Everglades and Alligators

A spectacular airboat ride where alligators are plentiful, a relaxing boat cruise through the Everglades National Park where dolphins play in the wake, a delicious, traditional lunch with alligator appetizers, a wildlife drive with the Big Cypress Preserve, and a nature walk full of gators, birds, and other wildlife are all part of the Everglades Day Safari. The Everglades Safari is the only full-day, guided eco-tour of the majestic Everglades. Each part of the tour is designed to explore the four main ecosystems that make up the ‘glades including: the sawgrass prairie, mangrove estuary, cypress swamps and pine savannah. I had never seen an alligator so close before that he could lunge out of the water and attack at any time; I’d also never held an alligator before or eaten one, but this tour was a day of first for me.

The first leg of our adventure was an amazing airboat ride through the sawgrass prairies where there are more alligators per acre than anywhere in the world. For one hour, we were surrounded by alligators of all sizes.

Along the way, our guide actually got out of the boat and into the alligator filled water while he explained the unique eco-system and environment. Honestly, I never heard a word he said; I was too busy focusing on every movement in the water.

This part of our journey concluded with an alligator trainer show. He entered an enclosed alligator pit and rested his arm over the alligator’s mouth while explaining all of his previous “incidents” with other alligators. “Dude, stop putting your hand in their mouths if they keep snapping at you!”

Finally, a baby alligator was brought out and I hesitantly held on as my husband took a picture. I didn’t sign any waivers that said I wouldn’t sue if something happened, but then again, if it bit off my hand, there wouldn’t be too much that they could do to put it back on. Regardless, I held the baby and put on a smile. Going first or last both had advantages and disadvantages so I worked my way into the middle of the line and hoped for the best. I left with all my fingers and both hands, but my heart rate was certainly elevated.

Our nature walk was a leisurely stroll into the cypress swamp area of the Everglades. Thankfully, we didn’t see any of the abundant wildlife including rare Florida panthers, bears, otters, and minks.  We did see old growth cypress trees and ferns abound and visit the Clyde Butche Photo Gallery.

Our wildlife drive ventured into the sawgrass prairies and open savannahs of the “Big Cypress”, a 780,000 acre National Preserve in the Everglades. We saw dozens of alligators hanging out alongside the road, several turtles and dozens of species of birds. Although you never know what could show up in “Big Cypress” we weren’t lucky enough to see any extreme wildlife, other than the alligators that is.

Southern food, a unique atmosphere, and friendly hosts made the Seafood Depot a perfect stopping point for lunch. My hesitation to try the alligator fled when I was the only one with it still on my plate. What started out as a nibble ended in scarfing down the remaining dish. It tasted very much like chicken and I’d welcome the chance to have it again.

The relaxing, 90 minute, Everglades National Park boat ride was the final leg of the ‘glades tour. We navigated through the mangrove estuary known as the 10,000 Islands. On this cruise, dozens of dolphin were spotted on the way out towards the Gulf of Mexico. It was beautiful and mesmerizing to watch them jump, splash, and play alongside the boat. They are such interesting creatures with a playful side that is intriguing.  I’d hoped to see a manatee during the day, but I wasn’t disappointed in any way.

What an interesting experience that couldn’t have happened anywhere else. While we were exhausted by the end of the day, we would do it again and recommend this trip to everyone in the area.

Check out Bucket List Publications Online Magazine for more great photos and articles from bucket list seekers. 

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66 thoughts on “Everglades and Alligators

  1. I love everything about Florida! Love the pictures they are great. My grandfather used to live in Florida with a little lake behind his house and he had some ‘gator friends! I’m still in the process of convincing my husband to move down to Florida (I’d settle for anywhere down south though!) Thanks for a great post about a great state, I love reading all your posts, keeps me motivated to continue my “vacationing habits”!

