Conservancy plans busy summer for nature lovers


Parents looking for a fun and educational way for kids to spend time over the summer? Consider the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The Conservancy is offering new summer activities, including a Little Explorer pre-k programs, guided kayak tours, Junior Vet Lab, wildlife hospital exhibits and an environmental education lecture series.

This is a pair of panther cubs. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is celebrating Endangered Species Day on May 20-21.

Led by Conservancy representatives, guests will have the opportunity to come face-to-face with native reptiles, ocean creatures, and occasionally catch a glimpse of rehabilitating wildlife. Daily education programs run through Oct. 31 at 11 a.m. at the Wildlife Hospital Nursey Viewing Window. Daily programs include:

Kayaking at boy’s camp at the Conservancy.

11 a.m. “Wildlife Hospital Nursery Viewing Window”

11:15 a.m. “Reptile Roundup”

12:15 p.m. “Wildlife Hospital Talk”

1:15 p.m. “Ocean Discoveries”

2 p.m. “Wildlife Hospital Nursery Viewing Window”

On the Water

Electric boat tours are available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests can enjoy a relaxing 45-minute ride on the mangrove-lined Gordon River led by a Conservancy boat captain. Boat tours are included in price of admission to the Conservancy Nature Center.

In addition, kayak rentals for up to two hours are available from 9 a.m-1 p.m. Take a guided tour of the Gordon River or head out on your own and discover the hidden treasures of this brackish water habitat, which provides a perfect sanctuary for many native Florida species. Kayak rentals and guided tours, reservations required.

Visitors can go on a 2-hour kayak adventure with a Conservancy-trained guide where they will learn about the importance of the mangrove forest while spotting Florida wildlife. Tours will be offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. for $40 for members and $50 for non-members, reservations required.

The Conservancy will also offer a guided boat and lunch tours of the Gordon River on Fridays in May through September. Tours will depart at noon aboard one of its famous electric boats and stop for lunch at Wahoo’s River Bar and Grill. After your meal, guests will cruise back to the Conservancy’s Nature Center where they can explore the Dalton Discovery Center, the Little Explorer Play Zone and wildlife hospital exhibits, reservations required.

Little Explorers

The Little Explorers Pre-K programs will be offered Thursdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. Little Explorer Play Zone provides the youngest visitors, the opportunity to explore nature and discover amazing animals through multi-sensory, interactive activities, stories, and crafts. No registration required. Admission is free for members and included in admission for non-members. Little Explorer Play Zone is most enjoyed by children 5 and younger. Summer programs include:

May 12, 14: A Color of His Own;

May 26, 28: Salty the Sea Turtle;

June 9, 11: Over in the Forest;

June 23, 25: House for Hermit Crab;

July 14, 16: Small Green Snake;

July 28, 30: Where Should Turtle Be?

Aug. 11, 13: The Little Lazy Lizard;

Aug. 25: Commotion in the Ocean.

Adult Speakers Series

Free to Conservancy members, “Evenings at the Conservancy,” the monthly environmental education lecture series will continue on select Tuesday evenings. The series features a wide variety of presenters, eco-programs, panel members from the Conservancy, and local and regional environmental experts. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the program starts at 6:30 p.m. Programs frequently sell out, please preregister by emailing Sophia Navarra at or by calling 239-403-4207. Lecture topics include:

May 10: “Legislative Wrap Up” with Jennifer Hecker, Conservancy director of natural resource policy;

June 14: “Invasive Reptiles in SWFL” featuring Ian Bartoszek, Conservancy biologist;

July 12: “FWC Florida Manatee Research” with Denise Boyd, FWC Conservation research associate.

Self-Guided Nature Center tours

In addition to summer programs, the Conservancy Nature Center offers self-guided exploring. Visitors can explore the interactive Dalton Discovery Center, which features the wondrous ecosystems of Southwest Florida. They can discover live animals, get hands-on in the touch tank, and see Luna, the loggerhead sea turtle, in the 5,000-gallon aquarium.

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital treats more than 3,200 injured, sick and orphaned native animals each year. Discover threats facing our animals and injury prevention tips. Guided tours of the Wildlife Hospital Nursery Viewing Window are offered every day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Guests can walk through the hospital exhibits and check out a behind-the-scenes film, patient X-rays, animal artifacts, and the Jr. Vet Lab.

The Junior Vet Lab is an interactive play space where children can learn how veterinarians care for animals, and the children can role-play with native animals (of the “stuffed” species). The Junior Vet Lab is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in the Nature Center’s Sapakie Family Classroom.

Special celebration days

On May 20-21 the Conservancy will celebrate Endangered Species Day to raise awareness about the must vulnerable species. There will be special activities throughout the day and special admission deals for Conservancy and zoo members. Zoo members receive free admission to the Conservancy and Conservancy members get in free to the zoo.

Summer at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida will include special celebration days with family-friendly activities to celebrate our water, land and wildlife.

World Turtle Day - May 23: Celebration activities May 23-29;

World Oceans Day - June 6: Celebration activities June 6-11;

World Snake Day - July 16: Celebration activities July 11-16;

World Lizard Day – Aug. 15:Celebration activities Aug. 15-20;

Free admission days

Memorial Day, May 26-28 and May 30: Free admission for current and retired military with valid ID;

Father’s Day, June 16-18: Free admission for dad when accompanied by a paying guest;

Independence Day, June 30-July 2: Free admission for current and retired military with valid ID;

Labor Day, Sept. 1-3: Free admission for first responders with valid ID.

More information

All Conservancy Nature Center programs and events are online at Membership is available online at For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and to make reservations, call 239-262-0304 or visit The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is located at 1495 Smith Preserve Way in Naples.