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My family road trip through South Florida brought us twice to the Everglades. One day we drove from Fort Myers to Miami and we visited the northern part of the Everglades. After a nice breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Fort Myers we got in our Alamo rental car to continue our road trip. We explored Shark Valley by bike and did a fan boat tour. An awesome day with many wildlife sightings and fun activities. Let me show you what we did!
Without going into too many details of the Everglades geology a bit of background information is needed to understand the importance of the region. The Everglades are a tropical wetland and more over it’s a river. This river starts north of Lake Okeechobee as the Kissimmee River. From the shallow lake water flows as a 100 kilometer wide shallow river south forming the water supply of the Everglades. During the seasons the area gets flooded and it dries up. When the water hits the Florida bay it gets mixed with salt water creating an environment suitable for mangroves. The major part is of sawgrass which grows in the dried and flooded water parts. Further the Everglades contain islands of hammocks and pine trees. All these different eco-systems make the Everglades a perfect habitat for wildlife and a unique nature reserve. You will find crocodiles, birds and also the very rare Florida panther!
Shark Valley Everglades has history dating back almost two centuries when Spanish and Indians fought a bloody war in the area. It is said that at the Chekika Island the Indian leader was hung by the Spanish and therefore winning the battle. From this island the current Shark Valley Trail starts. It starts along a manmade canal towards the observation tower which is located about 10 kilometers from the visitor’s center. The best way to explore the Shark Valley is to take or hire a bike. This way you can stop at any point to watch the abundant wildlife you will find along the way. Oh, it’s hot, so take plenty of water as nothing is available along the trail. If you are not up to biking you can take the tram tour which stops at a few points but you do have less freedom.
During the straight first half of the circle you will find the canal on your right with bush and trees behind it. In the water you will spot a lot of wildlife which mainly are alligators and turtles. On the left you will see more of the sawgrass land which is flooded in rainy season. Be sure to watch carefully and to not miss any wildlife hidden in the green. There is so much to see! When I did the bike tour there were many lovely baby alligators like the one in the photo below.
Halfway you can climb the observation tower to have a nice view over the Everglades. The Everglades is not known for its views but for its wildlife. At the tower it’s nice to see the vast land of sawgrass with islands of trees scattered around. We arrived quickly, as the wind came from behind us. On the way back, over the curvy road back through the sawgrass fields it was another story. Hell, what a wind! We saw less wildlife on the way back, but still some alligators and many different birds.
The amount of wildlife really surprised me and also how close you can get to them; even the birds. It’s also a great trail to do with kids; they can bike and check out the wildlife. It’s awesome. Do not forget to walk the 3 small trails along the road which are each around 500-800 meters long. Find here a list of wildlife you could expect, most of them you will find in the gallery below. And if you are lucky, see a Florida panther!
Wildlife of the Shark Valley trail: Anhinga, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tri-color, Heron, Green Heron, Limpkin, White Ibis, Common Moorhen, Northern Cardinal, Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk, Osprey, Alligator, Red-bellied Turtle, Soft Shell Turtle, Everglades Racer, Banded Water snake, Green Tree frog
Fan boat tour through the Everglades
A visit to the Everglades is not complete without an air boat tour! I can recommend doing this at the Buffalo Tiger Air Boat Tours which is located about 10 kilometers from Shark Valley towards Miami. As it was not high season during my visit so we had to wait only 5 minutes before our ride, in the front of the air boat. Ear plugs in, sit down, and the propeller started with lots of noise to blow us over the Everglades waters. Fast! As you can see the movement in the following photo!
The air boat tour is some awesome action. Speed, water and air! The driver stopped at various places to see the alligators. As the air boat tours are done just outside the Everglades it is possible to feed them so they get closer. We saw baby alligators and huge ones which you don’t want to fight with. Browse the gallery for some more alligator action!
As the bike tour took us almost 4 hours, we stopped too many times to watch the wildlife, it got already late when we finished the 45 minute air boat tour. After a long day of wildlife spotting and some great action over the Everglades waters we drove onwards to Miami around 5 PM. On more top day during our South Florida road trip came to an end.
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Did you visit Everglades too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!
Click an image for a full screen gallery of more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.