Visitors to Flamingo Gardens (3750 Flamingo Rd., Davie) have high citrus prices to thank for the slice of subtropical jungle in the midst of South Florida's urban landscape. After a Florida vacation in 1925, Michigan residents Floyd and Jane Wray were so enamored with the weather that they moved on down. What they didn't like were the orange shortages and high citrus prices during the summer months. So Floyd planted 40 acres of Lue Gim Gong orange trees, a variety that bears its fruit in summer, and called it Flamingo Groves. Today more than 60 orange varieties grow there, and, as dictated in Jane's will, the property was turned over to a foundation with the stipulation that it not be developed. The preserve's lush botanical gardens, orange groves, and nature center -- which breeds and releases native birds -- can be toured on foot or by tram. Guided tours of the Wray's 1934 Art Deco home are also available. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $10. Call 954-473-2955.
Natives deep in the jungles of Laos stared wide-eyed when Bill Hutchins paddled by on the Mekong River. "Judging from the reception from villagers, I don't think they ever saw a kayak in their life," explains the environmental educator from West Palm Beach. Of course they hadn't: The international group of naturalists with which Hutchins toured last year was the first ever allowed unrestricted access to the Southeast Asian country's many rivers. During the month-long trip, Hutchins captured the vast diversity of Laos on film. "There are places that look like South Beach in Vientiane, the capital," he explains of the Art Deco influence left over from years of French rule. In contrast he has shots of Buddhist temples found in the jungle. Hutchins, age 43, says his teaching job gives him two months off every year for such trips, and he's been making them for twenty years. He'll share his Laos pics during the slide lecture "Laos: Land of Extremes" at 7 p.m. tonight. The event takes place at the Dagger Wing Nature Center at South County Regional Park, one-half mile west of State Road 7 off Yamato Road, Boca Raton. Admission is $3. Call 561-488-9953.