Gulf Breeze Zoo just keeps on growing

Just weeks after the Gulf Breeze Zoo clued us in on the arrival of clouded leopards, yet another Indonesia species joined the zoo’s ever-growing family.

A family of six orangutans are coming to the area. The Zoo has been working in conjunction with the LEO Zoological Conservation Center in Connecticut to bring orangutans back to the facility.

“This is an incredible homecoming for us, as two of the orangutans were here 10 years ago” said CEO, Eric Mogensen. “Sara gave birth to her daughter, Indah, at Gulf Breeze Zoo in 2005 before they were relocated to LEO. In Connecticut they were grouped with other orangutans and did well. With a change of plans at LEO we were able to procure this larger, well-acclimated group of orangutans for the zoo. The group we have here now consists of 4 breeding age females, one breeding male and a young 3-year-old male still with his mother.”

The Gulf Breeze Zoo was selected as the new home for the orangutans based on the facility’s high standards, dedication to conservation, and large natural ape habitats.

The specially designed island habitat is over 43,000 square feet, providing one of the largest orangutan habitats in the United States. The island provides a lush environment including mature trees and climbing structures. Coupled with the warm temperatures and humidity, Florida provides an ideal environment that mimics their wild home, Southeast Asia.

This is the second species of great ape housed at the zoo. On a neighboring island, visitors can view the zoo’s gorillas as well.

Everybody is excited for the return of Orangs.

“With less than 300 individuals in zoological parks in North America, it’s an honor to work with these iconic species,” said Conservation Coordinator, Katy Massey. “But our goal is bigger than six individuals, we want to help save the entire species.”

Conservation education is a huge part of the zoo’s mission, and orangutans desperately need the help.

Orangutan populations have declined by as much as 97 percent in the past century. Indonesia has the highest deforestation rate in the world, which means fewer and fewer homes for these incredible species.

As the Gulf Breeze Zoo continues to develop conservation efforts around the globe, they will not only be providing financial aid to programs in the field, but also developing stateside programs to raise awareness of the palm oil crisis. While the orangutans are the centerpiece of this campaign, conservation programs will benefit other species they share the jungle with, such as siamangs, gibbons, clouded leopards, tapirs, rhinos and elephants.

The orangutans can be viewed daily, weather dependent, on their island, visible from the train and boardwalk. The Gulf Coast Area’s award-winning Gulf Breeze Zoo is home to more than 800 exotic animals. The Zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located just off Highway 98. Plan you visit today at

Happy 1 year anniversary Sweet Pea!

In 2018, the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center (NBSTCC) made an impact on roughly 50,000 people from around the world, and a big part of that outreach has been done by one disabled juvenile green sea turtle named Sweet Pea.

Cathy Holmes said that’s a pretty great accomplishment for her first year of work.

“I am feeling really good and so is Sweet Pea,” Holmes said. “We did have that up and down with internal injuries and digestive issues, but her new diet is going great. She’s doing great, putting on weight. Her skin and eyes are looking really good.”

Through trauma, hurricanes and chronic illness, Sweet Pea came through as the NBSTCC’s leading animal ambassador all before she is even an adult.

Sweet Pea’s story starts with pollution.

In August 2016, the young turtle washed ashore wrapped in fishing line with severe internal damage due to ingesting some of the line. She was transported to Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach for treatment.

Due to fishing line wrapped tight around one of her flippers, Sweet Pea’s front left flipper had to be amputated. She suffered internal gastrointestinal damage as well.

But this little turtle is a fighter.

Unable to survive in the wild, she found a new home at the NBSTCC in 2018.

In that first year, she made an impression on thousands of visitors through events and daily visitations.

“Conservation and education, that is one of the biggest things Sweet Pea does at the center. Her specific story talks about the human impact that she encountered,” Holmes said. “She has an interesting story of survival, and people love her. Not everybody has that opportunity to be that close to a sea turtle.”

By living as the example of the negative impacts humans can have on marine ecosystems, Sweet Pea helps facilitate conversation about protecting it Holmes said.

As time goes on, Sweet Pea is still growing, something she will do a lot of over the next few years.

Green sea turtles grow to be roughly 3.2 feet long and weigh up to 400 pounds according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. As a juvenile, Sweet Pea is only a fraction of that size. She was only the size of a dinner plate when she first came to the NBSTCC.

At last weigh-in she was 21.2 pounds, but the little turtle is gaining at a steady pace.

Holmes said they the team loves Sweet Pea and continues to find new ways to make her home here better.

“We hope to be able to provide her that forever home,” she said “For facilities like ours, it is crucial to provide an enriching environment and whatever medical care they need. We want to give her the best quality of life.”

And just as Sweet Pea continues to grow, so does the NBSTCC. Keep an eye out for new announcements to come. Visit Sweet Pea and all the turtle center residents this year,

Gulf Breeze Zoo has two new elusive ambassadors

Study of this elusive predatory cat has challenged scientist for years. To catch even a glimpse of clouded leopards, researches employ motion activated cameras, and satellite tracking collars are used to study their secretive behavior.

But you need only stop by the Gulf Breeze Zoo to spot these cloud-spotted cats.

Clouded leopards Harry and Ping are the newest residents of Gulf Breeze Zoo having joined the zoo family earlier this month. These new animal ambassadors are both one and half years old and adjusting well to their new home.

The small carnivorous wild cats inhabit the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and parts of China. Their bodies are about 2-3 feet long with a long tail. They can weigh up to 50 pounds, far smaller than their cousin the tiger (also on display at the zoo) which can weigh 500 pounds.

