Most of the people said that a visit to Florida isn’t complete without stopping at Everglades National Park, and I totally agree.
Since we stayed in Miami for the entire week, it was a great chance to pay a visit to the famous Everglades National Park. We booked the tour through the Viator, if you wish to take the same tour, please press the link with word Viator.
Of course this park is huge. We visited only the part that is located right next to the city of Miami.
Although we already saw a small part of Everglades from the bus on our day trip to Florida Keys and Key West.
We went to Everglades National Park with a tour group, organised by Grey Line company, that we booked through Viator.
The bus driver picked us up in front of our hotel, as they always do.
Some people were late as usual. If you ever book this kind of group tours, you have to know that the driver doesn’t have to come to the hotel lobby and pick you up. The bus driver is not your personal driver.
The areas designated for arrivals and departures of hotels are not so wide in general, and only cars are able to drive trough them. The buses are not allowed, especially the big ones. So you need to go down on the street in front of your hotel and wait for the bus to pick you up.
Every company that organizes different kinds of tours have their logo and the company name on their buses.
Anyway, even if you are not so sure, or don’t remember with who you booked the tour, you can always approach the bus door and ask where they are going and if they have your name on their passengers list.
In our case a young couple from Hungary waited for the bus at the hotel lobby. Poor driver had to go out and search around for them, until he finally found them shopping snacks at the pastry shop. These people stayed in the same hotel we were staying at, The Fontainebleau Hotel. When they finally arrived in the bus, they didn’t even apologized to the rest of the group and the driver.
The young man was actually very rude, he shouted at the driver asking him not to put the blame on a passenger, and that he is paying for the tour and that the driver is supposed to do what he was paid for, picking up the passengers from the hotels.
Oh, this boy was terribly rude, I think that our driver was extremely patient and nice. If I was in the driver’s place I would kick them out of the bus immediately. Of course the driver was paid to pick up the passengers, but it was not his job to search around for them. Everyone should be in front of the hotel on the appointed time.
And all of this resulted with bus being late to pick up the rest of the people from the group, who seemed kind of angry and disappointed with the company regarding the more than half an hour delay.
Poor driver was apologizing to everyone, he was almost ready to cry, but the damage had been already done and he couldn’t do anything about it. I really hope that the poor guy is not going to lose his job because of this incident, because of these bastards, it was not his fault.
Later on I saw the driver apologizing to his boss and explaining the situation regarding his delay.
Anyway it is something that happens very often when it comes to group tours unfortunately.
The Everglades National Park is only about an hour drive from the center of Miami.
The park Everglades encompasses 1.5 million acres of tropical and subtropical habitat with one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems.
Therefore the Congress established the Everglades as a National Park in 1934, to protect it and to stop human exploitation and destruction of the park.
Since then the park has been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance and a World Heritage Site.
Around one million people from all over the world visit the Everglades every year.
There are numerous Everglades tours available at the park. We chose the air boat tour.
Everglades are home to a diverse array of wildlife.
If you visit the park you will get a chance to see: the Hammock, Mangrove, Pineland, Sawgrass, and ride trough the Sloughs (low-lying area of land that channels water through the Everglades). They are habitat for different kinds of animals.
There are a lot of different companies that provide tours through the Everglades.
The one we visited, Everglades Safari Park, besides organised air boats tours also provided cafe-restaurant facilities, souvenir shop, nice gardens, and the small zoo along with alligator shows.
Even though there were a lot of tourist groups, we did not have to wait much, everything was organised perfectly.
They have a lot of air boats, and one was going behind the other.
At the same time others were coming back and so on.
The air boat tour is lasting for approximately one and a half hour, but when you get down from the boat there are still a lot of things to see and do there.
The boat was open, without cover which allows you to see nicely the environment around you from all the sides.
We sat in the front seats so we had a perfect view.
Most people are saying that there are a lot of mosquitoes in this area, and it is a good thing to spray on yourself with a lot of mosquito repellent before you go on the boat.
However, we didn’t even see a single mosquito during all of the time that we spent there.
The funny thing happens when I was applying the repellent on my legs and arms before we got in the line for boarding. The couple who were late approached me to ask me where I bought the mosquito repellent. I told them that I bought it before the trip online. The girl was looking at me for few seconds, and she finally asked if she can borrow some from me, because she had very sensitive skin and she was afraid of mosquito bites. Even though I had just opened the bottle, I told her that I am sorry but my bottle is almost finished with a smile on my face. It was my small revenge towards them, because they were so rude to our driver and the rest of the group. You can call me mean, but at this very moment I really wished that all the mosquitoes of the Everglades come over and bite the rude bastards all over their bodies and make them suffer in pain.
The first thing one of the staff members gave to all of us when we were boarding was a pair of Uvex X-Fit earplugs. He explained that the air boat makes a lot of noise and that we all must wear the earplugs during our ride.
The second funny thing, that surprised me very much is that most of the people from the group did not know how to use them. They were pushing the rounded earplugs in their ears, but the plugs were falling down on the floor again and again. It was kind of funny and embarrassing to watch people hunting their earplugs on the boat floor during the ride. I think that my boyfriend and me were the only ones who knew how to use them properly among the group of 15 people. Therefore I found this video on YouTube with the demonstration of how to properly use these kind of earplugs. Please watch it if you don’t know, for your own safety and to not get embarrassed in front of others.
It was in general a very nice ride through the sloughs. We saw a lot of different kinds of plants and birds.
We were also lucky to see a few alligators in the water during our ride.
One of them jumped almost a meter high from the water surface and he scared some people from the group that were sitting on the left side of the boat.
