Thursday, October 16, 2014


Spent a week in Orlando recently at a conference, and as usual made the most of the spare time we had. The first day off we had a few of us hired a car and drove to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. Nearly two hours drive, made all the more exiting by being in a left hand drive automatic car on the wrong side of the road with 6 lane highways and exits that go off to the right and left! Only two of us had driving licences, and I was the only one who'd driven over there before, so I took the first leg and drove there. Luckily we had a sat nav or I think it might have taken us considerably longer....

Big Cat Rescue is just what it says - a rescue centre for big cats which have been rescued. It's a fantastic place, but it was very hard hearing the stories of where they have rescued the cats from - abandoned pets, circuses, entertainment venues, concrete cages not big enough for them to turn round in...  Many of them have been declawed badly so have deformed feet. But, all of them are well cared for here, and spend the last years of their life being well looked after.

We arrived just after lunch and checked in for our keeper tour.

The first thing we did was make some "enrichment" for the cats - filling bags and tubes with strong smelling spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and catnip, or spraying them with perfume. The cats love them, and roll over on them and rip them to pieces - just like my cats do with catnip!

It was great going round with the keepers. There is no contact with the cats, so in order to make sure they can look at their paws, bellies etc, they train them with a piece of meat on a stick to stand up, open their mouths and show their paws.  The first cat we saw was a snowcat, very small, very cute, but very fierce! 

We also saw cougars, servals, bobcats, leopards, lions, tigers, and lots more. All in very big enclosures - bigger than they look in these photos as there are many enclosures joined together by tunnels.

The tigers were definitely my favourite. The last picture is of Nikitta, a lioness who was recused from a drugs den, where she had been kept as a 'guard lion"! Bit of a surprise to the police when they broke in....

Half way round it rained, and we had to put on our fetching ponchos

and Nikitta refused to come out, looking at us as if we were mad standing in it!

A really good day, spoiled only by two insect bites I got which over the next two days swelled up to about 6 inches in diameter, to the point where friends were threatening to take me to hospital. But  luckily they went down as quickly as they had swelled up!

The other free day we had was spent at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. It was so quiet, couldn't believe it. Went on my favourite Superman ride first, and instead of queueing for an hour, we were on in 5 minutes, so went straight round and on it again.

I love the park, and prefer it to Disney. I'm not a roller coaster fan, so gave the big ones a miss, especially the Incredible Hulk:

Since I last went, they've developed the Harry Potter attraction complete with Hogwarts and Hogsmeade

Fabulous attention to detail in the shops - the owls in the post office were animatronic and moved...

There was also a Harry Potter ride - one of the best I've been on - difficult to explain. A simulation where you felt you were flying and taking part in a game of Quidditch!

Of course we went on the obligiatory get wet ride where we dropped hundreds of feet (I could be exaggerating) in a log flume

But since I was last there they've installed people dryers. Not that it made much difference to us

Just as we were leaving the heavens opened, and it rained so hard we couldn't move. Luckily we were in a Margarita bar watching it...

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