Mount Dora - Brilliant Boat ride on

Mount Dora - Brilliant Boat ride on

Back in August we took a visit to Mount Dora, just over an hours drive from our villa on Highlands Reserve Jasmine 1 Villa on Highlands Reserve in Davenport.

Dora Canal

The charming small historic town of Mount Dora is well worth a visit with it's great selection of boutique shops, restaurants, taverns, ice cream parlours and loads more.....

Mount Dora is claimed to be the highest point in Florida at 184 feet above sea level, hence the Mount in the name, but in reality it is more of a hill with a tall water tower !!

Whilst in Mount Dora we were fortunate enough to take a boat ride with the Rusty Anchor Lake Cruises.  As it was a quiet time, we got the whole boat to ourselves with the very entertaining and very informative Captain Dan at the helm.  What a great guy - so friendly and a wealth of knowledge.

We took the cruise across Lake Dora to the Dora Canal which links Lake Dora to Lake Eustis.  Grantland Rice, the celebrated sportswriter of the 1930's, once penned a description of the Dora Canal as “the most beautiful mile of water in the world.”  He was so right - what a beautiful unspoilt waterway with so much wildlife to see.

We learnt that Mount Dora was named after Dora Ann Drawdy who settled there in 1846 with her husband, James Drawdy. Dora made a name for herself by by growing Apopka's on a large scale.  Apopka's were introduced to Dora by friendly native Timucuan indians.  We know Apopka's today as potato's.  The nearby town of Apopka was named by the indians as meaning "Potato Eating Place" or "Big Potato".

Captain Dan - The Rusty Anchor Lake Cruises

As human settlement increased and water usage increased, the water levels in the natural spring fed lakes in central Florida started to drop.  To prevent this, weirs were installed to help keep the lake levels high which had a detrimental effect on the crystal clear water allowing algae to flourish.  This had a perceived detrimental effect on the native fish population due to the increased decaying vegetation.

Local fishermen started to avoid catching fish, fearing them to be contaminated by the decaying vegetation.  This prompted local fisheries officials to try and find a solution and they were certain they found it in Africa, from where they imported a sizeable batch of live Mozambique Perch.  The theory was that they would feed on the decaying vegetation and improve the water quality.  The Mozambique Perch immediately flourished but unfortunately the new fish preferred to eat the fresh vegetation instead of the decaying alternative - this had a detrimental effect on the native fish species as it was depletng their food source.

To encourage the local fishermen to control the exploding population of Mozambique Perch, the officials offered attractive deals to the fishermen to catch these new fish, but the fishermen could not sell the Mozambique Perch to any restaurants - who wants to eat Mozambique Perch.  Here comes the clever bit which may surprise you.....They renamed the fish.......Talapia.  The restaurants immediately started purchasing this new exotic species and managed to bump the price up by $3 for the unwitting restaurant goer - the rest is history !!

Baby Alligators

We also learnt that a popular fish to eat in the past was Dolphin Fish (or more commonly Dolphin for short) which is a fish that resembles a Dolphin due to it's bulbous head.  Then came along the popular film "Flipper" staring the cute Dolphin.  Nobody wanted to now eat what they perceved to be Flipper's relatives and the sales of Dolphin Fish fell dramatically - so how did they fix this ?  They renamed it Mahi-Mahi or Dorada which is now very popular in restaurants and also costing $3 more than the original Dolphin Fish !!

Finally Captain Dan enlightened us to another Floridian delecacy - Millionaire's Salad or Heart of Palm Caesar which is a salad derived from a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees.  It is costly because harvesting kills the tree. In the past, they called it Swamp Cabbage and early visitors to Florida would tell their friends back home in the northern states about this amazing Swamp Cabbage that they have eaten and would immediately find themselves being ostracised by their piers - hence the name change to Hearts of Palm.

So next time you are in a restaurant in Florida, you could have some fun with the server by ordering Blackened Mozambique Perch with a baked Apopka and a side order of Swamp Cabbage and watch how they react...then you can enlighten the poor server to what you are really ordering with a little history to make their day !!