Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein
While working during the lunch shift at Blackbeard’s restaurant, on the island, it wasn’t a strange thing to see a table of four occupied by two humans, an impressive camera and a great set of binoculars. When we first arrived in January, the island was flooded by Winter Texans, people escaping the frigid cold of the north. Who can blame them? That’s how we ended up in South Padre Island. South Texas is a mecca for “snow birds”. I always envisioned our first winter in Florida, with all the other people running from the cold and snow. The type of weather which leaves you with a desire to hold up inside your camper until spring arrives. Turns out south Texas became that spot for us, while others were freezing I was wearing shorts and enjoying a nice cold beer at a beach bar. I spent a good bit of my time working to save money when it was available but when it came time to play there was a plethora of activities in the great outdoors. So “Getting Wild Around South Padre Island” is all about the wildlife! We will save the other “Gone Wild” for a discussion about Spring Break.
South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center
The Rio Grande Valley is a hot spot for birdwatching. On South Padre Island you can stroll the beach in the morning to watch the sun rise, bird watch by day, then be ready for dinner, live music and dancing by light fall. The nature center features 3,300 feet of boardwalk and will also give you an opportunity to see one of the many SPI sand castles. I bought a set of binoculars for my 35th birthday, own a decent camera but I am by no means a “birder”. Maybe one day… it seems like a super cool hobby. Yes, I said super cool. Flash forward 30 years and I’m an expert birder, having lunch with people I met on Facebook, and rendezvoused with, in SPI to bird watch. True story, just not mine, you hear great stories while waiting tables. A visit to South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center is guaranteed to give you a front row seat to a variety of different birds, with glimpses of turtles, fish and alligators.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
We made two trips to the Refuge and both times it seemed as if we had missed viewing hours since we only saw a hand full of critters and most were bunnies. With 97,000 acres I’m sure they were just camera-shy and off the beaten path. The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for the endangered Ocelot. Although the main drivable loop is closed to the public because of several Ocelot deaths, you can still walk the trail, but the Texas heat during the Summer didn’t tempt us to try it. There was still plenty of nature to see and it was nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of the Island for a change.
Whyland Walls #53
At the South Padre Island Convention center you can find #53 “Orcas off the Coast of Mexico”, one of the Wyland Walls. What a stunning site and I can’t wait to travel and see more. There are one hundred walls spanning various continents. When I think about where I want to travel to next, or what I want to see, I want to answer “all of it” but it helps to make list and these public art works have been added to my list.
Sea Turtle Inc.
We were greeted with another South Padre Island sandcastle when we arrived at Sea Turtle Inc., which is a sea turtle rehabilitation center. I appreciate the opportunity to see the turtles up close but unfortunately they are injured so seeing them with missing flippers, tumors or large chucks missing from attacks is sad. Thankfully they have an organization willing to help with rescue, rehabilitation and releases. South Padre Island has around 50 miles of beach where sea turtles nest from April to July. Sea Turtle Inc. works with volunteers to help locate these nest, relocate them and protect the eggs until they are ready to hatch between June and August. We left one week before the baby turtles hatched, it’s on my list for another time, you can only do and see so much.
As you can see there are tons of activities other than just going to the beach while visiting SPI. I took a lot of pictures during our time here so I will probably squeeze in one more post before telling you about our road trip to South Carolina.