While their body is relatively small, their teeth are far from it. They have the largest canine teeth per portioned to body size of all the wild cats, earning them the nickname “modern saber-tooth.”

Clouded leopards are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List meaning they are at a high risk of extinction in the wild due to declining numbers.

As tiger populations dwindle, poachers have turned to hunting clouded leopards for their fur and bones for traditional Asian medicine.

They face yet another threat due to deforestation. In Indonesia, an estimated 98 million acres of forest has been cleared primarily for palm oil plantations. This oil is found in a variety of products including food, cosmetics, biofuel and cleaning products. Roughly 190 species could go extinct due to the loss of this vital habitat.

That is where Harry and Ping come in.

The pair of leopards have been tasked with a dual conservation mission. The leopards will act as ambassadors for their species. Visitors to the zoo can learn all about their species and ask keepers questions about their brothers and sisters in the wild.

The second part of Ping’s and Harry’s mission is to hopefully make more leopards. Future visitors may get to meet clouded leopard cubs if all goes according to plan.

Just like in the wild, catching a glimpse of this pair of predators when they are active can be difficult because they sleep much of the day. The best time for viewing these relatively nocturnal creatures is in the afternoon.

Ping, Harry and all the zoo’s residents are available for viewing daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Super blood wolf moon total lunar eclipse: 2019 major celestial event

It’s a mouthful to say, but it’s also pretty spectacular to watch. A quartet of coinciding of celestial events will make for a spectacular show Jan. 20 as the sun, moon and Earth align to create a unique eclipse.

It is called a super blood wolf moon total lunar eclipse and it will be visible throughout the night from Navarre Beach.

Professional and amateur astronomers alike are preparing to watch this phenomenon, myself included. There is nothing quite like gazing up at the night sky and seeing a swathe of stars and the shining moon. I still distinctly remember

There is no better place to take in the night sky than along Navarre Beach. The low level of light pollution combined with the gentle rhythmic sound of the waves makes for a magical evening. For couples, it will be a romantic evening to cuddle up under a blanket and watch. Families can use the magic of this event to teach their children about the universe around them.

So, what exactly happens in a super blood wolf moon?

Super moon

Super means the moon is closest to earth in its elliptical orbit during a full moon making it appear larger and brighter in the night sky.  The moon’s orbit around Earth is shaped like an oval so sometimes it is actually closer to the Earth than others.

Blood moon

“Blood moon” is not a scientific term, but rather a common phrase used to describe the moons appearance. During an eclipse the moon can take on a crimson hue due to light being distorted by Earth’s atmosphere.

Wolf moon

Another non-scientific term, the “wolf” in this celestial event’s name is a reference hailing from Native American traditions. Also called a “hunger” moon, the term is used in some cultures to describe the deepest part of winter when most of the winter rations had already been eaten. The term was inspired by the sounds of wolves howling nearby.

While the moon is at its brightest, reddest and closest orbit, it will undergo a full eclipse meaning this is the best time to get a view of that kind of celestial event.

The event will begin at about 8:30 p.m. and run throughout the evening. At about 9:30 p.m. the eclipsing shadow on the moon will become visible as Earth’s shadow passes over its surface.

Full eclipse is expected around 10:30 p.m.

My tips for a fantastic eclipse viewing:

  • Plan to view the event from your beachfront condo or along the gulf side coastline.
  • Make sure all your condo lights are off and there are no obstructions in the sky. Artificial lights will inhibit your view, so move to the eastern portion of the beach past the pier.
  • Bring cozy sweaters and blankets. It can get a bit chilly on the beach at night. Foldable chairs are also a plus if you are going down to the shore for viewing.
  • Milk and cookies are considered traditional snacks for viewing eclipses, but any snacks would be a good option.
  • Get plenty of rest the day before. This is a late night event.
  • Take a few pictures! This will be the last major celestial event of its kind for a long while.

Now that you know, book your super blood wolf moon vacation today at

New Year’s Resolution: Travel to our beautiful beach

It’s the time of year when we all take a moment to reflect on our lives. We look back on the long and sometimes bumpy road that was the past year, and we turn our eyes to the future and the person we want to be 12 months from now.

Love them or hate them, New Year’s Resolutions have their appeal. It’s a chance to say “I want to be a better person, and this is how I am going to do it.”

One of the best resolutions is to travel more. Too often we fall into the same routines, and if traveling more is your resolution, do not let the first week of January be the death of it.

Start planning your vacation time now. Our beautiful Navarre Beach is waiting!

As you look back on those 12 months gone by you may realize that you’ve been stagnant. No vacations. No new destinations.

Traveling helps us grow as people and relieves stress. We learn things about ourselves and the world around us when we step out into a new place.

As I have said once before on this blog, I will say again: Life is short, work is always going to busy and you only get so many days on this blue marble known as Earth.

What is stopping you? Odds are that excuse you just thought of will seem silly 30, 40 or even 50 years from now. Take the leap.

Learn about ancient culture through Holley Hill Pottery. Experience nature through the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center and near-shore snorkel reef. Relax your mind and find peace along miles of pristine white sandy beaches.

And if you’re New Year’s Resolution was to be healthier, I have some advice there too. While on vacation in paradise, take a morning jog down Navarre Beach’s multi-use path. Do some beach yoga with the sunrise. Try some of the healthier eats over at Slippery Mermaid or the Saturday farmers market.

Make this year one to remember. Book your vacation today at