During my Florida kayaking adventures over the years, I’ve paddled through mangrove tunnels, alongside alligators and over springs and manatees. I was giddy with excitement when I slipped into a boat at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne because I was about to do something I didn’t realize was possible in Florida – kayak alongside giraffes. Now, I’m not talking about animatronic animals but living, breathing giraffes native to Africa.
“This is the real version of Disney’s Jungle Cruise,” I said to a fellow blogger as we paddled by camels, impalas, and giraffes on a guided tour.
“How freakin’ cool is this?” I kept thinking. Well, it’s very cool considering this is the only place in the U.S. where you can paddle alongside zoo residents. It’s probably the only opportunity I’ll ever have of being in some kind of boat and admire giraffes and other animals.
As the kayak drifted, I watched as animals grazed on the Florida greenery. It was feeding time for the lemurs and a zookeeper was in the center of action as they reached up to him with their petite, gray paws seeking a handout.
Peek-a-Boo with a Giraffe
Nearing the giraffe exhibit, which is home to two subspecies, a curious one seemed just as interested in us as we were of him (or her). The animal majestically walked along the waterway just steps ahead of the kayak. As we approached a bridge, he was above us craning his long neck to watch as we paddled underneath it. He met us on the other side where he caught up with another giraffe.
It was just so dang cute!
If you’re wondering about animal interactions with kayakers, don’t worry, there aren’t any. The kayaks are equipped with hooks beneath them and the underwater fences serve as a barrier between paddlers and the shoreline. If a kayak drifts over a fence, the hook prevents the boat from advancing into waters it shouldn’t.
Related Post: Feed a Giraffe and Lemurs at Giraffe Ranch in Dade City
Brevard Zoo is a Unique Attraction on Florida’s Space Coast
This 20-minute paddle was a pleasant surprise. I mean, who knew you could kayak in a zoo? Well, the Brevard Zoo isn’t your typical zoo. Here are a few other things making it an extraordinary place to visit:
- Country’s Largest Community-Built Zoo – Between 1992 and 1994, the 75-acre facility was built by more than 16,000 volunteers.
- Ecotourism Matters – This past summer, the zoo earned its Ethical Ecotour Operator designation by Florida Society of Ethical Ecotourism and it’s only the state’s eighth attraction to earn the designation.
- Quarters for Conservation – 25 cents of every admission supports the Zoo’s conservation projects, which visitors can vote as to what projects receive the funding.
- Swing from Tree to Tree – Treetop Trek Aerial Adventures offers zip lining, canopy walks and ropes courses. Night zipping is also available.
- Animal Interactions – While I didn’t feed a giraffe, I did spend some time with the lorikeets where visitors can feed them. Oh, boy. These guys were mighty loud but fun having them perch on and around me. Rhino encounters are available and animal feedings are visible to zoo guests. There’s a boat load of other activities in which you can view on their website.
- Animals Galore – Brevard Zoo is home to more than 730 animals representing 180 species located in Florida, Africa, Asia, Australia and South America.
My visit to the Brevard Zoo was brief but it was enough to give me a taste of what this small yet mighty attraction offers. Without a doubt, I’ll make a return trip for at least another paddle alongside the giraffes.
8225 N. Wickham Road
Melbourne, FL 32940
Here’s a short video of my experience kayaking alongside giraffes. If the video doesn’t play please view it here.
Disclosure: During my visit, I was a guest of Tuckaway Shores Resort, VISIT FLORIDA and Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism. Opinions are my own and this post has not been reviewed by any of the entities mentioned in it. As a point of disclosure, I’m a former VISIT FLORIDA employee and currently serve on one of their committees, which had no impact in my participation on this trip.