Not far from the Shark Valley visitor centre are several airboat operators. We chose Coopertown airboats and were very happy. The guide, Mark, did a great job, and at the end we got a chance to hold some of the smaller (2-3 ft.) alligators they have raised in captivity.
We saw lots of alligators, blue heron, and great egrets on the trip, as well as one great upclose encounter with a purple gallinule ("the prettiest bird in Florida").
We went in the morning (arrived ~8:30am), and I think this is one of the best times to go.
On this visit I had several people from my work that were from Asia and Australia, and they all loved this as well. I highly recommend.
We spent three days in Big Cypress with our camper. On the first day we drove along US highway 41, stopped at the visitor center, then at Clyde Butcher’s Photography Studio. He is sometimes called the Ansal Adams of Florida. His black and white photographs of south Florida were beautiful. Stop by Big Cypress Gallery to enjoy his photography, or to purchase photographs, books, note cards, posters, videos, t-shirts, and calendars desplaying his outstanding photos. Butcher states, I want people to see that we are part of nature. That without nature, we can't exist. And that it's beautiful. Unlike the typical photos of alligators, birds, and sunbathers on beaches, Butcher captures the sole and natural beauty of the state. The website listed below is for Clyde Butcher.
We took the scenic drive loop, which includes US 41 and highway 94. Much of 94 is unpaved and passes through swamplands. We walked the short Hammock Nature Trail, and walked another narrow trail through the jungle like vegetation. We also pulled off the road in various places to look into the swamp. We saw beautiful air plants dressed with their pretty red flowers, fish, and many alligators. We were also lucky to spot an otter as he crossed the road.
On another day we explored the unpaved scenic road 839, Birdon Road 841, and 837, which come off of US 41. We saw large turtles, raptors, anhinga, cormorants, snowy egrets, great egrets, little blue herons, great blue herons, tri-colored herons, wood storks, ibis, gallinules, and turkey vultures, plus lots of alligators. A few of the gaters were HUGE! Much bigger than any we had seen in Everglades National Park. We also saw more beautiful air plants in bloom, as well as white swamp lilies.
Big Cypress borders the western edge of Everglades National Park, and encompasses 2,400 square miles of south Florida. This area is a major source of water for the fragile Everglades and the southwestern part of the state. This sanctuary has a large variety of wildlife including alligators, herons, egrets, woodpeckers, bald eagles, wood storks, wild turkey, deer, mink, and the endangered Florida panther. Although it is called a swamp, this is not quite correct, as this preserve has marshlands, dry prairies, estuarine mangrove forests, pinelands, and islands of hardwoods hammocks. About one third of the preserve is covered with cypress trees, mostly the dwarf pond cypress variety. This is a preserve that will allow you to view the world as it was before humans arrived. The visitor center for the park is located 20 miles east of the small community of Ochopee on Us 41 (Tamiami Trail). Here you can view a 13-minute film about the preserve as well as look at exhibits about the natural resources, and the native animal and plant life living in Big Cypress. You will find five primitive campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and scenic drives. A short nature trail, the Tree Snail Hammock Nature Trail, is across from the education center on Rt. 94, Loop Road, and explains local plants and animals. For additional information write to: Big Cypress National Preserve, HCR 61, Box 11, Ochopee, FL 34141.
These partially hidden areas are used by alligators for nesting. Here, alligators can lay their eggs and protect their young from predators. You'll find these areas along the Shark Valley Road. Signs are posted warning visitors to stay on the path. Its best to heed these signs and leave alligator wrestling to professionals, especially when the alligator's young are nearby.
After passing Royal Palm and the Gumbo Limbo trail, you'll see a turnoff for Long Pine Key. There is a small lake here, some picnic areas and an RV campground. A few short unmarked trails lead out into the Everglades.
There is little to do here, but in this quasi remote location near the water there is a chance you might be lucky enough to see a key deer or, even luckier, a Florida Panther.
