Jul 1, 2013

Call of the Wild- Everglades National Park, An Alligator Alley


Everglades National Park Alligator

Compared to the west I haven't explored east coast of USA much. I have reached south-east as far as Florida, the southern tip of continental USA. I went on a road trip to Southern Florida covering Miami, all the three national parks and Florida Keys. One of my friends was pulling my leg ... Are you going hunting pythons? or wrestling with alligators? or riding a Florida panther? ... Ha ha ... I wasn't sure! I would have been lucky to sight a Florida Panther or a giant python! But, I did see a Black tipped shark and also a Florida Manatee :) Only thing I was worried about was the hot-and-humid weather!! But, the trip was worth every penny I spent.

Everglades National Park Huge Alligator
The huge one!

I started from Miami airport driving a rented Chrysler Sebring convertible. I had booked for an economy car and I got a convertible! I asked for a Ford Mustang convertible but it was not available :( Well, sebring wasn't bad, that too to drive on the Overseas Highway which is sometimes called as Highway that goes to sea! More about the highway later, this post is dedicated to the Alligator land- Everglades National Park! It is an International Biosphere Reserve and also is declared as a World Heritage Site. The park is home for so many species of plants and animals.

Everglades National Park smiling Alligator
Cynical smile!
I stayed in a motel in Florida City which is near to Everglades as well as Biscayne national parks. Everglades National Park is 1.5 million acres large and is located on the southern tip of Florida. It is accessible from different areas of south Florida. Each part is interesting with hiking trails, boating, canoeing trails, snorkeling tours and so on ... Best seasons to visit are fall and winter. There are five visitor centers at each entrance out of which I visited four. The Chekika visitor center was closed due to flooding (closed from May 1st through Nov 30th).

Isn't it exciting to walk the trail with alligators?! My first visit was to Royal Palm (Ernest Coe) visitor center and went for a walk following the Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo trails which are 1/2 mile in length. On these trails one can sight crowds of alligators and many many anhingas. There were many egrets, cormorants, many species of herons and countless number of small birds too. The anhinga chicks are very easy to identify, they have a bright blue ring around their eyes. 

Everglades National Park swimming Alligator

It is an amazing experience to share the trail with alligators. They were lying around and resting as if they are sleeping, but they were keeping an eye on each and every human being passing by. Though they looked harmless but their cynical smile was eerie! May be they were thinking ... this one is skinny ... yeah, that one looks delicious ... he he ... These reptiles were also seen silently swimming in the ponds. The anhingas, herons and egrets were seen all around.

Everglades National Park Alligator babies
Gator babies
Some of the alligators were massive in size, may be they are grand-parents. Their massive size was quite intimidating. Then I drove up to Flemingo visitor center for an evening boat ride. Lovely experience! The boat moved slowly through the Buttonwood Canal through the mangroves towards Bear Lake and then to Coot Bay. Birds can be seen feeding in the marsh. Though sighting of alligators isn't much the ride itself is nice. I saw a flock of about hundred American Coots! They looked like black beads floating on the water. After Coot Bay the boat darted towards the Whitewater Bay where I saw many Royal Terns. Before sunset the boat turned its coarse towards the dock. The sunset wasn't any great but, I witnessed the beautiful scene of birds returning home. On a far away tree was sitting a Buzzard looking forward to something in anticipation. If I could only read its mind :) The slow moving boat, damp air brushing my cheeks and the wilderness waterway in the lush mangrove forest felt great. By the time I reached the parking the day had faded and it was time to return.

Everglades National Park Anhinga Chick
Anhinga Chick
Four days later, I drove towards west on Tamiami Trail. Well, wondering what is Tamiami Trail? It is Florida state hwy-41 which connects Tampa and Miami. Again, why after four days? In those four days I expolred Biscayne National Park, Florida Keys and also the Dry Tortugas National Park in the south.

My first stop on Tamiami trail was Shark Valley visitor center for a 15-mile tram tour. It was a great tour. The guide was a senior lady who spoke so much about alligators, their family life, breeding and also mating. I saw few Wood Storks, white ibis, little blue herons and great blue herons. After the tram ride I went on foot to check if I had missed anything. I saw some tiny alligator babies, may be less than 2ft long. And then there was this bunch of little bigger ones lying under a bush. Aren't they so close to each other?  Among all the places, per my opinion, Royal Palm area and Shark Valley are two good places in the park for wildlife viewing.

