo snakes, and a host of marsh birds and water fowl). It was the peaceful and serene setting that invigorated me weekly.

Hillsborough River State Park
Photo CR:Bill Davis

I left Florida for five and a half years and when I returned I found myself in the Tampa Bay area. After settling, the need for nature reared its head once more. After hiking the majority of the trails along the Hillsborough River, I knew that I was missing a component of the nature experience. One could not appreciate the entire beauty of the river without getting into the river. I purchased a kayak and familiarized myself with all of the boat ramps along the Hillsborough River in Hillsborough County. I got close to some alligators, got some great photos, and from time to time embedded myself in the banks of the river and snuggled down for a nap, in the kayak.

Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands
Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands – CR: Bill Davis

Now I am in Brevard County. Back to the Space Coast of Florida. I have become even more outdoorsy and cycle about 10-20 miles per day. Fortunately, about 4 miles up the road is the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands (aka the Viera Wetlands). It has become my new Ulumay. Wildlife never becomes redundant for me. I could take photos of alligators all day. As it turns out, the transition to Florida, though difficult at first, has enabled me to embrace and expand a side of me that I may have overlooked if I had not moved. I am proud to live in the Sunshine State and look forward to any future wildlife encounters that come my way.

***¨Bill Davis is a Marine Veteran with an undeniable passion for the Sunshine State. He also is a good friend of Find Your Seen creator Greg Srisavasdi, but don´t hold that against him.¨

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