Discovering the Florida Everglades
This past April, we decided to take a trip to the Everglades and visit the sites and wildlife of the region. We had been discussing this for a couple of years, but every time we would come to Florida we would spend our time at the beach and doing other activities like golf or tennis. This year, I was adamant to organize the visit, since my son’s birthday happened to be during the school holidays, and what better treat for a “walking animal encyclopaedia” than a trip to the Everglades.
After lengthy considerations on where and how to tour the Everglades, we finally decided on making two stops on our day trip, the Everglades Holiday Park and the Everglades National Park – Shark Valley. We rented a bus and asked for a guide to join us. To our surprise, we had quite the celebrity guide – Chris, a star from the show, Gator Boys, which the kids watch and love! The kids knew a little too much about Chris and, to his (and our) astonishment they asked him about his girlfriend and whether he was still dating her. Chris was fascinating and so patient. On the drive to the park, he showed us a snake skull and alligator teeth, and described the beauty and dangers of the Everglades. He also explained the difference between alligators and crocodiles, which I have finally learnt!.. (In case you are interested: the main difference is the shape of the snout. Alligators have a wider and rounder snout compared to crocodiles that have a pointier one. Crocodiles tend to be more aggressive and the the most aggressive specie of crocodile is the large Nile crocodile).
The first stop we made was the Everglades Holiday Park, where we took an airboat ride. The captain was called Shawna and was hilarious. Each time she would stop the airboat, she would jump down from the captain’s seat and pull out some type of vegetation from the water and pass it around. The airboats make quite a lot of noise and can go pretty fast. Once you get over the initial surprise, the ride is tons of fun. You just glide and skid through shallow waters, while spotting various species of birds and young alligators.
After docking the airboat and saying our goodbyes to the captain, we saw an alligator show. During the show, Paul, the trainer, is in a pit with alligators. He drags one in the sand then gently sits on top of him, opens his mouth to show the crowd his teeth, and ends it with a kiss on his snout. The alligator show was entertaining and only lasted about 15 minutes, which was enough as we were sitting in the midday sun boiling in our jeans and long sleeves.
Then we headed to the Everglades National Park called Shark Valley (which, for the record, has more to do with alligators than sharks). We were meant to take a two-hour tram drive through the park, but we arrived just as the tram was leaving. The kids were very disappointed, but we got a private trekking tour instead with a park ranger and Chris. During our trek we spotted a number of snakes, namely the Florida brown snake and a red corn snake. Unfortunately, Chris could not pick them up, as we were in a reserve.
After a couple of hours at Shark Valley, having gotten close to alligators and snakes, we climbed back on the bus and headed to our hotel. All in all, we spent a long yet captivating day in the stunning scenery of the Everglades – a must-do!