Here a croc, there a croc, everywhere a croc croc (ok alligator)

Everglades Travel Blog

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Gator eyes watching us as we stroll through the park

So, into the Everglades we went.

It took us three hours to get from Miami beach to the everglades, not the smoothed of journeys, but by no means the worst we've done. We set off nice and early to ensure we weren't in the blazing sun for too long. We had to get a bus, the metrorail and then another bus.

Gator hunting in the middle of the night
The hostel said that we didn't need reservations, they actually charged more if we reserved online, and said that no matter how busy they were they would always find us somewhere, even if it was camping in the garden!

So we rocked up to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, blazing hot and humid with no reservations at half one. The hostel itself is called the Everglades Hostel, is family run and does tours in its high season in the everglades. It turns out we had just missed their season, which finished at the end of March. We were a bit disappointed but there were other things we could do so we were hopeful. We were put into a six bed dorm that was bright, clean and airy. We were so exhusted we had a rest for a couple of hours before exploring the hostel.

Night time in the Everglades National Park

The kitchen was in a seperate building to the rooms, set within the garden. The garden itself was pretty big, with tables, chairs, a hammock and an ecclectic mix of statues and items dotted about. We had brought no food with us so we asked directions to the nearest supermarket (which was walmart) and headed out. It was a good twenty five minute walk to it, never quite sure if we were going in the right direction as we were told we would be able to see it (we couldn't). We finally managed to stumble over it and went it. It was HUGE. It was like a ginormous Asda (Walmart has bought Asda), complete with George clothing range! We wandered around for a bit until we found the food section and bought a ton of stuff to see us through the next four days.

The long and (not so) windy road......

By the time we got back it was quite late and we were looking forward to a quick dinner and then resting. However, just as we walked into the garden after putting our shopping away we ran into a lady who asked us if we wanted to go look at the moon. We ummed and ahhed for a bit then decided what the hell why not so we went next door to the mexican resturant and got some food to go thinking we could eat it on the way. Turns out we had to wait for a French family so we wolfed our food down sitting by the car and it was a good twenty minutes later by the time we set off (after dousing ourselves in bug repellant). What we didnt realise was that we were heading into the Everglades National Park to look at the moon! There were seven of us in one car and the French family were an extra four so eleven of us in total went on a night time trek through the 'glades.

Gator spotting as we walk to the alligator farm

We parked at Royal Palms, a walking trail, and all disembarked. It was at this point that we realised that we should of brought our torches. It was pitch black, no lights anywhere and alligators everywhere! Scott, one of the guys from the hostel had a torch and was walking along the bank, shining the light over the water and just then picked out two bright spots, alligator eyes!! We all crowded round, amazed that not five feet away from us was a huge gator, seemingly unfazed by us. We walked further into the park, and the torchlight picked out shining spots all around, literally everywhere we looked there were gators. They like to feed at night, as the night is much cooler and they dont expend as much energy as they would during the day. The moon, which was the reason we had come into the park in the first place made its appearance in dramatic fashion.

Two miles later we finally arrive
Set low and with a gorgeous orange hue it sat suspended over the glades, reflecting off the water. We spent a good forty minutes walking through the park, with gators below us in the water and mosquitos buzzing in our ears. It was an amazing walk and words will never do it enough justice, its the kind of experience you have to do to fully appreciate.

The next day we set off to visit the local alligator farm. We had heard good reviews about it and wanted to see for ourselves. There was a bus that went close to it but not all the way. It dropped us two miles (close is a relative term!) away, on a small two lane road that ran through a rather deserted area, with ditches on one side or the other most of the way. We quickly spotted our first gator of the day, a little one of about three feet hiding amongst the grass in the ditch.

The view from the airboat
We spotted a few more on our walk, one of which was fairly big so we stayed back, least he decide he wanted to try for us. Finally, after a very long walk in the very hot sun we arrived at the alligator farm.

We paid our money and were told that the airboat was about to start loading so we went and queued up. We were given a few instructions by the driver, the first being never try to stroke a gator! then informed that wherever we sat we were going to get wet. The front would get the wettest, but it was also the most fun (guess where we sat!). We started out slowly, our guide telling us a bit about the Everglades, pointing out soft shelled turtles in the water and native plants on the shore. We had barely gone ten feet before we saw gators in the water.

No fear!
The water was so shallow they were resting half out of the water, clearly visible to us. We saw some small gators and some huge gators, up to ten foot and maybe even beyond that. When we got out further into the galdes we were told to put on the ear protectors we had been given and hold on. Our guide then sped off full throttle, doing 360 degree turns in the wider parts, causing water to come rushing into the boat, completely soaking us. It was tons of fun! The boat ride ended far too quickly for my liking, though we did get to play chicken with a big stubborn gator as we pulled up to the jetty. He lost, we won.

