The Everglades, Miami
Knowing I was coming to Miami, I did some research on what I would want to do. My boyfriend and I have never seen the Everglades. So, that was a high priority on the list. Being without a rental car in downtown Miami would pose a problem along with that, this was a business trip for my boyfriend. His only time slot he would have was the afternoon on Wednesday. Luckily, here on VT, a high recommendation on VTers, Homer & Eddie (VT name: Homanded) recommended Lenny with Sunshine Tours. Lenny was more than accommodating! Not only did he pick us up from our hotel, he also arranged the tour for the afternoon which generally is available in the morning. It was a decent tour. We didn't see a whole lot of gators but we still enjoyed seeing the landscape. Afterwards, there was a short reptile/animal show.
You can see more pics on my travelogue!
One of our travel goals is to visit as many National Parks as possible. So on vacation, if a park is nearby, we are going to stop by. As was the case, the Everglades National Park is licated near Miami (by the way, it's the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States). At 1.5 million acres, Everglades National Park protects an unique landscape that provides protection for numerous rare and endangered species (e.g.; like the manatee, American crocodile, and Florida panther to name a few). The park also happens to be a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, So if you are in the area, definitely plan a trip...it's well worth it.
For the price you can't beat it. It's only about a half hour which is plenty. You get an up close view of the everglades and if your lucky come face to face with an alligator. The one we saw had gotten in a fight or something. Its teeth were sticking out its mouth in a weird way. They have a small live reptile exhibition park but, I came for the ride, and left part way through the exhibits. They have a large alligator there. Again, it was a nice air ride over the water and thick swamp grass. It's something you probably won't find anywhere else.
For tourists wishing to catch an insiders glimpse of Miami and it's outlying areas and, with limited time on their hands, this company offers a variety of tours, including Coral Gables, Ft. Lauderdale, Viscaya, Coconute Grove and the Everglades.
Albeit, hurried and fast paced, it is good at giving you the highlights and offers good guides with good knowledge of the area.
They also offer a popular combination tour which offers the highlights of Miami as well as the Everglades.
At USD $70.00 (approximately), is a good bargain, considering the every rising costs of entry into the Everglades National Park!
In November, my husband and I had a cruise to Bahamas from Miami. After the cruise, we had about 8 hours before our flight, so we decided to see Everglades. Before We bought a tour ticket, we asked an agent if we can take our bag with us. He answered, no problem.
Be careful! The driver of Safari tours Inc. wanted to steal our bag. Before I entered the bus, he put my bag in the baggage trunk and locked it. When we finished our tour, I asked him for the bag. He answered that he has no idea what bag I am talking about. Just after I told him that I am going to call police, he grabbed the key, opened the lock, and I took my bag.
Well-worth the trip! Amazing place... wow! We saw manatees, dolphins, alligators, birds, and turtles! Such a neat place. The kids loved it. We took an airboat ride thru the Everglades. (We've done it several years in a row now) The tour guides are very educational the most part and we always end up learning a lot. Bring a camera to film the wildlife and your family's smiling faces! Usually the tours offer snacks and drinks on board, as well. If you love nature, you'll love the Everglades! It's much better than going to a zoo or aquarium!
Just west and beyond of Shark Valley, Loop road runs a 17 mile loop through an interior portion of the Everglades, primarily through a hammock in part of the Big Cypress National Preserve.
Mostly gravel and some tar, it is seldom traveled and for this reason, I enjoy driving the slow, couple of hours or so, stopping on the side and getting close and personal with the gators and various other creatures of the Glades.
Early morning is the best time to see the flocks of Wood Storks, Egrets, Ibis, Herons and even Roseatte Spoonbills which overnight in the trees.
As you drive the road, you will see them lift off and fly ahead of your car.
During the wet season, alligators gather on either side of the road hunting in the ever shrinking waters where fish become trapped.
Hawks, being inquisitive, will fly up and perch in a low branch to inspect your goings on.
Although tempting, do not approach wildlife!
Gators especially can surprise you and, once bitten, they will not let go. Their instinct to pull you into the water for drowning and eventually devouring you is an always present danger.
More popular than Shark Valley (in my opinion not as good for wildlife), the Anhinga Trail/Flamingo key section of the park offers the visitor a good opportunity to view some of the park's inhabitants from the safety of a raised walk way.
