Visit to Seacrest wolf preserve – a very unique off the beaten path destination
It’s been a while since we have a guest post on our series – Off the Radar Travel Destination. I have been eagerly waiting for this nature travel destination post for a few months now and am super excited to introduce the latest traveller in this series on unique places around the world along the roads less travelled.
This week, we have with us Mahbubur Rahman from Learning to Fly – A computer geek by day, photographer, traveller, blogger at all other times. Originally from Bangladesh, he has lived in Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Bali and now USA for the past 18 years. He has travelled to more than 15 countries, some of them several times over. In 2012 he did a road trip across the United States, from the East Coast (NY) to the West Coast (California) and then taking the Pacific Coast all the way up to Seattle, covering almost 8000 miles (12,800 KM)
Today he will be talking to us about a trip he made to the Pensacola region of America, to a Seacrest Wolf Preserve.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and your travels
I’ve always had to move around quite a bit till I was about 11, whether I liked it or not, because my father thought that spontaneously deciding to pick up our lives (my mother and I) and move it to a different country was a cool thing to do. He was a professor, so finding either a teaching position or a post-doctorate research position was quite easy, and made our moves pretty easy. I’m not quite as adventurous as my dad, but when I was 18, I moved to USA for University and USA being so big, I had plenty of opportunity to travel around several parts of this large country.
Why did you choose to travel to the Wolf Preserve?
The name of the wolf preserve I went to is called the Seacrest Wolf Preserve, located in the Pensacola part of Florida. I knew a photographer who recently moved there, Jason Hahn, who is this crazy wildlife photographer and he told me he had met the couple that started this preserve, and they really wanted to publicize the place. Florida is not necessarily the best place for wolves, but somehow a big number of packs of wolves migrated here, and they were in danger of being eradicated. The couple started a foundation that started buying the land, and soon created a farm – “The Oaks Farm” in Washington County, Florida. The farm covers over 430 acres that house the Seacrest Wolf Preserve, and is also dedicated to the conservation of indigenous wildlife and the Flora and Fauna of Florida eco-systems. He mentioned that he would start a workshop to tour this place, and wanted to know if I was interested. At that point, I didn’t really know when I would get a chance to see wolves in person, so I jumped at the chance!
Where did you stay?
There aren’t too many places to stay around here – there are a few motels which you can find here.
What were your favourite and most difficult parts on this journey?
It’s pretty difficult to get there, since there are no direct flights, or airports close to it. You can fly in to Tampa, or you can fly into Alabama and then drive for a few hours to get there. To get a cheaper flight, I took a really earning morning flight (I’m not a morning person) and took 2 stops to arrive in Tampa after about 7 hours, and then drove another 2/3 hours to get to the motel. I got lost multiple times, since this is pre-GPS days, and there was almost no cell phone reception.
Highlights of your stay
Once I arrived there, its nothing like I expected. I kind of expected wolves to just run around all over the place, but of course, that was a silly expectation. 430 acres is a very huge amount of space, and wolves are wild animals after all, so the way they designed is basically – the wolves roam about the whole place, and the people have pathways that are enclosed.
We first had to take a course of learning about basic wolf behaviour – when to be afraid, when to back off, because at some point we would be leaving the enclosed pathways, and actually going into their habitat.
Majority of the time, we have to track the wolves to get any sight of them, but once in a while, the wolves come into a separate enclosed area for feeding and along with trainers, we get to be up close. We are allowed to get close to the wolves, but always with one of the attendants. And up close I got – I was sitting on one of the tree logs that was set up as a bench, when one of the attendants told me to turn around and look up and lo behold, one of the wolves (names Seuqia) was right above me, staring at a piece of meat that was laying in front of him (a real piece of meat, not me). These wolves are wild, but they’ve been around people in the preserve, so they are used to it.
One of the other highlights of the trip, were the backstories about the wolves. Wolves are spirit animals, and have a big part in the folklore of Native Americans. Part of also why I was drawn to this preserve, was because there used to be a lot of tribes near in this area, which could be a reason why the wolves migrated there. In Native American mythology, wolves (also bears) are considered very close to men, and some tribes tell stories about how their ancestors were transformed from wolves to men. Given such, they believe the soul of a wolf and the soul of a human are the same, and that wolves that currently roam about are re-incarnations of their ancestors and wolves that have not yet been transformed into human. Some of the attendants that live and work in the preserve are Native American, and they have a lot of respect for these animals and told us a whole bunch of stories about the wolves.
One of the stories – like this one about Chenoa – she is the alpha female of her pack. She is also Spirit’s (another wolf’s) mate, who is the alpha male of this pack. Spirit was attacked by a bunch of guard dogs sometime ago, and while trying to escape, she got her leg stuck in a fence. While struggling to get free, she managed to mangle it up pretty bad, and in the end had to be amputated. While he was being cared for, and going through trying to rehabilitate himself to three feet, Chenoa was all by herself. She had stopped eating, stopped hunting, and was basically curled up in one corner for about two/three months. That is, until Spirit was brought back. Her demeanor totally changed after they were reunited, she started eating again, and went back to her position as the alpha female of the group.
Would you recommend Seacreast Wolf Reserve to other people? Families? Solo travellers? Backpackers?
I recommend this trip to all animal lovers. The unique connection you can experience with wolves is amazing, and there is no other place where you can get so close to a wild animal such as a wolf. There are various other wildlife that you can also see, like skunks, and other small mammals – altogether in one giant wildlife preserve.
What’s next on the horizon for your travels?
Europe is a continent I have travelled to the least, have been to Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Italy over the last few years. I definitely want to go back to some of the other countries in Europe. I also want to do a road trip across America again, through a different route. This country is just so big, there is too much to see.
An amazing shot from his road trip across America. Visit his website Learning to Fly to see more stunning images!
I also wanted to add that Mahbub is the backbone to www.selimsraasta.com, he has helped his technologically handicapped friend(moi) and designed and coded the website from scratch to where it is today! Eternally grateful and just wanted to shout out a BIG THANK YOU 🙂
You can see more of Mahbub’s travels and photography on his social media