Everglades Unique Florida Destination

Python invasion, last Florida Panther, amazing birds, etc. Shark Valley Tram Tour. Everglades: unique Florida destination, perfect for wildlife lovers.

Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness in the US and a unique Florida destination. Among Biscayne and Dry Tortugas National Parks, Everglades is the most accessible in Florida.

There is something else distinctive about the Everglades: it is the only National Park suffering from a man-made python invasion. While your chances to meet a giant snake are minimal, the same cannot be said for deer, bobcats, rabbits, opossums, panthers, and foxes. Many of them almost completely gone, due to pythons.

Burmese python removal at Florida National Parks and Reserves:

Python Action Team Member Kevin Reich removed 17’ 9” Burmese python from the wild. photo credit: Robert Edman, Florida Fish and Wildlife

Why we love Everglades so much

Laying 30 miles from Miami, the Everglades is an enormous National Park you can enjoy without tons of effort. If you are a lazy traveler, limited in time/mobility, or are with small children – it is a real catch!

Another reason – Everglades is excellent for wildlife watching. We saw softshell turtles, dozens of American alligators, and many birds. Alligators were the most fascinating: fat, slow, and seemingly indifferent, but don’t let them fool you.

Everglades: Unique Florida Destination. How we explored it

We took a guided tram tour at Shark Valley and explored the Anhinga self-guiding trail, the most popular trail in the Everglades due to the abundance of wildlife. Highly impressed by both and recommend them to visit.

Shark Valley tour

The Shark Valley tour starts at Shark Valley visitor center and lasts around two hours. It costs $27 per adult, plus a $30 National Park entrance fee (per car). The narration is very informative, and the guides really care about the park.

In the picture below: at the beginning of the tour, the first but not last alligator who didn’t mind to yield:

"Who is this home after all?!" - Alligator
“Me, yield? Who is this home after all?!” – Alligator

If you’ll pay attention, you’ll spot several alligator trails: animals cut through the grass. Trails are pretty wide, and a lucky one may spot a beast on it:

Alligator on its way, Everglades
An alligator on its way, Everglades

Trams have no windows, don’t forget a lightweight raincoat or you can end up soaking wet!

Shark Valley tram tour, Everglades
Shark Valley tram tour, Everglades

In the picture below: a huge softshell turtle along the trail. They aren’t pets, can be aggressive and bite hard, despite their soft look:

Without hard shell, those turtles are very vulnerable
Without a hard shell, these turtles are very vulnerable

A couple of baby alligators, possibly 6 months old. Please don’t touch them.

Everglades, unique Florida destination where wildlife are abundan
Everglades, unique Florida destination where wildlife is abundant

Who knows, maybe those cuties are baby alligators parents:

The sweet couple
A sweet couple

This cutie can be very fast, be careful:

American alligator at Everglades, Florida
An american alligator at Everglades, Florida

Everglades: Unique Florida Destination where a bird watcher can be born

My passion for bird watching was born in the Everglades: no matter who you are, you can’t help but love that Roseate Spoonbill (pictured below)!

We didn’t have birding binoculars back then but still saw a lot of birds up close at the Shark Valley tram tour:

At first, at the far distance I was sure this is Flamingo :)
At first, at far distance, I was sure this is Flamingo πŸ™‚

Limpkins, in the picture below. We saw a lot of them, this is a close-up shot:

Everglades, unique Florida destination: Shark Valley residents
Everglades, unique Florida destination: Shark Valley residents

Anhinga, or “great spear-fisher”. Check out how they dive for fish on Youtube, it’s very entertaining!

Anhinga, or snake bird
Anhinga, or snake bird

Cute, wet from the rain red-shouldered hawk:

Everglades: unique Florida destination. Cute, wet hawk
Everglades: unique Florida destination. Cute, wet hawk

Other birds we saw were purple gallinules, the most beautiful, (in the featured picture of this post), ibises, herons, and black vultures – “car vandals”.

Where all the Everglades’ Florida Panthers?!

Pythons are eating Florida, it’s no joke but is the sad reality. Animals keep disappearing, some – forever. Only 120-130 Florida panthers are left in the wild. And the signs:

Be careful and watch your kids at the Everglades

Alligators’ jaws are extremely strong and powerful.

Prey caught in their jaws rarely gets away. We were told a story when a boy got close to an animal and nobody could open the jaws to get him out. After awhile the desperate mother finally found the only vulnerable spot to save a child – alligator’s eyes.

Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park

Views from Shark Valley Observation Tower

We had a short stop at Shark Valley Observation Tower. Although it might seem shabby, the views are amazing. Being so close to Miami, Everglades is really wild place:

My most favorite sight from the entire tour: unlike being on the ground, alligators move effortlessly and graciously in the water:

Swimming beauty: American Alligator, view from the Shark Valley Tower
Swimming beauty: American Alligator, view from Shark Valley Tower

Where we stayed while visiting Everglades, a unique Florida destination

Most people stay in Miami while exploring the Everglades. We choose the more unusual and further place since our next adventure was Florida’s Keys.

KLK – private campground with a pool on the Key Largo island was our temporary home, in the picture below:

Everglades National Park: 9 essentials for your visit

  • Good camera (you’ll want to use zoom) and binoculars are great to have while visiting the Everglades. I’d recommend Celestron 8*42 (waterproof binoculars), I use them almost every day.
  • A safe distance, respect, and patience for the wildlife, and please, only use mineral sunscreen, chemicals in some sunscreen is killing the reefs in Florida!

P.S. The movies and book about Florida for kids and families

β€œDolphin Tale” is a heartwarming and inspiring movie about friendship and rescuing a dolphin; based on a true story. Don’t be surprised if your kids will ask to be homeschooled and live on a boat in Florida! πŸ˜€

"The book is (I hope)a hymn of praise to dogs, friendship, and the South" - Kate DiCamillo
“The book is (I hope)a hymn of praise to dogs, friendship, and the South” – Kate DiCamillo

A great choice for elementary/middle school kids is Kate DiCamillo’s book (and the movie as well) β€œBecause of Winn-Dixieβ€œ. A great introduction to living in Florida through the eyes of 10 y/o, her challenges, and joy.

Read next:
Anhinga Trail, the #1 Wildlife Trail in Florida

Only Locals Know These Amazing Places: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Swimming With Manatee, Florida’s Shy and Gentle Giant

Thanks for reading guys! I hope you’ll enjoy Florida as much as we do πŸ™‚

By Mrs. Grazy Goat

I am Ira, the author behind Grazy Goat. My husband and I run this blog and share our experiences about thrilling places and cultures. Our son Artem recently joined us and helps with editing.

We are very happy to have YOU here 😻

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