During the tail end of our Miami/Florida trip, we were able to dedicate a couple days to visiting Everglades National Park!
On the first day, we headed straight to the Shark Valley Visitor Center, so we could see some alligators! At the visitor center, we were able to rent bikes from Shark Valley Tram Tours. (Bikes were rented out by the hour at $9/hour.) Even though it was quite a warm day and there was barely any shade, the Shark Valley Trail (a 15-mile loop) still offered a beautiful scene to bike down. Straight ahead, we could see fluffy white clouds dotted across the light blue skies. Along the right side of the trail, there were plenty of opportunities for alligator sightings. At one point, I found at least eight tiny little baby gators with their mother close by. We were also able to see a couple of Florida soft shell turtles (they have such pointy noses!) and some species of birds common to the Everglades, including the Great Blue Heron and the black Anhinga. It was really nice being able to bike at our own pace and stop whenever we spotted some wildlife to see. After 7.5 miles, we reached the Observation Tower, where we were able to park our bikes and refill our water bottles. The tower was a great spot for bird watching. As we walked up to the very top, we were able to use our binoculars to see a pink Roseate Spoonbill in the pond below! After our stop at the observation tower, we decided to bike back the way we came, because supposedly it was more scenic than the second half of the loop. Unfortunately, as we were biking back, I got a throbbing headache and a heatstroke, so that was a HUGE bummer. Luckily, the visitor center had ice cream and I was able to eat two strawberry shortcake popsicles back-to-back and cool down just before our afternoon airboat tour! Clay had helped us book a tour with Buffalo Tiger Airboat Tours, a company owned by members of the Miccosukee Tribe native to Florida. During our 45-minute tour, our guide stopped our boat just in time so we could watch a Great Blue Heron catch and devour a fish whole. Our guide also called over a female alligator to our boat and gave us a short break at what used to be part of a Miccosukee village.
On the second day, we stopped by Roberts Is Here (a fun outdoor fruit stand and farm that Nancy had found!) before heading over to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. This visitor center had some interactive exhibits that allowed us to learn more about the issues related to park conservation, as well as about the wildlife in the Everglades. They also had an outdoor deck with rocking chairs, which Clay and I enjoyed. For me, the highlight of our second day was definitely the Anhinga Trail, which again offered many opportunities for us to see alligators, turtles, and birds. Afterwards, we attempted to walk through the nearby Gumbo Limbo Trail, but turned back around as soon as Hayong was attacked by some crazy bugs. After that, we ended up just driving to Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook, which was cool/different, but also kinda barren-looking...and had one two many black bumble bees (thanks Nancy for protecting me!). Overall, I think it's safe to say that we were able get a pretty good glimpse of the Everglades wildlife and make some good memories with our friends during our two-day visit! I'm already missing our time there as I conclude this belated blog post!
Just capturing as I go.