The alligator actually jumped because he was scared of us. Since he was moving slowly trough the water, we run onto his tail with the air boat, he got scared and he jumped in the air in order to get quickly as far as he could from our boat.
Most of the people were screaming, it was funny and scary at the same time. Thank God he didn’t jumped next to me, he would scared the crap out of me for sure.
Our driver said that alligators are very shy animals. They will never attack you if they are not feeling threatened. As for the crocodiles we didn’t see any.
He explained to us that crocodiles exist both in freshwater and saltwater, whereas alligators prefer freshwater environments. The Florida Everglades is the only place on earth in which both alligators and crocodiles coexist in harmony.
I asked how can we understand the difference between the two, because they do look very similar. He said that the most obvious difference comes from their appearances.
Crocodiles have longer, pointier snouts and alligators have shorter, more rounded snouts. When an alligator has its mouth shut, you won’t see any of its teeth. In contrast, when a crocodile has its mouth shut, its back teeth stick up over the top lip, showing off a toothy grin.
Also the crocodiles are typically lighter in color, with tans and brown colors and alligators are darker, showing more gray and black colors.
Both of them though have an extremely heightened sense, which makes them excellent hunters.
With sharp, above-water vision, night vision, sensitive hearing, and vertical pupils that take in additional light, both alligators and crocodiles are a nightmare for their prey.
They have small sensory pits along their jaws that allow them to detect pressure changes in the water, and to locate and capture their prey.
But the crocodiles are often regarded as much more aggressive than alligators. Unfortunately he said to us that in the area we were having our tour the crocodiles are very rare.
One very interesting fact that our driver shared with us was regarding the female alligators. He said that most of them continuously mate with the same male alligators for their entire life.
So, the female alligators believe in eternal love, he didn’t say anything about the male alligators though.
He also said that crocodiles live longer than alligators. The average lifespan of a crocodile is between 70-100 years, while the average lifespan of an alligator is usually between 30-50 years.
At some point our driver asked how many of us had a shower this morning. Just few people rises their hands. He laugheed and he said: Ah, OK, now I understand, why is so smelly around here. Everybody laughed. But later on he explained that he was just joking and that he asked because he wanted us to know that the water we use for drinking and showering in Florida is actually coming from the Everglades National Park, from this very same sloughs we were driving through.
After the air boat ride, we walked through the parks that actually looked like a jungle.
Later we attended the alligator show. It was very interesting to see how alligators have sensitive receptors in their mouth. The gator man – as they call him -, who was demonstrating this was using a wooden stick of course, he said that even though he works with these animals for a long time, he wouldn’t dare to do this with his hand. Alligators are biting extremely fast.
Most of the time they were standing with their mouth widely open, as soon as the sensors sensed something near of their tongue they were snapping in a second.
Our guide also introduced one small alligator to us. His name was Snappy for obvious reasons. He was the most photographed alligator in the park. Everybody wanted to capture a photo with him.
If you wish to have a photo with Mr. Snappy it will cost you 3 USD. The money goes to the perseverance of the park and the facilities.
I was feeling kind of sorry for the little fellow to be treated as a toy going from one hand to another, but at the same time I had the desire to touch him and to experience how does it feel. So, we decided to take a few memory photos with Mr. Snappy.
I expected that his skin would be hard, but he was so soft and his skin was very dry. The surface of his skin was thick, but under of the skin he was kind of spongy and soft.
He reminded me of the kids toys made of silicon foam, that kids usually use for playing in the bath tub.
Guide said that they are soft when they are young, later on their skin gets harder, especially on the top.
After the photos with Mr. Snappy, we went for coffee and ice cream at the restaurant.
We bought some T-shirts at the souvenir shop and it was already time to go.
American alligators are quite large. The majority of them inhabit Florida and Louisiana, with over a million alligators in each state.
To be able to control the alligator population the state organizes a statewide alligator harvest, every year. The harvest areas and hunt dates are specific for each permit, and the permits specify the boundaries or limitations of the harvest area each year. The statewide alligator hunting season begins on August 15 and ends on the morning of November 1. Each alligator hunting permit includes two CITES tags, authorizing the holder to harvest two alligators. If you like to learn more about this subject you can visit the official FWC website.
Both crocodiles and alligators evolved from a common ancestor with dinosaurs. Alligators are believed to have remained relatively unchanged for nearly 37 million years.
Alligators can be found almost everywhere in Florida.
Jack Hanna, director emeritus of Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, told to CBS News : “It’s amazing how far they can travel to get to another place to find food,” Alligators are opportunistic feeders that will eat what is readily available and easily overpowered, but they usually hunt at night.
It’s illegal to feed wild alligators though, because that causes them to lose their fear of humans.
I found on YouTube, this interview with Mr. Jack Hanna, regarding the tragic death of a 2-year-old child in the Disney resort in Florida on June 2016 where he is also explaining a few important facts about the alligators.
Jack Hanna advises, however, that the best way to avoid alligator attacks is simply to give it enough room. Hanna says an alligator could “outrun any human.” Therefore, he advises giving yourself at least 40 to 50 feet of distance from any potential alligator hazard, or the creature itself.
So even if by watching these alligators you might think of them as adorable animals, they are dangerous predators and you need to be careful with them. One more interesting video I found on YouTube and I would like to share with you regarding the same case at the Disney resort in Florida is this interview with Jeff Corwin, an American biologist and wildlife conservationist, known to host many TV series including ABC’s Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin.
I hope you learned some interesting facts regarding the American alligators and the Everglades National Park thanks to my blog post. Stay tuned to find out about the rest of our adventures in Florida.