Saturday, April 13, 2013

Busch Gardens: Behind the Scenes!

My husband flew to Tampa and picked us up from the cruise to stay in the Tampa area for a few days. On Monday, we headed to Busch Gardens. When we stopped for breakfast, we saw this cute little guy!

They make a little feather "animal" for the cheetah to chase using feathers from the park.
At this point, she was turning around! What a stop!
And, after playing, she got to enjoy a drink... but she's ever watchful!
Scott and her dad rode a lot of rides and I rode a few, too. I love the speed setting on my camera!
It got both the cheetah shots and this fast-moving roller coaster shot!
They are the 3rd from the back row.
Another of their rides. Alex LOVES these rides that just keep dropping you, though she found lots of roller coasters to love at Busch Gardens!
Next, it was time for our behind-the-scenes orangutan and tiger private tour.
What an incredible experience! It was just the 3 of us with a guide for 1.5 hours....
Going "behind-the-scenes" into the Orangutan House...
With the orangutans, we got to see how they train them with simple hand signals. Most of the training is so they will present various body parts for medical exams. Even a female orangutan is (if I'm remembering correctly) 4 times stronger than a human, so they really need their cooperation!
Here I am giving the signal for the orangutan to put his ear to the glass. We did these exercises with two orangutans and then got to feed them through the tube there under my elbow.
We just dropped in pieces of fruit!
And here is one of the trainers with their "smartest" orangutan. He's having her present
her belly where they can do things like use a stethoscope or an ultrasound!
She even did a cartwheel and a handstand at Alex's command!
Next we visited the tiger house..
This tiger was working on a retrieval command. There was a large stick in the water and he was supposed to jump in and get it. He preferred using his paws to try to get it to come to the side!
And this tiger needed its blood drawn. The lady near the head was feeding "meatballs" to the tiger to keep him occupied. The two ladies at the tail were trying to draw blood from the tail... the safest place to draw from! Unfortunately, they weren't able to get any blood at this time, but they didn't want to tire the tiger so they would try again later.
And, here I am using a bouy-on-a-stick to show this tiger where to put her head. This is also a training so they can observe various parts of the tiger's body for medical purposes.
And, our last stop was to go out in public to feed the 3 tigers on display. Alex chose a white tiger and was inside the glass area. She had a little tube she would drop the meatballs into - just like we did with the orangutans. My husband had a similar set-up.
But me? I was on a bridge and had to throw the meatballs over the moat and onto a little rocky ledge where my tiger was. I'm really not a good throw, but I made it to the tiger every time!!! There were about a dozen meatballs, and on the next-to-last one, the tiger tried to catch it in his mouth. So, I decided to aim for his mouth with the last meatball... and we did it!!! He caught it in his mouth!!
When we got back to our hotel for the night, we saw this cute little guy hanging out by the trash bin.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wet & Rainy Roatan

When we woke up on the morning of our excursion to Roatan, an island of Honduras, we were thrilled to see the rain forest! And, both of our days in Mexico had been very flat. So, seeing the lush hills was quite a site! We were ready for our day... of ziplining & then playing with some monkeys!

After a lengthy checking in process, we headed up the hillside. And, once again, it started raining. We were sad to see the poverty that was so abundant. But, the people we passed seemed very happy.

There were different types of tours which were in line to go down the multiple ziplines. Our group was the very last one. And, by now, it was raining pretty hard. Alex and others were getting quite cold. There were more than 100 people in front of us as we waited to start our journey down. But, in the end, the cold & rain got too much for us and we asked for a bus back to the starting point.

That was quite a disappointment! The day before was supposed to be our first zipline experience, and we hadn't even made it to our port. And now, we missed our second chance! We were dropped off under a large pavillion and started to dry off and warm up.

At first we were just going to go back to the ship. But, the rain quit for awhile and then we just had sprinkles off and on. So, we decided to go and see the monkeys!

We were at a place called Gumbalimba Park. I didn't realize we would go on a tour and see a lot more than monkeys! We walked through the rain forest and saw hummingbirds, and waterfalls, & then arrived at the Insectarium. This little cave had a nice assortment of insect displays and insect facts.