Everglades National Park White Ibis

Driving some more towards west on the Tamiami Trail I reached Oasis visitor center of Big Cypress National Preserve. The place is wild and infested with insects I felt. I was surprised to see huge alligators here. The visitor center is full of books and souvenirs. After buying few postcards I continued to the Gulf Coast visitor center where I took the last boat ride of the day. Surprisingly I was the only one for the boat ride through Ten Thousand Islands to the Gulf of Mexico

Everglades National Park Bottlenose Dolhin
The boat moves through tiny islets which look like little patches of green floating in the sea to the the open Gulf of Mexico. The  gulf looked endless with grey-silvery water.   I watched the not-so-colorful sunset being in the vast Gulf of Mexico. During the ride I saw two Bottlenose Dolphins, a Bald Eagle, and few white ibis perched on the tree branch. It was interesting to see how these playful dolphins caught fish. They catch fish in shallow waters by creating a muddy water puddle around the fish to confuse it and then catch.

Also sighted a Florida Manatee, per the captain of the boat. I could see a massive movement in the water and some bald-brown thing going down in the dark blue waters. Not sure if it were that endangered massive sea cow! I just hope it was one! We waited for some time in the hope that it may surface again to take another breath, but no :( We returned as it was getting dark. It is very cold during the boat rides but, the moment I stepped on to the land it was hot and humid again! From there I drove further west to Naples where I thought of  spending the night. 

It was one great trip to Everglades National Park! I now understand why is it a World Heritage Site! Sharing the trail with so many alligators in the Royal Palm area is one fine example for me that animals do not attack humans needlessly. They do so only when they are teased by us or naturally if they are hungry in the absence of their natural food due to habitat loss!! I visited the place one more time but, not so in detail! If you are interested more pictures HERE.

Note: Other destinations in this road trip: Southernmost point Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Underwater National Park, Sanibel Island.
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Related articles-
Butterflies of Florida
Bird and the sky from Biscayne
More from Hawaii Big Island
National Chambal Sanctuary- A river of gharials
National Parks of USA.

This post is linked to Our World Tuesday, Wild Bird Wednesday and Nature Notes.

If you want pictures please ask me :)
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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

48 comments:

  1. beautiful photos and nice info

    thanks kusum

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  2. Seems like a wonderful park with all those wildlife. Well written, Kusum.

    http://rajniranjandas.blogspot.in/2013/07/mekedatu-and-sangam.html

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    1. Thanks Niranjan! Glad you liked the post!

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  3. Wow, a great trip indeed although I personally could have done without the alligators.

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  4. A great trip indeed and what terrific captures for the day!! Thanks as always for sharing your adventures with us, Kusum! Hope you have a great week!

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  5. Amazing shots - those gators are huge!

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    1. Thanks Lady Fi, yep their size is quite intimidating!

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  6. Replies
    1. Yes, they are very scary and your story is fantastic too!

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  7. awesome informative post! wonderful trip to wildlife adventures.

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  8. Sounds a great trip. I love the wildlife you can see in Florida.

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    1. Thanks Mary, yes it was a great trip to Florida!

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  9. those alligators look so creepy but lovely shots.

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  10. Great post on your Everglades/Florida trip! I loved my visit there. Cool photos! Have a great week!

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    1. Thanks Eileen! Isn't it a fantastic place?

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  11. I've been there. Too bad it's been reduced in size to what it ought to be. Boom & Gary of the Vermil;on River, Canada.

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    1. Hmm its happening everywhere! Forests and the wildlife is diminishing!

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  12. Great photos and it sounds like a very interesting trip.

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  13. great trip. i used to leave in miami and key west so it is fun reading and seeing it thru new fresh eyes!

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    1. Must be nice to live in Key West! I loved the place so much!

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  14. Beautiful place with so much to see.

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  15. Wow...I may have to show this to my kids later. They love alligators.

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    1. Sure! I am glad that your kids love wildlife!

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  16. Some of the most alluring places and lovely description and pics Kusum! I wish i can see some of these places too:)

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    1. Thanks Bhatia Ji for your kind words!

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  17. Your description of a manatee is just like mine - I saw a brown thing in the water that I was assured was the beast in question - I had to take it on faith!

    Thanks for the link to WBW.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Ha ha! Thats what happens when we are very eager to sight wildlife!

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  18. Very interesting narrative and photos. Although I live in south Florida I have never taken any of those boat rides. You make me want to do it, but no noisy airboats for me! So far I have seen no panthers or pythons, though there was a bear on the boardwalk at Cypress Bend in Big Cypress Swamp.

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    1. Thanks Ken. Hmm Private tours run airboats. But, I took the boat rides run by National Park Services which are not airboats and they are not noisy and they do not go fast. You can try one of those!

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  19. It seems you had a good time in our Sunshine State! I always seem to find something new and wonderful here. Thank you for sharing a wonderful post about your trip and great photographs of our friendly alligators! :)

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  20. Wow would love to do it someday!!

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