Everglades Holiday Park is located off US 27 and Griffin Road, north of Everglades National Park. The park offers airboat tours into the Everglades as well as boat rental for those who want to explore on their own. There is a campground available in case anyone wants the experience of becoming closer to the mosquitoes and learning why no one wanted to live in Florida before the invention of air conditioning.
These trees are not exactly mangroves, but they thrive in the brackish waters of the coastline. Every day the tides sweep in and out sometimes covering the soil with salt water and other times leaving the ground bare. These trees have adapted over the eons to accepting a partial salt water eco-sytem. Quite a trick. Pour salt water over any plant in your house and see if it survives--it wont.
(sequel of the prior picture)
I arrive my son. Where is the man who disturbs you ?
He is French.
He is like us : a frogs eater.
My wife said : Look at the old piece of tyre on the road.
(To be continued)
Off US 41 (often known as the Tamiami Trail), and about 30 miles from Miami or 50 miles from the Everglade’s main visitor center (Coe Visitor Center) you will find Shark Valley. Although not located along the main park road, Shark Valley is part of the national park. This area is in the heart to the Everglades and contains a 15-mile loop road that is accessible only on foot, bike, or by taking the two-hour narrated tram tour. This tour is a wildlife-viewing trip that explores the sawgrass wilderness of Shark Valley and includes a 20-minute stop at the 65-foot observation tower at the southern end of the valley. At this look out point you will observe the panoramic view of the Shark River Slough and the sawgrass prairie. This is a view of Florida as it appeared to the Indians and Spanish explorers over 300 years ago. Bird and alligator viewing are considered to be some of the best in Shark Valley. Reservations for the tram are necessary during the busiest season (November – April) and can be made 1 to 3 weeks in advance.
Canoeing in the Everglades is a rewarding experience. Sure, it's a little more work than cruising through on a boat, but you get closer to nature this way.
Since we were three people, Katrin and I rented a canoe and my brother Stefan rented a kayak. We paddled for a few hours here. At first we were dissapointed because there is a series of homes along the creek. But soon enough the creek narrowed and we were in amongst the mangroves. While taking a few pictures we came fairly close to some of these mangrove trees and I noticed something spider like fleeing up one of the roots. It was about the size of a half dollar. As I was pointing it out to Katrin, she gave out a little gasp and started paddling to get away, lol. She spied a second one of these creatures. I'm quite certain they were a type of crab. I saw several more on our journey. We also heard and then saw a number of snowy egrets, great egrets and belted kingfishers. As we approached they would continuously call out and fly further up the creek. There were also a couple of turkey vultures looking down at us from overhanging branches. One was feeding off a dead fish in the water. Along this route we only saw one alligator pulled out on a bank. There are less alligators where the water is salty as they prefer fresh water.
The Gulf Coast Visitor Center rents out canoes but not kayaks. Across the street is a deli and behind it another place that rents out canoes and kayaks. This is where we rented from. Ask for Joe.
Most people coming to the Shark Valley Visitor Center will take the tram tour along this 15 mile trail. The tour lasts 2 hours and there's informative commentary along the way. I chose not to do the tour as these types of tours are always too fast paced for me. On my first day in the park I rented a bicycle for $5.25 an hour and rode along the trail. The following day I walked the entire 15 miles. You see much more at this pace than cruising by on the tram. After walking the 15 miles, I wouldn't necessarily recommend you do this, since the entire way is on a cement road. Bicycling is the better option - it's nicer on your feet. :-) But I'd still recommend going on foot for a mile or two...
Though there are numerous kayak/canoe ciruits of varying lengths, the Wilderness Waterway offers a great backcountry opportunity. The ninety-nine mile trip goes from Everglades City to Flamingo and features man made platforms called chickees on which you can pitch your tent in true solitude.
Come quick. The foreign man is looking at me. I'm affraid.
Why he repeats : porte-monnaie. I don't understand.
To be continued on the following tip.
Solution holes are caused by erosion of the limestone surface, mostly due to rain. They appear as large holes in the ground, and provide shelter for tiny creatures from heat or predators.
Meanwhile (see the prior photo)
Yes my dear, the gator is busy with the French people, we can graze quietly.