For the best impact, try to be at the park early morning, around 8:30am when the herons and Egrets are fishing near the shore line.
There is a nice interpretive nature center when you first enter the park with a nice deck for viewing gators and other local birdlife.
It is a good place to stop and get a sense of the park and the importance of the "River of Grass" and mangroves and how they protect our state from storms and water surge, especially during the Atlantic hurricane season.
Although I live closer to this section of the park than the less traveled to: Shark Valley, I prefer the latter for wildlife and photographic opportunities.
It seems that, in this section of the park, you're constantly driving long distances between points of interest with little to see other than sawgrass and open prairie.
The majority of the parks wildlife congregate around water ways and gator holes which, this section of the park lacks aside from the following:
Anhinga Trail (short walk - can be completed in less than 1/2 hour).
Perotis Pond (good look at a bird rookery during breeding season but too far away for good photography)
9-Mile pond (nice for watching Osprey fishing but, generally, very uneventful and no coverage from sun.
Flamingo - a marina set against the bay. Hit or miss due to crowds and, at the other end of the park so expect a good 40 minute drive from the actual entrance.
There is also the fact that it is located in southern most Miami Dade county, west of Florida City where the Turnpike ends and US1 join.
For people staying in Miami or, Miami Beach, Shark Valley may be more convinient.
By far, the best section of the Everglades in my opinion for tourists to get a feel for the "River of Grass" experience.
Here, you can walk a short distance from the visitor center and be up close and personal with huge alligators, often sunning on the banks. Be careful when walking around these creatures, especially in the late spring/early summer months.
It is their breeding season and some females prove to be territorial.
The clarity of the water and how shallow it is in the streams which border the W. end of the park afford you the opportunity to see the underwater cycle in action.
You will see many fish - both native and non native, being chased by Allgator Gars, as well as the many varieties of heron and egrets fishing within feet of you, totally ignoring your precense.
During breeding season (March through May), wildlife photographers will have plenty of opportunity to photograph active nests in the mangroves and rookeries across the narrow gulch.
Long lenses are not necessary as the birds are highly visible and the nests that near!
Once you've tired of photographing there, you may take the tram or rent a bicycle and ride the 7.5 miles to the observation tower.
Once there, you can climb to the top and have an amazing view of the entire park, giving you an appreciation for how big this river of sawgrass truly is.
Additionally, at the observation tower, directly beneath, are a series of gator holes where alligators gather by the dozens, especially in the dry winter/spring season.
Tram runs about every 2 hours, total length of interpretive trip: 2 hours from start to finish given by a park ranger.
Once you've finished in the park, there are various "Alligator farms" and Airboat tours directly outside the park run by individual concessionaires.
They're all basically the same, each one touting to be the "oldest" and the "best".
Very touristy but, worth it if you're a first time visitor.
Outside the main gate to the park is the Mikosoukee Restaurant, offering local favorites and BBQ. Pricey, as you might expect for a convinient 'right-ouside-the-main-tourist-attraction" restaurant but, if you have a hankering for fried alligator tail, it might be something to consider.
The Everglades are a really unique enviornment, hike on one of the nature trails and see an amazing amount of alligators and birds. The Indian villiages are also nice places to visit, native crafts and an interesting insight into their heritage. An airboat ride through the glades is a must for anyone visiting the Everglades.
I booked an afternoon trip to the Florida Everglades at a location approx 1 hour from downtown Miami called "Coopertown". This was the highlight of my Miami layover. This location does only small groups on the airboats. Guide was extremely knowledgeable about the flora and fauna and animals of the Everglades. We saw several adult and juvenile alligators along with many birds and various turtle species all within a short area. It was wonderful!
I suggest that you will go to watch this man put his hand on the tongue ('tung' like 'fun') of an alligator. It is very fast and strong. I liked the show because the show was risky.. maybe the man will lose ('luuuuz') his hand. Maybe the alligator will break his hand or bite him.
The show is exciting. There is a risk that a man will be hurt. It is fun to watch!
Take a ride south to Everglades National Park. Drive through the park, stop at the viewpoints and walk through the swamp. Perfect location to watch animals like alligators or birds.
The tour after you go to the alligator show is great. The airboat guy will take you to see the flat grass of the Everglades.
The speed is terrific.