Everglades National Park, FL – April, 2018 Jim woke up Easter morning and said he wanted to go exploring. I thought “on Sunday, on Easter Sunday of all days?!” And then I got on board.
It didn’t take long to decide on a direction, and soon a destination was chosen as well. We packed a lunch and I grabbed my camera backpack. Then we hit the road just after 8am.
We drove East on US 41 for about 60 miles and arrived at the Shark Valley Visitor Center of the Everglades National Park. Our National Park Pass saved us the $25 per car entrance fee.
This guy entertained us while we waited in the short line of cars to enter.
We took a quick look around the visitor center. It consisted of some outside exhibits, the gift shop, and the park office where they primarily sold tickets and rented bikes for $9 per hour. We decided we would take the tram tour and we bought tickets at $25 per person. We didn’t have to wait long as the next tour left in 10 minutes, at 10am.
We saw the first alligator within a few minutes of departing the station.
And then another.
And this couple.
And when we tired of the reptiles, there were birds.
So many birds!
There are at least half a dozen varieties of birds in this photo. Of course, the roseate spoonbills are the highlight.
It wasn’t always easy to photograph the birds but I did my best. We were at the tram driver’s mercy to stop or not, to move where the people in our car could see things, and to stay long enough for me to get the shot. He did a pretty good job.
We did have perfectly wonderful weather. It was warm, but cloudy. And we even got a refreshing sprinkle of rain a couple times.
At the end of a 45 minute ride we reached the highlight of this section of Everglade’s National Park. The 45 foot tall observation tower was built in the 1960’s. It really was quite impressive!
We were only given 15 minutes to walk down the path, up the tower, snap a few pics, and hurry back to the tram. From the top we saw a couple more gators, some turtles floating in a pond, and about a million White Ibis in the surrounding trees.
I would have liked to stay longer but we still had another 45 minute ride to return to the visitor center. The return trip was by another route so we got to see more of the park. Don’t worry, there were still plenty more alligators like this one which was the largest and oldest dude we saw.
One gator was even blocking the road and our tour guide had to get out and shoo him away. I’m sure all the bicyclers around appreciated his intervention.
The most exciting thing we saw was the only American Crocodile they apparently have in this area. They said that they had tried to relocate her to a more remote area of the park. They moved her 40 miles away but she found her way back! I was glad she was on the other side of the waterway.
We also saw a turtle nesting right beside the road, preparing to lay her eggs.
And this 1 foot baby gator was pretty cute.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour and did not regret spending the money. We ended up getting the last two seats together on the tram and were very lucky to be on the side (the left side when facing forward) which had the most views of the wildlife. I kinda felt bad for the people to the right of us as they didn’t have nearly as good of view.
If you are an avid bicyclist and have a bike with you, cycling the park would be the ideal way to see it. It’s 15 miles round trip and totally flat. We do have bikes but I wouldn’t trust them mechanically to make the trip and wouldn’t want to get stuck walking back.
We will visit again. Maybe next time we will hike a couple miles down the road by the canal and back the same way. Or if we invest in better bikes in the future we would absolutely take them there. There are also a couple short hiking trails that are easily reached from the visitor center.