Harvest Hosts in Florida

Trisha is great at finding cool places to stay. Through Harvest Hosts, she booked us a night’s stay at Celestial Farms, an animal rescue in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a lot more than just an animal rescue, though. This is a truly magical place, with critters of all kinds wandering about, often mingling freely across the grounds, except for a pair of geese, because geese are jerks but deserve to be rescued anyway. The buildings, the grounds, the trees, everything just has amazingly positive energy to it.

They’re open to the public during the day, but overnight guests are welcome to wander to our heart’s content after hours. Bunnies ran around every which way. Various birds made noise and frolicked in the pond. We were followed around by a pig who just wanted some friendly pets and attention. A horse wandered right over to Trisha — then relieved his bladder. (Don’t worry, she didn’t get any on her.) The trees were what really told me we’re finally in Florida. We don’t get these up north.

Contrary to Harvest Hosts policy, Celestial Farms welcomes travelers to stay for multiple nights. Since we booked through Harvest Hosts we only stayed for one, but I know we’ll be back for a longer stay someday. I love this place.

We moved on to a second Harvest Host site: Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary. This is a genuine monkey rescue with 256 monkeys in residence at the time we visited. We took a two-hour tour with Founder/Executive Director Kari Bagnall. She introduced us to everyone who wanted to meet us. That wasn’t all of the monkeys, because like humans they all have different personalities. Some are outgoing and friendly, while others are shy and anti-social. Considering that many of these creatures are retired from being experimented on, I don’t blame some of them for not liking humans very much.

I’m not using the zoom on these pictures. They really were this close. I have never been anywhere near as close to a monkey as I got to countless monkeys here. I had to duck a few times to stop them from stealing my hat, but we were allowed to give them flowers and bamboo to make them happy. As the sole male in our small tour group, Kari made sure to bring me by some of the monkeys that particularly love men. I’d never been screamed at by a monkey before, but somehow I understood that it was a happy scream, and he was genuinely happy to see me.

Definitely, absolutely, positively look into the different sites Harvest Hosts has to offer. When I joined, I thought it would be a great way to get a place to park for a night while checking out local beers and wines, something we’d be doing regardless. I had no idea that experiences like this were even possible, let alone available through Harvest Hosts. Look in the Attractions category to find unique places like this. You won’t regret it.

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