Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A Cure for Nature Deficit Disorder in Miami

Safari Edventure sloth
I fed a gentle sloth!

Safari Edventure is definitely off the beaten path for Miami tourists and not exactly a pit stop for locals when they venture south of Kendall Drive. Five acres in the Redlands are eclipsed by theme park style attractions such as Miami Zoo and Jungle Island, yet the land is home to 130 species of animals and 1,000 species of plants.

It's here where the not quite so wild things are: the animals were either rescued, re-homed or rehabilitated or born on the site. Glenn Fried, who has worked in wildlife education for over 35 years, and his wife Niki, run the non-profit.

It's a labor of love for the couple and a group of volunteers.

This isn't your ordinary zoo. You'll find nothing plastic or smoothly paved. No over manicured landscapes. Guests use composting toilets.

Safari Edventure hosts camps for schools throughout the year for kids to learn about wildlife hands-on and up-close. Garden paths teach children about fruits, vegetables and herbs -- or most importantly, where they come from -- fruits don't just appear magically at Publix.

Safari Edventure ackee poisonous
Ackee, a staple fruit in Jamaica, is only poisonous when unripe.

Safari Edventure peacock
Winding trail at Safari Edventure and a resident peacock.

Grown-ups can enjoy the winding paths and serenity of the grounds, just like I did. It's a little slice of backcountry exploration with an old Florida feel, just a few minutes from US1. Picnic benches are wedged under a huge banyan tree. An enormous avocado tree, laden with fruit during my visit, shaded the Fox Trot Trail, which is home to a Mynah bird with astounding digital-sounding vocalizations. I thought R2-D2 was following me around the corner. Actually, a beautiful peacock did seem to trace my steps.

This lemur is a resident of the Fox Trot Trail.

Safari Adventure also isn't your ordinary petting zoo. I touched and fed a sloth. I also petted very tame timber and arctic wolves, which reminded me of a time that I met a woman in Hawaii while she walked a wolf dog on the beach. The animal required a special permit to be on the island as her emotional support pet.

I would never think to come close to such a majestic animal, but here, these wolves were gentle and seemed to enjoy interacting with humans. There's something definitely grounding and healing about petting a wolf.

Safari Edventure arctic wolves
Arctic wolves at Safari Adventure.

Solace Health Miami thinks so, too. This South Florida behavioral therapy provider brings patients here for animal-assisted therapy. The nature-focused holistic treatment helps those who suffer from behavioral, emotional and other psychological disorders.

And then there's nature deficit disorder, which isn't a medical condition but a result of not spending enough time outdoors under peaceful circumstances.

For those of us who are simply stressed-out by the jarring, fast-paced energy of Miami, take a hint. A day in the Redlands, surrounded by nature, is just what the doctor ordered.

So don't come here to do anything. Just be. 

Safari Edventure is at risk of losing the land, which would leave its resident critters homeless. You can support this non-profit by visiting and spreading the word.

For more information, call 305-238-9453 or visit SafariEdventure.

Mouse over the image below to see more photos from Flickr.

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