We left the Florida Keys on November 1 and travelled about 130 miles to Midway Campground, a campground we stayed in last year that is located on the Tamiami Canal which runs between Miami and Fort Myers. We weren’t here long enough last year to do much of anything, so we planned this stop for four days so we could explore the Everglades. On Tuesday we drove about 50 miles south to the Everglades National Park. At this time of year it wasn’t crowded, so we spent a leisurely morning driving through the park, stopping at overlooks, boardwalks and trail heads, and various visitor’s centers, the last being the Flamingo Visitor Center about 40 miles from where we entered the park. We didn’t see any Flamingos (they don’t come here so much anymore), but we did see several Manatees and from here we could also see several of the numerous Keys in the Florida Bay. From Mangrove Swamp, to the Mahogany Hammock, to the Alligators… there is so much more to see in the Everglades than just a “river of grass”, and what a joy it was to see something different.
Don has always wanted to take an airboat ride, so on Wednesday we went to Everglades Safari Park to take an airboat tour of the Everglades. Covered in sunscreen and mosquito repellent, and with plugs in our ears, we headed out for a thrilling ride with about 12 other people. The perspective of the Everglades from this advantage point is awesome! Yesterday we stood on the edge and looked out over the Glades…now we were in it! Our tour guide and boat captain, Vito, was a fountain of information and knew all the places to go to spot turtles, birds, and alligators in their natural habitat. One minute we were flying across the water and the next we were silently drifting and soaking up all that is the Everglades.
Upon our return we watched the obligatory alligator show where Johnnie showed off his bravery by getting in a pen with 6 huge alligators, feeding them by hand, and showing how they responded to verbal commands. Then it was my turn to be brave. Johnnie brought out Snappy, a baby alligator about 4 feet long, so we could get our pictures taken holding the live alligator. It was a little intimidating, but she was so gentle, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. After the show we walked through the facility and were surprised by the number of alligators that live here. They are not caged and have the ability to wander the park. There were a couple of alligators on the sidewalks and boardwalks, and even after being warned, it blew my mind that so many idiots got just a few feet from them to take their pictures!
After a couple of thrilling days we ended our visit in the Everglades. We are so glad we took the time to explore the area.