Aside from the trillions of bugs and arachnids in the state, the wildlife should not be taken lightly.
Alligators - ya everyone knows these big guys are here.. they love dogs (for snacks) so don't bring them to the river / lake with you. Keep an eye on children too. Do not swim in lakes / rivers that are not designated swimming areas and even in designated areas.. look before you jump. They have been known to attack riding lawnmowers and can run and move much faster than you can.. even if they look slow. You wont win without losing something (like an arm or foot). Extreme cases - The american crocodile (no joke) likes near the coastlines in the everglades, along inland rivers and can be found in saltwater!
Snakes- and so many different kinds, poisonous and not, rattlesnakes, coral snakes, water snakes (cottonmouth), they can be anywhere and are not pleasant to run into. In your yard, in a tree, in the bathroom, a load of dirty clothes, the woods, the swimming pool... anywhere. Extreme cases - burmese pythons have been found in parts of the state, thriving in the wild because of people releasing pet snakes into the wild.
Boar (wild pigs) - have a very distinct trash can smell to them, so you usually know when they are coming, they are usually aggressive, have sharp teeth and tusks that can tear you to shreds.. if you see one of these cute stinky pigs, do't try to make friends with it.
Bears - yes you read that correctly, they are common just north of Orlando up through ocala national forest, and also live near Big Cypress, the Everglades, the Chassahowitzka area north of spring hill and the Apalachicola National Forest west of Tallahassee. They have been seen in other parts of the state as well. Though these bears do not have a violent history, they can still act aggressive... and well they are bears.. what do you expect.
When in the water on the coast you may want to look out for sharks (no explanation needed), jellyfish (can sting even when dead on land), starfish (also sting when dead on land).
Dirty Rivers (dirty water, black water, swamp water) are also known to contain parasites that can make you sick or even cause death.. and you won't know what it is until it's too late.
Other Florida animals that may try to eat you or tell you they don't like you: coyotes, skunks, opossums, snapping turtles, Florida Panther (florida version of a mountain lion), large raccoon, otters, red fox, armadillo, bobcat, rats, "wild" domesticated dogs.
If you want to read about bugs and other creepy crawlies that plague the state read my BUGS! article.
Florida is extremely hot and humid for a large part of the year. As a result the storms that plague the state during the summer are probably something you are not use to.
They are well known for copious amounts of rain in a short period of time, very frequent, dangerous lightning, and occasional tornadoes even when they were not in the forecast. Just because there is not a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning does not mean you could not find yourself experiencing one shortly. The things you learned in school to watch for in thunderstorms really holds true for Florida Storms!!
- Florida has the most lightning strikes (and deaths) in the USA
- Most locals know that when the weather gets bad, turn everything electrical off and unplug them (Tv's, phones, computers) I have seen many destroyed devices.
- Locals will also predict the weather in the summer months very accurately... hi:95F Low: 87F humidity 95%, Mostly sunny, Chance of thunderstorm at 3PM with extremely heavy downpours, Sunny and humid again by 330PM, chance of another storm in the evening. Sticky, hot and humid at night... chance of another thunderstorm.
- it is common for lightning to be very frequent and extremely close.
- Avoid water when inside.. including showers, baths, and washing dishes... when a storm is in the vicinity.
- If caught in a storm outside stay away from tall objects (like trees and poles) also things like electrical wires, water, etc...
- During the summer it is common to be able to hear thunder in the distance at almost any time of day (if you are somewhere that is quiet... or not)
- You can be struck by lightning even if the storm is not overhead - reports of being struck by storms over 20 or 30 miles away are common.
- The rain can often be a torrential downpour - good wipers are a must and expect to get wet. Many locals drive through rain that would stop traffic in any other part of the country like it is nothing, as it is a normal part of the summer day.
- Storms can seemingly appear out of no where, in no time.
- After a mid-day storm, expect the heat and even more humidity to return.
- Use common sense please, ignoring the weather, or trying to look cool braving it.. that is why so many people lose their life or get seriously injured.
Florida is hot and humid the majority of the year.. a perfect breeding ground for bugs you never knew could exist!
- Do not leave food out for any period of time... ants, roaches, flies, and other undesirables will find it, even if you are inside a nice new clean house!!
- Keep ALL food sealed, by sealed I mean airtight.. not a porcelain jar. If you don't then your bread will have ants / mold, sugar will become an ant farm and rice will turn into its own lifeform.
