Have A Reptile Kind Of Summer!

Summer is on its way, and with it thoughts turn to vacations, road trips and other fun events. I’m kicking the summer off with a trip to Hawaii — to the Big Island — in a couple of weeks. Assuming I don’t get incinerated by lava – and I do intend to try to get as close to flowing lava as possible, because I am a pyromaniac at heart – I imagine I’ll be back here in the office before I know it. You know how vacations go; they whiz by in a flash. I went to Kauai in 2008, and even ended up writing a blog about it, discussing some of my reptile encounters. The time during that trip I got to swim with dozens of green sea turtles remains a cherished herp memory. I’ll never forget that. I’m not sure what kind of wild reptile encounters may await me on the Big Island – if any — but there is one herp-related event I am looking forward to witnessing: Turtle Independence Day.

Sea turtles were a highlight of my 2008 Kauai vacation, and I hope they figure prominently during my upcoming trip to the Big Island, too!

Sea turtles were a highlight of my 2008 Kauai vacation, and I hope they figure prominently during my upcoming trip to the Big Island, too!


Turns out the Mauna Lani resort, located in the super ritzy Kohala resort area on the Big Island, is a bit of a sea turtle sanctuary. Sea turtle hatchlings are sent there from Oahu, and the turtles are placed in saltwater lagoons on the resort’s grounds, where they live until they reach subadult size. The honu (that’s Hawaiian for sea turtle) that have grown large enough to stand a better chance of survival in the open ocean are released into the sea every Fourth of July. There is a moderate amount of hoopla affiliated with this event. Luckily, I will be arriving on the island the day before, and attending the Turtle Independence Day festivities is definitely on my to-do list. I can’t wait — can you think of a better way to kick off a Fourth of July celebration? Presuming all goes according to plan, expect to see a future blog about my experiences at Turtle Independence Day.

Do you have any summer plans yet? If not, and if you think you would like to include reptiles in them, I thought I’d throw out a few suggestions for you.

1. You could go herping, of course. If you’re lucky enough to live in the vicinity of some good herping grounds, that’s great. Or perhaps you could make a trip of it, and head to another state and see what it has to offer? Do you live in Washington state? Want to find some cool herps other than frogs and salamanders? Think about heading to Florida, where you should be able to find all kinds of species you would not see on the West Coast.

2. There are plenty of great U.S. herping destinations in all kinds of environments, from swamp to desert, but perhaps you want something a bit more exotic. Have you considered taking an ecotour? I took one to the Peruvian Amazon once. That was another lifetime herping highlight — I really do need to blog about that trip someday. There are organizations that lead wildlife-viewing trips (some are reptile-specific) to a variety of places, including the Amazon and Costa Rica. One place I have yet to visit, and hope to someday, is the Galapagos Islands. How cool would that be, to get to finally see wild Galapagos tortoises, land iguanas and, perhaps most interesting of all, marine iguanas in their native habitat? Pretty dang cool!

3. Perhaps you could make it a goal to visit some wacky giant reptile roadside attractions. I’ve always been a big fan of kitschy roadside attractions, and reptile-oriented sights such as Swampy, the world’s largest gator statue in Christmas, Fla., might add just the right touch to any summer road trip. Read about Swampy and some of his fellow roadside brethren here.

4. Of course, as fun as giant reptile statues may be, there’s nothing like real live, flesh-and-blood reptiles. If you don’t feel like strapping on a backpack and hiking boots and venturing out into nature, there are plenty of places to see live reptiles, and they don’t require an inordinate amount of extraneous effort to get to. The reptile houses at local zoos, of course, are a great start. I’m lucky in that I don’t live too far from the San Diego Zoo, and they have a world-class reptile collection (and a world-class bird collection, world-class mammal collection, world-class primate collection…you get the idea). In addition to zoos, there are some reptile-specific collections out there that are well worth visiting, such as the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, Snake Land, Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland and others. Clyde also puts together traveling reptile exhibits, which you may have encountered at any number of museums across the country. One of his most popular is called Frogs: A Chorus of Colors, which has been making the rounds for the past few years. One of the newer reptile-oriented facilities on the scene is the Chiricahua Desert Museum in Rodeo, New Mexico. It is owned and operated by reptile-industry fixtures Bob and Sheri Ashley, who also own ECO, producers of so many great reptile shirts and caps you can find for sale at many expos (Bob also puts on the North American Reptile Conference and Trade [NARBC] shows). At their desert museum an assortment of reptile and other animal exhibits can be seen.

I could go on at great length about lots of other reptile attractions you can visit in the U.S., but I don’t have to, because you can instead go read the article “ Fun Reptile Vacations.” This article will make a very handy tool for reptile fans planning summer road trips.

5. A lot of reptile events take place during the summer. In addition to many shows, including the grand-daddy Daytona show in August, there are educational events you may want to attend. There are two specifically I wanted to let you know about: The International Herpetological Symposium, which will be held in Tucson, Ariz., July 21-24 (read an article about the IHS, written by its current president, Bob Ashley [geez, does that guy ever rest?] here); and the Turtle Survival Alliance conference in Orlando, Fla., on August 16-19 (this would make a great combo reptile event if you paired it up with the Daytona show). Also, many of the reptile expos include reptile talks and lectures as part of their roster of events — for instance, on August 20, the night before the Daytona show kicks off, a turtle symposium is held at the show’s base hotel, the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort. Check our events calendar for shows in your area, and visit the show’s websites to see what they have to offer.

So there you have some ideas if you think you would like to incorporate a reptile theme to any of your precious summer vacation days.

Whatever you do, I hope you have a fun summer. Don’t forget to include the reptiles!


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