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  2. Many years ago we took a short tour of the Everglades and saw the grandaddy of gators…wow. Didn’t know they could run so fast, glad he wasn’t hungry. The guide told a lady with a small dog, “Do Not Put The Dog Down, The Gator Will Eat It! Thanks for the memory. Jay

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  3. I held my breath reading throughout the part with alligators in it. How in the world did you do it? I have a fear for anything that crawls. Maybe I’ll do it too someday, to overcome my fears. But dolphins are another story altogether. They are cute, playful and so very loveable. I wouldn’t let go of a chance to touch and spend time getting to know a dolphin. Probably play with it too.
    On second thoughts, I first need to learn swimming. Dang!

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  4. You’ve had some great adventures Lesley…this one is better viewed on WP than live! Especially the one where you are carrying the babe…need some courage to hold those creatures 🙂

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  5. Great article! I love the baby alligator. It looks so cute 🙂 (I’m saying this while sitting on the couch. I’d probably be terrified if I had to hold one! lol)

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  6. That sounds so cool. I tried blackened alligator in New Orleans once and I thought the same thing. It tastes like chicken. I bet even the little gator you were holding was strong!

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  7. So glad you got the experience! Big Cypress is magical! Now is when alligator mating season is starting and they will be more active, When you went to Clyde Butcher’s did you do the swamp walk? It’s amazing (don’t worry no alligators…)there is nothing like standing in the swamp and just being still and hearing everything living all around you! One of my favorite places in Florida! Being a local Eco-guide I see some incredible places – but nothing beats Big Cypress!

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  8. I went on one of the airboat rides in the Everglades years ago. We used to go to the Florida Keys on family vacation, and the Everglades was one of my parents’ favorite places. I was always very sorry for the tourists from Europe, because they invariably wore black jeans and long sleeved shirts… and it was usually 95+ degrees. Such great memories! And great pics.

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  9. My wife and I took a self guided trip through Everglades NP and we saw all kinds of bird life and yes, many gators. Most vivid memories of that trip are the incredibly deep blood red sunset we witnessed, and a cacophony of exotic wild bird calls that reminded me of a fraternity party. Also had a gator close encounter just after dark, when I shined my flashlight in the water only just a couple feet away from my feet. My flashlight revealed this enormous alligator head with red glowing eyes shining back at me. Absolutely delighted, I called my wife over and exclaimed “Jean! Do you see it?”
    My wife’s immediate reaction was to scream loudly and run away. Yep, I guess she saw it! Lol 🙂
    Great post as always, Lesley!

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  10. I used to have nightmares walking to school about gators getting me. At the time I had moved to FL to live for a year. To this day they still give me the shivers!

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  11. The Everglades is a part of Florida I’ve never spent time visiting. This sounds awesome! We’re planning to return to the Keys this fall for camping. We may have to make a stop in the Everglades on our way!

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  12. Living in Charleston we hear about the occasional alligator on the news but I have not seen one for almost 15 years. Yesterday however was different. It had just rained. We were driving passed a reservoir known to have gators when I looked over towards the water and there one was resting in the grass next to the four lane road. I would say it was at least 5-feet long.

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  13. I love your blog, and I nominated you for the SUNSHINE BLOG AWARD. Check out my blog to see the ‘rules of acceptance’…Off course if you want to accept.

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  14. Wow. The idea of a tour of the Everglades based on the four ecosystems that make it up is really interesting. I’d love to write something about it on my blog – The sustain Blog at http://www.nicolebrait.com.

    I’ll definitely include a link to your blog and to The Everglades Day Safari.

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  15. Thanks for the post. We have been wanting to get up there and see that. Making it a priority now.

    Cool to think that you are in our neck of the Mangroves as well. Also thanks for checking in on my blog, much appriciated.:-)

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  16. Ah, you came down to my neck of the woods! Glad you liked it!

    You should check out Shark Valley, it’s a 15 mile bike loop where you get to ride 3 feet away from giant wild gators!

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  17. There is a crocodile and snake park in Chennai, India, set up by Romulus Whitaker, which I visited some years ago. Of course they kept a safe distance and I didn’T eat one.

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