Once we were back on dry land we squelched our way over to snake island, where a gator show was about to start. There were two medium sized gators in a pen and a bare foot lady barely 5ft tall was wandering around inside.

Are we having fun Rach?
She turned out to be the presenter, talking to us about the types of animals found in the everglades. She hauled over a gator and sat down on its and opened its mouth for us to admire its rows of teeth. She also held the gators mouth open with just her chin, which drew a much deserved round of applause from the audience. At the end of the show we got the chance to hold a baby gator, its mouth taped closed to avoid anyone losing a digit or two.

After the show we wandered around the grounds, where they have a huge fenced area holding hundreds of gators. We could see in the water that there were plenty of fish, and even saw one or two gators that had caught something devouring their meal. It wasn't until feeding time that we truly appreciated their true power.

Ta dah!
The gators have obviously come to realise that they get fed at the same time each day as just before 3pm they all started hauling themselves over to one spot by the fence, until there were rows and rows of gators lined up, with some bigger ones atually walking over the others to get to the front. There was quite a crowd of people watching so Rachel and I climbed up onto some bleachers to get a better view. The same tiny woman from the alligator show arrived and started throwing dead fish into the enclosure, with the gators going crazy trying to be the first to the fish. The sound of their jaws snapping together said in no uncertain terms just how much you wouldn't want to be on the recieving end of a love bite.

I don't know if it was the smell of the fish or the commotion the fenced gators were making but out of the corner of my eye, at the back of the crowds watching feeding time I spotted movement.

Baby gator
I looked and saw something that at first confused then astounded me. A wild gator was perched atop the fence seperating the farm from the everglades. Now this fence had to of been at least 5ft, and a gator was sitting on it like it was a sparrow! It then moved forward, coming to a rest this side of the fence. No more than ten foot from the nearest spectator, who was completely unaware of the critter behind him. I gave a shout, feeling silly and half thinking no one would believe me when I said an 8ft gator had just climbed a 5ft fence but Rachel heard me and spotted it immediately. We then shouted again, getting the woman's attention and pointing out the varmint behind her. She quickly told everyone to get back, the easy, jokey manner gone and a serious tone entering her voice. Everyone heeded her, with parents scooping up their toddlers, least they become a quick snack.
Think mum would mind me bringing this home?
She radioed for back up and grabbed a wooden stick and none too gently encouraged it back over the fence. Lisa the hero saves the day!!!

Our last show of the day was a snake show. Once again the tiny lady appeared (does no one else work here!) and gave us a talk on snakes. She told us about the harm that is being caused by people buying non native snakes as pets, then relasing them into the Everglades when they get too big for them to cope with or just get plain bored of them. These snakes have been killing the local wildlife, causing an unnatural balance in the food chain. She showed us some of the snakes, we got to hold a tiny ball python which was no more than 3 foot long and a six foot albino boa constrictor which was a beautiful yellow and white. It was a very well done show, and even the women and kids that had freaked out at the mere sight of the tiny snake eventually plucked up enough courage to hold it. We chatted to the woman for a while and she told us about a show she did two weeks previously with a different snake. She had never done a show with it before and it became aggitated, suddenly sinking its teeth into her forearm. The show was in front of a crowd of children, instead of emotionally scarring the children by screaming her head off she had to plaster a smile on her face and remain calm while this snake gave her the world's worst hickey. She said she had blood dripping down her arm and felt very much like passing out but after a couple of minutes the snake eventually let go. The woman is a true professional!

When it came time to go we decided we didn't want to wait for the bus, it wasnt due for another three hours (hick towns I tell you!) so started to walk the four miles(!) to the main road. We didnt get very far before a truck pulled up to us and the woman inside asked if we were from the hostel and offered us a lift. We, ever the Brit, politely declined but she insisted so we climbed in. She then told us how dangerous it was to walk down this road. Apparently gators just wander across it, and they can run at up to 21 miles per hour when they feel like it. She did give us a tip for avoiding becoming a gator treat, if they chase you run in zig zags. Gators can run fast but only in a straight line, handy tip!

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Gator eyes watching us as we strol…
Gator eyes watching us as we stro…
Gator hunting in the middle of the…
Gator hunting in the middle of th…
Night time in the Everglades Natio…
Night time in the Everglades Nati…
The long and (not so) windy road..…
The long and (not so) windy road.…
Gator spotting as we walk to the a…
Gator spotting as we walk to the …
Two miles later we finally arrive
Two miles later we finally arrive
The view from the airboat
The view from the airboat
No fear!
No fear!
Are we having fun Rach?
Are we having fun Rach?
Ta dah!
Ta dah!
Baby gator
Baby gator
Think mum would mind me bringing t…
Think mum would mind me bringing …
photo by: denisx