Then we went into another cave where there were murals on the walls telling the history of Roatan. And, in the middle, was this relief map of the island. You can see Gumbalimba Park (in yellow) on the far west of the map. And, on the south side, a little to the right of the middle of this photo, you can see Mahogany Bay where our ship made port. The history of the island was very interesting complete with invaders, pirates, and buried gold!

Next, we headed to a rope bridge to cross over to the monkeys. As we started across, we saw 3 iguanas! They were quite large and all lying on branches sunning, I guess. I was thrilled to see them!

And, we could hear... and then SEE... scarlet macaws flying through the sky!

Time to cross Pirate Bridge... 5 people at a time!

I walked with one hand on the rope and the other taking photos. Near the end of the bridge the planks were farther apart and I'm glad I noticed before I had a problem!

On the other side of the bridge are the macaws. There are scarlet macaws and military macaws (which are green with blue tails). A man was holding this scarlet macaw and would let you take photos with it on your shoulder or on your arm.

My turn!
We were warned that, with the rain, the monkeys might not come out. But, after we were there 5-10 minutes, someone saw a monkey coming through the trees! We were told she was the alpha monkey and that all others would follow her. (I think there were about 13 in the group.) And, the alpha had a baby!!! Can you see it's little hand?!?
With a little encouragement, the monkeys would jump on our shoulders... or heads! The mommy with her baby jumped on me!!! It was such a neat feeling!!!
And then the mommy was coaxed onto Alex's shoulder with a little drink.
We were told not to bring anything, or even wear glasses, because the monkeys would steal things and take them up to the trees to play with. As you can see, this little monkey stole someones Gatorade. I'm sure it isn't the best thing for a monkey to drink, but he sure did look funny! He would drink some - and spill a lot! And, then he'd wipe his face on the tree. When he was done, he just dropped the bottle down on the forest floor!
We left down a different path and I got a photo of the Pirate Bridge we'd crossed earlier.
Alex and her friends in our beautiful yellow raincoats as we walked back to the pavillion.
It's time to leave the RAIN FOREST!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cruisin' Mexico

Because of the propulsion issue, we ended up making two stops in Mexico.

A dolphin experience we watched in Costa Maya, not Cozumel where we did ours.
When I get our disposable camera developed, I'll tell you more about our first stop in Mexico: Cozumel. We started with a dolphin experience where, besides the 'normal' dolphin encounter, you also got a "pull" (hanging on to her fins) and a "push" (using a boogie board and her pushing on your feet... what a thrilling ride!) After the dolphins, it started raining really hard and getting cooler. We did walk around some Mayan sculptures, visit a Mayan hut where we sampled fresh tortillas, and watch our friends come in on their glass bottom kayak adventure. We also had a nice Mexican buffet. But, we ended the day early because of the rain and cold.

Although the cruise line put together some last minute excursions, we decided to not take any in our second port of Costa Maya. Instead, we went with our new friends - Jill and her college-age daughter, Natalie. We first visited the high-pressure shops and Alex bought some sunglasses which she needed. Then we climbed this tower. There wasn't a lot to see, but we could see our ship!

Natalie went back to the ship while Alex & Jill hung out in beach chairs and I visited the tide pools that were right there at our port! I LOVE tide pools and enjoyed exploring these. I found several chitons which are mollusks with hard plates. They are about 2 inches long.

Dozens of shells - probably hermit crabs?
A little bitty sea urchin!!! I believe this is my first in a tide pool. It was smaller than a marble!
This is what I believe is a piece of coral. It was about the size of my hand.
Gorgeous! And so fragile looking! It reminds me of a leaf skeleton.
And, a little striped fish that got caught in the tide pool.
A self-portrait by the tide pools. You can see our ship in the background!
Alex & Jill relaxing by the ocean.
After this, Jill headed back to the ship and Alex and I found two hammocks! We had the BEST time hanging out in these! I could have stayed for HOURS, but we hadn't put on sunscreen because we thought we'd just be shopping for awhile.

Just relaxing! (Alex loves to take angled photos... they do turn out neat!)
And, a zoomed-in view of Costa Maya from our balcony. We took that little red trolley back. You can see the flag that I took a photo of, the yellow tower (behind the orange building) that we climbed, the shops (brownish triangular roofs) where we shopped, the beach (in front of umbrellas) where I looked at tide pools, and right behind the umbrellas were the hammocks where we laid out.