Monday, 12/12/11 - We headed to the northern most part of the Everglades, Shark Valley mostly because they are the only viewing center in the park that offers a tram ride. The Everglades is a National Park so with our Golden Age Pass we get into the park for free but the 2 hour tram ride is $19 per person. Shark Valley is so named because this is an actual valley and is located in the Shark River Slough....there are NO sharks here!
We arrived about 10 am for the 11 am tram ride and were able to walk around the visitors center and there were alligators laying on the banks of the water ways ...right at the entrance. I was able to get a picture of Will with 3 alligators laying on the road in the background and sent it to his daughter Kim.....who of course thought we were crazy and told us to get the heck out of there!
We boarded the tram and then began our 2 hour, narrated journey through the saw grass prairie which consist of wide open prairie with mounds of trees which are called "hammocks." Unfortunately, we had a guide in training who also was from another country and was difficult to understand as well as she didn't have a lot of knowledge. Just the bad luck of the draw.
This particular part of the Everglades has the highest viewing of alligators and birds and we hit the jackpot today. One Florida guy on the tour who had brought out of state guests on the tour said it was the most alligators he has ever seen on the tram ride. From the minute we got there....the driveway into the park, there were alligators laying all over the place. During the tram ride we also saw many baby alligators that are usually born in September and and are about 4 inches when they are born....today they were 6 to 8 inches long. The biggest alligator we saw on the tour was about 8 feet and the way you measure an alligator....just in case someone asks you.....the distance from their eyes to their nose, say is 6 inches.....they would be a 6 foot alligator. That's all the trivia I have for today!
The bird life out here was amazing however the most amazing bird was the anhinga....they are an underwater swimmer that pierces a fish with their sharp bill and afterward the bird "preens" and dries its wings. We saw them sitting everywhere with their wings spread out in the sun....just drying off.
Midway on the tour we stopped at a 65 foot tower that has a circular walkway so you are not actually climbing stairs to the top....so of course we had a chance to make it, which we did. The view was spectacular and we were able to look down and see alligators lying in the saw grass and even very large turtles in the water. This area was originally owned by an oil company (who else) but was unprofitable so they turned it over to the government and this tower was originally used as a fire lookout. After the tower, which was the half way point we headed back to the visitors centers.
The road we were on in the tram is a 15 mile loop which is also used by bicycle's riders and walkers (those crazy people) Actually, I couldn't believe how many bike riders were out there. You can of course bring your own bike or rent a bike for $8 an hour. Trust me, the tram is the only way to go.
When we returned to the visitors center we of course found a lovely place to unload our chairs and Mimi's TV tray and have our lunch.....overlooking the Everglades. It was a fun and interesting day and we plan to also go down to the Northern part of the Everglades before we leave this area just to get a different view. Much love to all our family and friends.