It's been almost exactly a year since the last time we were in the Sunshine State. If you recall, some of our activities were washed out because of the weather. There was the accessible snorkeling trip we had scheduled and the air boat tour we tried to take also. But if there's one thing that never changes about Florida is that the weather is sketchy at anytime. We'll see how we do this year.
This is much less than the offers I've seen online. The only problem is that it's a little less than an hour away, there's no transportation, and we don't have a car.
To solve this, I rent a cheap car for the day and we head out to the Everglades. With our phone's GPS, it's not a problem to find. After parking, we head into the ticket office and I ask about the wheelchair. I'm told they'll help us out so I buy the tickets and we wait for our number to be called.
In just a few minutes it is, so we head to the dock. I find a spot near the rear of the boat where we can board without the other passengers crowding around us, take Tim out of his chair, and..with a little effort...transfer him down to the bench on the boat. Do note, however, that Letty and I had to do this by ourselves. No help was forthcoming from any of the staff.
We pop in some earplugs for Tim, the giant propellers start to buzz loudly and we pull slowly out of the dock. It's a gentle float around a bend in the channel, near a little dam. As our captain maneuvers into the main channel, he's giving us the information on the Everglades, the ecosystem, the weather, and what kinds of animals live here and what we might see.
Once we've cleared far enough away, the command comes over the speaker, "secure your belongings, we're about to go on a speed run."
The engines whine up to a deafening road. The loaded boat lifts a bit out of the water and soon, according to our captain, we're whizzing along the swampy, grass-filled water at 65 miles per hour.
It is quite a thrill and, honestly, he could have just done this for the hour and I'd have been happy. But, that's not what we're here to do. After a few minutes, the engines die down and speed quickly dissipates and the local flora and fauna are pointed out.
At this point, it's mostly flora. After a couple of more short bursts of speed, we drift in close to an island while the captain points out vultures lounging on the shore.
Gallinules, a flowery plant growing in the water, litter the landscape.
As we're drifting through a patch, I notice a dark blob in the middle. It moves. It has eyes. I soon realize I've seen my first alligator of the day. The lady sitting in front of me notices too but the captain misses it and soon it dives under the surface.
Another speed run takes us to another pond in the swamp and the captain points out another gator. This one is curious and swims straight toward the boat, almost posing.
About 10 feet away, it turns back. Soon, there's another on the other side of the boat and then a couple more. This is not water I'd want to be swimming in but it's fascinating from the boat.
After our close reptilian encounters, the gators seem to have had their curiosity satisfied and we see no more. Now, the biggest thing we see are other air boats.
A few more speed runs and we make it back to the dock just as the rain starts to fall. Somehow, we got Tim out and back in the chair while getting soaked.
Our admission includes a live gator show, so we crowd with about a hundred other people under a tarp until they let us into the arena.
A young woman comes out, surrounded by a dozen, large and lethargic gators where she explains trivia about the animals. No they don't like you but, no, they're not interested in hurting you or interacting with you...especially on land. In the water, they might attack but usually just spit you out and move on after taking a taste.
She demonstrates some moves on how to handle alligators when you're hunting them
She explains how people like here are licensed by the state to capture 'nuisance' gators (i.e., the one you find on your back porch) but they are not paid, nor to the charge the homeowner. For compensation, they get to keep the gator...either killing it and selling the meat and hide, or putting it in a sanctuary like this one.
Mercifully, the show is short. Not because it's not interesting but because the rain is now coming down pretty hard and there is no roof on this arena.
Wet, soggy, tired but glad for the fun we had, we make our way back to Miami to dry off at our hotel.
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved