Who wouldn’t want to get up close and personal with alligators?
The weather in South Beach, Miami was less than stellar–cold, hard winds and a sunless sky. Instead of moping in the hotel room, I made the decision that we’d make the most of our last, full vacation day and would visit the Everglades. I’m so glad that we did!
There are three entrances into the Everglades. We made our way to the Shark Valley entrance, no more than an hour’s drive from South Beach.
We parked the car, entered the Visitor’s Center, purchased advance tram tickets to ride the 15-mile loop , and set off on one of the walking trails near the parking lot.
Now here is where it gets surreal…
There are alligators everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE! Walk out of the parking lot–alligators. Walk a trail–alligators. Bike the 15-mile loop (I wish there had been time to do this) or take the tram–alligators. Not little, itty-bitty alligators…but the real-deal, ‘a-bite-could-kill-you’ alligators. And I was standing mere feet from them.
We watched bicyclists and walkers deftly maneuvering past alligators relaxing roadside. Families with children and strollers walked past them as if they were on a leisurely stroll in the park with not a care in the world. I won’t lie, I forgot there was an alligator just a few feet from me as I was captivated while photographing beautiful, tropical birds nearby. If I’d been bitten, I would have deserved it due to my negligence.
And, although this is supposed to be the dry season, there was still two- to three-feet of water flowing through the Everglades. We learned that, had it actually been dry, more alligators would have been present and visible to us. What? Seriously? MORE alligators?
The two-hour tram ride was informative, fun and worth the $24 per ticket. There were many stops for bird and alligator viewings. We passed bicyclists with wide grins on their faces, obviously having the time of their lives. Midway through the tram ride, we stopped to visit the observatory. At the top, we took in an amazing vista… a sea of endless sawgrass broken only by intermittent copses of bald cypress or willow trees. Directly below us were more alligators. I was loving every minute of my time in the Everglades.
We arrived back to the Visitor’s Center and our tram guide informed us that, if we were patient, birds would be coming in to roost for the evening just down the road. We made haste, got what ended up being great spots for viewing, and waited…and waited some more. Then it happened. Birds of every size, shape and color started to arrive–a birder’s dream. I was spellbound.
It was nearly dark when we left the park. To be honest with you, I am totally smitten with the Everglades. I’m hoping that I’ll get the opportunity to visit the other entrances to the park sometime in the near future. It’s a big park…I’m sure that there’s still a lot more exploring to do, and so much more to see!