- Even the cleanest places in Florida have nasty bugs, try not to freak out when you see one (it will likely happen).
- BEWARE! of the fire ants! When walking avoid the mounds of dirt you may see in yards etc... stepping in one can result in a very painful experience. Fire ants a very small, but extremely painful and come in swarms. They can also be found anywhere a normal ant could be found. They also float on water... I have seen a mound of fire ants floating in a river, it looks like a pile of dirt in the water.. don't touch it, when it water they will take any chance possible to get out of it.
- BEWARE! Killer Bees - If you plan to explore the woods, kayak through a forest, etc... look before ducking under palm branches or anything that may appear to be leaning or have a large bump on it, these bees group together on branches and palm leaves when traveling, and it can be deadly to disturb them.
- The Super Large roaches are actually palmetto bugs.
- Be prepared to be swarmed by mosquitoes when outside.
- Sand gnats or "no see ums" as we call them, are very small, painful, flying, biting bugs that are very common near water and sandy areas. They can attack you in places that even a mosquito will not dare to fly, be aware, if you are near an area with these bugs, it is best to keep your windows (screens do not always work!!) and doors closed and soak up the AC, otherwise you may have a very painful night in bed.
-other bugs to take note of:
--sugar ants (really super small ants that can get into almost anything)
--velvet ants (They are large ants with a reddish colored velvet on top, they sting and are extremely painful)
--scorpions (yes they are there.. they are small and can fit into your shoe or under your bed covers at night, they are nocturnal, but do not rule out a daytime encounter.. the stings is extremely poisonous)
--biting fruit flies
--Walking Stick bugs
--love bugs (stick to your windshield and do not come off easily)
-- the list can go on and on and on...
We saw this atmospheric phenomenon on flying into Florida from the plane. We could not decide, whether it was only a thunderstorm, or already a hurricane. Finaly the Captain told us it was thunderstorm.
The hurricane season in Florida is from June 1 - November 30. The hurricanes are strong tropical thunderstorms with a surface circulation and winds of 74 mph or higher. If you get into a situation like this, you should decide to leave for a safer location in order to be there during the storm.
Some tips if you decide to leave:
- Keep the gas tank filled in your vehicle.
- Be sure to have a road map with the evacuation routes clearly marked, so that you won’t spend valuable time and fuel in searching for the right way to go.
- Buy bottled water and ice.
- Get out of the area as early as you can, in daylight. Give yourself enough time to leave so that you can drive calmly and allow for traffic congestion; avoid putting yourself in a panic situation.
You have probably read about rip currents on my North Carolina page, but here is a sign I found at Pensacola Beach that actually illustrates what to do if you are caught in a rip current. This is an effective technique and it really works well.
At Pensacola Beach, you will find signs such as these located along the beach accesses. The Green, Yellow, and Red are universal for most locations on the coastlines of the U.S. However, the purple flag for Marine Life was a new one that I have never seen before.
Florida provides a website of active hundred acre fires that may endanger populations and highway travel. It is updated twice daily.
Do NOT feed or aggravate the alligators. It really is their land!!!
Same goes for snakes, which can be found on land AND in the water, too!
Sharks & Barracudas!
Leave the shiny "bling" on the beach or boat and your chances of getting bit will be less!
Be careful when purchasing theme park tickets in the Orlando area. Compare deals carefully. The problem lies in the fact that often park-hopper passes list too many parks to be visited in too few days. With this type of an offer, it is really impossible to see all the parks on your purchased list before the time period expires. If you do not go to most, if not all of the parks on the list, you may actually loose money. So it is important to decide which parks you plan on visiting, then do a careful price comparison before purchasing tickets for each park, or purchasing a package deal. You may find that the deal turns out to be no deal at all. If you have not been to the parks in the past, you will probably want to spend at least one full day in each that you visit. So if you have two or three days, and purchase a pass to get you into five parks, this may not be a savings. The people that this type of pass is best for, are those who have been to Orlando a number of times, and want to pop in and out of various parks.
Fakahatchee, I love this preserve, but when you are in the back country be aware that there is a lot of poison ivy, as well as wasp mounds. Many other preserves and state parks also have poison ivy, and other poisonous plants. Find out what they are and what they look like so that you can avoid them.
Stay at least 15 feet away from wild alligators, they may look slow, but they can move fast for a short distance. Also that old tale about if a gator chases you run in a zigzag fashion is only a wise tale and will only slow you down. I have seen LOTS of gators in the wild country of Florida, and have had no problem with them.
