Laurali
Hi, I'm Laurali! I live in a tiny, seaside fishing village in Florida where I nurture my plants, go hiking in the woodland, and wear flowers in my hair.

My Wildlife Photography Bucket List + Florida Sea Creatures

Sea Diver Tow With Plastic Fire Coral by the Ocean Blue
Today, I wanted to share my wildlife photography bucket list + Florida sea creatures, as part of my hiking adventures here in the sunshine state.  While I've been able to capture some of my favorite wildlife on camera, which you can read about here, I find myself feeling more determined than ever to capture some of the more exotic animals by camera!

Living in the sunshine state, we are surrounded by some of the most exotic wildlife in the world, as Florida is surrounded by water.  Freshwater, saltwater, and brackish water make up this very below sea level state of more than just orange groves and pristine beaches.  Florida, in many ways, reminds me of a smaller version of Australia.

As an avid hiker and nature enthusiast, I must have seen alligators in their prime hundreds of times, but have yet to snap a picture.  I have always been caught by surprise when I see one, so those are the times that I have most regretted not having my camera on.  But, I have learned to bring my camera with me wherever I go, determined to catch an alligator on camera sunning himself in the Spring during prime mating season.

Then, there are manatees.  My kids and I literally swam with a lone manatee once at Sand Key Beach and every year head over to nearby Safety Harbor Marina and Fishing Pier in May to see them in the warm shallows by the pier.  Like clockwork, they are always there, ready to greet us with their potato sack bodies.  I have yet to take a good picture of one of them.  I find with watery creatures, even mammals like the manatee, they tend to blend into the water.  Clearly, one of my goals is to get a great shot of a manatee family.

Then there are sharks.  Honestly, weird to say as a Floridian, but I tend to get a little seasick out on a boat, so I tend to avoid salt life.  I do, however, love kayaking, though it's been a while since I've been.  Kayaking keeps you low in the water, unlike a canoe where you float completely above water, and what I like about that is the proximity to dangerous sea life, as well as gentle sea creatures too.  One example of this is the Florida horseshoe crabs I consistently find.  They are harmless and are one of the few underwater animals, exoskeleton and all, to have no known natural predators.  Pretty cool, eh?
Sea Diver Plastic Toy With Coral Reef on a Blue Ocean Backdrop + Kayaking

Sharks and Other Dangerous Marine Life in Florida

Ideally, what I'd like to do is snap some photographs from the kayak of a shark.  I'll just say it right now, that would be my number one photography goal for land and sea!  It would have to be a good picture too.  In case you were wondering, yes I'm scared as hell of sharks, but as long as I'm shooting from a safe vantage point, I see nothing wrong with getting a picture of a fin and possibly the shark baring some teeth.

I have seen sharks and shark fins many, many times and have had a terrifying encounter with a shark, but I was actually swimming in the water with my niece when that happened.  For pictures, I think it would be cool to at least get a shark fin picture!  We have to remember, when we swim in the ocean, we are in their world and they are top dog in the food chain under the sea.  As long as I'm not one of their happy meals, I'm good to go!

Speaking of swimming in the ocean, I'd really like to get some photographs of Florida stingrays!  My niece and I, who I used to do a lot of adventurous outdoor stuff with, went swimming with the stingrays quite by accident.  In August, the shorelines are just covered in the sweet sea creatures.  By the way, did you know that stingrays give live birth to their babies?  No egg laying for them.  They are just like the rest of us women!

Stingrays are also very sweet and gentle creatures.  It is their natural instinct to use their stinger when stepped on, so it's important to use the stingray shuffle, something we taught kids when I worked as an animal handler at the Tarpon Springs Aquarium.  Minus the stingers, they are lovable creatures and like to be petted!  In fact, I used to have a pet stingray once upon a time.  I definitely would like to get a natural wildlife photograph of a stingray in her natural habitat.

Let's see, what else?  I'd really like to get some photographs of an octopus.  My brother found some at nearby Honeymoon Beach in a seashell.  They didn't do well in captivity.  We gave them to my ex-boyfriend at the time for his saltwater aquarium, and he said they inked and died.  Lesson learned!

I think that's the lesson in all of this.  We have to be careful with saltwater life, as it is a delicate ecosystem.  I used to have a giant saltwater aquarium at one time and it was difficult to maintain.  I think it's best to enjoy sea life in their natural beach life habitat whenever possible.  I prefer one on one engagement with some animals, but it really does depend on the level of danger.  Some creatures can look absolutely harmless and be the most dangerous predators you would ever imagine.

My goal for this year, as far as outdoor photography, is to get back in the water, preferably on a sea kayak.  I want to start engaging with Florida wildlife again but from a safe vantage point.  I used to be a little braver and more courageous even ten years ago, but have grown increasingly more cautious.  Some of it has to do with my respect for all of God's creatures, both great an small.  Being a plant-based eater has taught me to leave well enough alone.

On the other hand, it has taught me to love more.  I want to engage with animals more, especially with the ones that I know are safe to handle and enjoy playing with humans.  You'd be surprised how many creatures love to make friends with humans.  It's just a matter of being cautious yet leaving yourself open to fun opportunities.  Some people like to travel to distant lands to see how other humans live across the globe.  I'd rather spend time in nature and make friends with the animals by showing them kindness and respect.  

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