Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Florida Everglades: See you Later Alligator

I spent New Year's in Miami last year and paid a visit to Everglades National Park. December is the best month to visit because the weather is agreeable. The drive is about an hour and a half if you take the Tamiami Trail. The path inside the park is 15 miles long, so most people choose to take the tram. I suggest doing it right and renting a bicycle ($15/hour).

The first encounter with the alligators is scary. However, after seeing a few of them you will realize they are mostly harmless. Keep a tall stature and the alligators will be afraid of you. And, by all means, do not attempt to pet the alligators!

The trip highlight was the baby alligator I noticed along the trail. He was tiny, vulnerable and incredibly cute.

Another highlight was the airboat ride. Airboats are very different than other boats. It feels really strange to glide over the tall saw grass. The downside to airboat rides is the extremely touristy nature. I have a very patriotic shots of an alligator sleeping under an American flag by a totem pole (see above). I couldn't see anything chaining the gators to the pole, so I began to wonder if they were stuffed.

Perhaps the most important reason to visit the Everglades is to learn about its ecosystem. Although the park has legal boundaries, it is still greatly affected by the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. Visiting is a great reminder of how fragile our planet is and that we need to take action to promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

Suggested Destination Reading: Tourist Season, Sick Puppy or Skinny Dip (Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald Staff Writer)

Photography by me and Paul Johnson.

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