During the day we spent in the Everglades, we took the time to do a wet tour. Wet was really the concept of the day since the water flows on the ground everywhere in the park, slowly, from Okeechobee lake to the Florida bay, creating this vast reserve of ponds, swamp and forests. Everything seems to be moving, the plants and the animals hiding here and there… The end of December was a really good time to appreciate the park: the swamp are not dry yet and there are not too many mosquitoes. We enjoyed the many landscapes and ecosystems without scratching our legs too much.
Here is the suspensful video…
- 3 entrances to the park. The North-East entrance is the most touristic one, closest to Miami. From there, a big road was built which almost destroyed the park, blocking the water flow (the same danger happened when a big airport was planned to be constructed in the park…). There’s another entrance on the West, where we can reach Big Cypress Park as well, the most beautiful landscapes are there, according to our guide. We took the third entrance, on the South, and we drove 40 miles to go to Flamingo, a tiny camp which faces the Florida Bay. Along this road, we stopped to wander on wooden paths above the swamp. In any case, you have to pay a $10 fee to go into this national park.
- What’s to see? We only stayed for one day, too bad because I would have love to go back in the park at night. The Everglades are not only a flat swamp as I thought first… Along the 40-mile road, we ran into various landscapes and ecosystems: pine forrest, mangrove, cypress domes (where we did our wet tour), wet grass, an estuary. It felt like an alive geography course, with hints of biology and ornithology.
- With or without a guide? You can visit the park without a guide: there are a lot of paths with signs, from 10 minutes to 2 hours long, like the famous Anhinga Trail, which gives a fantastic overview of the park natural resources in only one hour (pictures below). A guide can be necessary as soon as you want to see more of the park and hear some nice stories.
- And what about the mosquitoes? Winter is not their season, but we put some spray, just in case. There are a lot of “urban legends”, I should say “swamp legends” about the bugs. The guide told us that one day, a couple left for a 2 hour trip in kayak. They weren’t back at the end of the day, so they started to look after them. They found them in the middle of the night, completely covered with bites. Not fun. Another story: there are a lot of incredible and unique orchids in the park. But since they blossom in the summer , when it’s hot and very humid, nobody can admire them.
- Is it dangerous? The list of “dangerous” animals is impressive: alligators, crocodiles (they only like salty water), Florida panthers, bobcats, bears, snakes… And worst. A few years ago, pythons were released in the park by mistake (I don’t know how these things happen), and since they don’t have any predator in this environment, they are now too many. Another unexpected threat are vultures, who like to eat cars, or more precisely all that taste like rubber.
- Where to sleep? Our hotel was in Floriday City (the name may make you dream, but it was not a fancy neighborhood), very close to the park entrance. A friend recommended us to try this youth hostel though. The guide we toured with was working with this hostel, which seemed to be a nice hippie place. It’s also possible to camp in the park, there’s a nice space at Flamingo.
- “Robert is here”. We didn’t have the time to stop at this famous fruit stand, close to the southern entrance. It was too crowded to come in… we’ll try next time.
- Air Boats. These motor boats flying above the swamp are actually prohibited in the park. But you can try it at the North entrance… where they are allowed.
Links and recommendations:
- In this 45 minutes episode, Bear Grylls, from Man vs Wild, is trying to survive in the Everglades…
- The official website for the park, it’s really useful, with tons of tips.
- The post I wrote about our wet tour on this day in the Everglades.