LOCATION: Shark Valley Entrance, Miami, FL
This post is part of my Miami Trip Series
Being a sucker for National Parks, the Everglades were a wise choice since it is the 3rd largest in the United States. I always assumed that the Everglades were swamps, but while there I found out that it was essentially salt-water river systems. I really wanted to experience the Everglades by kayak, however while looking up rental places and/or tours, it would be approximately $100+ to go kayaking. OUCH! I decided to look up things to do in the Park and found that the Shark Valley entrance seemed the most worthwhile since it provided nice walking trails, a bike path and a tram tour. However, my first encounter with the Everglades was by taking a scenic airboat tour through Everglades Safari Park, which was on the way to the Shark Valley entrance. Along the Tamiami road leading to the park there were all kinds of airboat tours available. The Everglades Safari Park provided a nice website, so I chose that one. For $23, they gave a 30-45 minute tour out and around the waterways.
The area I was in was the saw grass area and proved to have many alligators lying around sunning. We stopped next to one that decided to open its mouth for us, which was very cool to see in the wild. After the airboat tour, the center provided a short educational program on alligators. I was unable to stay for that portion since I had a tram tour to make, but it seemed like it was worth it and interesting to get up close with a gator.
Thinking I wasn’t going to make my tram tour in time, I ended up making it with 5 minutes to spare. The tram took 2 hours and it was basically an hour to the observation tower, 15 minutes at the tower and then 45 minutes back. The tour stopped along the way to show various birds (there were A LOT) and alligators.
They provided an extreme amount of knowledge of the ecosystems in the area, and I was even more impressed when I found out the tour guides were volunteers. There were several alligators along the roadway on the tram tour as well as the main road heading out of the park. The guide explained that Shark Valley has never had an accident with an alligator mostly due to the fact that they are so used to the noises of all the people. If they do get bothered, they just walk off into the water and get away rather than attack. Knowing this made me get a little closer than normal to the gators. It was fun to get up close to wild gators. They are such cool creatures. For instance, during mating season for gators they have a 7-10 day courting period where they can be seen blowing bubbles at each other. Not to mention how adorably cute the baby gators are. LOVE THEM!
Overall, the tram tour was great. It would have been really nice to spend more time at the observation tower and small trail next to it. The road is 8 miles in and 8 miles out, so the best route would be to bring or rent a bike and do the park at your own pace.
*Thank you Shiran for joining me on this adventure.
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?: Absolutely! I would definitely like to hike the 2 trails in the park. The tram tour was great since it provided so much information. I would also like to experience other Everglades entrances, possibly to the mangroves since they are really pretty.
HOW TO DO THIS:
Airboat tour: $23 for a 30-45 minute ride and an educational show on gators. http://www.evergladessafaripark.com/
Everglades National Park: $10 entrance fee.
Shark Valley Entrance and Tram Tours: $20 for a 2 hour tour. Bike rentals $8.50/hour. Two short walking trails and a 15 mile paved road.