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Florida Guide > Other Activities

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

If you chose which wildlife parks to visit based on how cute the name sounds then Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge would be one of your first stops. However, alliteration is not the only reason to visit Ding Darling; this refuge boasts a spectacular array of animals in one of the most beautiful locations in Florida. Situated on the island of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico (close to Fort Myers) you are guaranteed spectacular sights anytime of the year.

There are two key parts to Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, a visitors/educational centre and the actual wildlife refuge itself. The visitors centre is free to visit, which is always a bonus, but it’s not worth a trip to Sanibel just to visit this education centre. Fortunately, it only cost five bucks to get into the refuge. The five dollars permits you to take your car and drive around the refuge.

A car is not necessary, as you can just hike around the reserve, though I wouldn’t recommend this as the reserve does cover a large area so having a car will allow you to make the most of your time there especially as there are plenty of places to park your car and get out and walk around. This seems to be the best of both worlds.

When you get out of your car and wander around the beautiful reserve you will be astonished by the sheer volume of birds. With an abundance of lakes and trees, this reserve is an ornithologists dream. Pink Pelicans are the top prize of birds to see however there are hundreds of different species to see including egrets & sand cranes. Now if birds aren’t your thing, don’t panic, there are other animals worth going to Ding Darling to see.

A personal favourite from my foray into this refuge was seeing the Racoons. They are incredibly fascinating animals to watch and when you’re on foot you can get pretty close to these cute little animals. An additional animal of interest to keep a look out for is the Horseshoe Crab, which the Racoons feed on. These prehistoric-looking animals are incredibly intriguing and are well worth the $5 entry fee alone. A big draw to Floridian tourists are alligators and they do have a few in Ding Darling nature reserve.

However, they can be quite hard to come across so if you are travelling with someone intent on seeing these reptiles then Ding Darling may not be the best option, however, if you are lucky enough to spot them it is an added bonus that could top off a wonderful visit. Now if birds nor reptiles nor mammals are your thing- then you probably shouldn’t be enquiring about a wildlife reserve! However, you don’t need to be a wildlife enthusiast to enjoy the park, it is a remarkably beautiful place to walk about and spend a day outside in the fresh air appreciating the views.

For five dollars, you get more than money’s worth with this wildlife refuge; it is set in a stunning location and offers a great chance to get a little closer to wildlife. With the option to drive, walk or do both, you really can tailor this visit to your wants. If you’re near the area of Sanibel or anywhere close it is most definitely worth a go.

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Page added on: 16 December 2011
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