Summer kicked off with a trip to southern Florida to visit the parks there. We started off in Everglades, which is a park I was not all that excited about. From what I’ve heard of Everglades, it’s basically a giant swamp with some really awesome animals. After visiting the park, however, that’s not at all what it is and it’s now one of my favorite parks.
The first day we were there we went on a boat tour (not an airboat, just a normal boat) with the hope of seeing manatees. We not only saw several manatees, but we also saw a bald eagle! When we saw the manatees I think I got the most excited I’ve ever been about seeing wildlife in the parks. The tour guides on the boat told us that when you’re looking for them, you need to keep an eye out for what looks like coconuts floating in the water. What you’re actually seeing is the manatee coming up for air, but it looks just like coconuts. It took me a while to see them at first, but soon we were seeing some right beside our boat. They look like really big rocks until you realize they’re actually moving.
We did an airboat tour on the second day in the park. This was probably what I was looking forward to the most about Everglades, and I was not disappointed. The airboats are very loud, but we’re planners and bought earplugs ahead of time. The company would give you cotton balls for your ears but I’m guessing that with how loud it was with earplugs, the cotton balls would not have done much good. We saw a lot of alligators on the tour, which was a little scary. They were very calm, but they look like they could eat you in one bite. After the tour was over, I got the chance to hold a baby alligator. He was not slimy like I’d been expecting, but was cool and smooth.
Our last day in Everglades we went on a tram tour that took us out to an observation tower. We learned that the little oasis-looking areas in the park are the results of alligators wallowing down, which fosters plant growth and attracts birds. At the bottom of the observation tower was a pool that had twenty-seven alligators in it (that were visible!). I was thinking there were probably a ton more that were just in the shadows and hard to see. We also saw a lot of turtles, including one kind that had a pig nose. On the way back to the visitor center, we saw a huge (I mean gigantic) alligator sitting beside the road. A group of cyclists rode by and stopped to take pictures. While they were doing this, he opened his mouth and stood up (we all started gasping and backing to the opposite side of the tram). We thought he was going to chase the cyclists, but instead he pooped and sat back down. We had the unfortunate seating location that was facing his rear end.
Everglades turned out to be so much more than a swamp. I learned so much there and am so glad that people like Marjory Stoneman Douglas fought to get the land protected.