June 7, 2011

Gator Park, Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

Our first stop today was at Gator Park for an airboat ride through Everglades National Park.

We were early-birds today, arriving before the first boat had departed.

Early departures usually see more wildlife.

As we left the dock, everyone was searching for gators.

And we found them in the water.

We found them in the grass.

Another airboat prepares to pass us going in the opposite direction.

After the airboat ride, guests were treated to a wildlife show featuring snakes, scorpions and a little alligator wrestling.

Marlon has the knack for captaining a boat...

as a resident chicken looks on.

Next we officially entered Everglades National Park for a tram tour through Shark Valley.

Sawgrass is a unique type of grass with very sharp edges (like a saw) which can be felt when running your hand up the stalk. In the Everglades, it is a favorite food of the white tailed deer.

The sawgrass marshes of Everglades National Park will be flooded during the wet season and will be covered with brownish green algae mats, called periphyton, which will float on the water surface.

We didn't find any sharks in Shark Valley, but we did find a bunch of baby alligators just off the tram path.

Another type of habitat in Everglades National Park are these high, dry tree islands known as hammocks.

Hammocks are often surrounded by moats formed when acids from decaying plants dissolved away the limestone. These moats provide the hammock a fire barrier.

We ventured into this hammock and found the temperature inside the hammock much more pleasant than the temperature outside the hammock. With the park currently in a drought, the dreaded mosquitoes were virtually non-existent.

Happy tram tourists continue through Shark Valley.

At the mid-point of our tour, we arrived at the 50 foot-high Shark Valley Observation Tower.

Expansive views of the Everglades, alligators, turtles and birds awaited us all at the top of the tower.

We were lucky enough to meet a couple of new friends visiting the States from Israel.

Here's a video of our tours today.

On our way home, we could see a large fire which had started nearby the previous day.

For more pictures, click here .

To be continued...

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