If you are camping be aware that raccoons, and birds such as crows, ravens, gulls, and even vultures, will rob your picnic table if you leave food out. Pack it away inside your car, hard sided storage box, or RV, even if leaving for a short time. Tents are no protection, some animals, such as raccoons, will have no problem entering your tent for a snack.
Don't work for Camp E-Ma-Chamee. It's an EYA camp and it's full of crap. They will tell you all kinds of great things, but the truth is you'll hate it. What the camp org. designed to do, conflicks with what the State says it has to do. So as an employee the crap is passed down hill to you to make it happen. Your bosses will say one thing today and go back on it tomorrow. Not to mention there will be changes and your not told about them until your in trouble with it. And the whole time you have to deal with kids that need more than just some rules. They need disapline that makes them think. And this group craps doesn't work when you have to give in to the kids after a hour or so. It was a great program when the government wasn't involved, but now it sucks and I don't think they help the kids, only help them become better at working the system.
In the United States, mostly in Florida, the key deer is an endangered species. Years of hurricanes and development have reduced the number of key deer drastically enough to put them on the endangered species list. While driving through the keys, you will see signs like this posted advising that you are driving through a key deer sanctuary/refuge. As you drive along, you will see a black chain-linked fence alongside US-1 to help prevent the key deer from going into the road. This along with other efforts have helped to somewhat bring the population up. Still, please be careful driving in these areas.
American alligators are one of only two species of alligator in the world (the other is the Chinese alligator). They are native to the southeastern United States, as well as along the Gulf Coast to Texas. Alligators live in wetlands and swamps throughout their range, but recently have started to appear in irrigation canals and ponds in parks, golf courses, and other places close to human habitation.
The average size of adult alligators is between 13 and 18 feet (four and five meters), although one attained the length of 19 feet (six meters). And the average weight of adults is between 400 and 600 pounds (181 and 272 kilograms). Because of their size, they are very powerful and can inflict serious injury or death.
Most alligators fear and avoid humans. However, alligator attacks are frequent enough so that visitors to Florida and other states within the range of alligators should exercize caution while in or near water. Most alligator attacks are not fatal, but injuries are usually severe due to the alligator's sharp teeth and strong jaws. Their jaws can exert 1,000 pounds of pressure per square inch (70 kilograms per square centimeter). There were only nine fatal alligator attacks from the 1970s through the 1990s, but the number of fatalities has been increasing substantially recently due to the alligators encroaching into human-populated areas.
Make sure you are prepared for the worst and the unexpected in the Florida wilderness. Real Florida is not Disney World, folks. Amateur photographer Carol Swingle, 60, of Miami recently found herself alone in the Fakahatchee Strand area of the Everglades for more than two days with no food or water and dressed in only shorts, a sleeveless shirt and flip flops. Disoriented and dehydrated, she was extremely lucky to have survived her adventure. Read her incredible story: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2007/jun/13/woman_lost_wilderness_wasnt_afraid_except_gator/?breaking_news
Now I know this will sound a tad condescending to most but I really stress to take caution from the sun!
The sun here is a devious little beggar! It is not fiercely strong like in Africa. It pretends to be "sunny".... but do not be fooled!
Our story! : We were on the beach in Fort Lauderdale for a couple fo hours. It was hot but not scorching. We coated the kids in lotion and gave ourselves a light but not thorough smattering as we chased the kids into the sea. A couple of hours later - the kids were "hot" but ok. We however were burnt in every single area that had not had lotion properly applied.
We looked ridiculously streaky, we were very sore and our skin, in places, was burning.
I had neglected my ankles and as a result I had burnt my sweat glands. My feet & ankles were swollen to the point were I could not put a pair of trousers on over them (which I needed to do to keep them out of the sun) and I could not even wear flip flops. Honestly I was in total agony and had to pay quite a lot of money to get medical attention.... all the time feeling completely ridiculous at having been so stupid as to not pay proper attention to myself.
It ruined a number of days of our holiday - and not just for me. Thankfully we both drive because I was unable to for a few days. I felt stupid stupid stupid.... but never again!!!!
As an alternative to Orlando's many hotels, the villas on offer make an excellent base for an...more
I am currently experiencing the happy hour on a deck above the pool. It is the designated smoker's...more
The Four Seasons Miami is found in Miami's Brickell neighborhood; it commands a view of the northern...more