After grabbing a flight back to Miami from Bogota I pick up a car from the airport and drive south to stay at Super 8 Florida City/Homestead ($133, 2nghts), the perfect base for a couple of days in Everglades National Park.
In 1947 this was the first national park created to protect a threatened ecological system. This subtropical region’s only source of water is the rain that falls on it. But extensive canal and levee systems now shunt off much life-giving water before it reaches Everglades National Park. No elevation within the park tops 8 feet above sea level.
“River of Grass” was the name given this gently sloping landscape by conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas in the 1940s, it is currently an apt description but for how much longer this will be the case who can know?
There’s a lot of wildlife to enjoy, from birds (even if some may damage my car!) to gators & crocs, snakes, lizards, spiders & insects it’s fantastic to wander and spot them. From Flamingo I take a boat tour onto the water where we cruise through the mangroves catching sights of some crocodiles lazing in the shade.
South Florida is the only place where the American alligator and American crocodile coexist, the alligator at it’s southern extreme in the Everglades while crocodiles are at their northern extreme and are found on the islands of Cuba and Jamaica, as well as along both coasts of southern Mexico and Central America, south to Ecuador on the Pacific coast of South America, and Venezuela on the Atlantic coast.
Crocodiles can be distinguished from alligators by several important differences. The American crocodile is lizard-shaped with a long, muscular tail and four short legs that have five toes on the front feet and four on the back feet. Adults have grayish-green backs and tails and white to yellowish undersides and their narrow snout is triangular in shape. Alligators are more numerous in Florida than crocodiles, are darker, have a broader snout, and are typically found in freshwater habitats.
Driving around within the national park there are many places to stop off with trails and visitor centres, on one of the trails I stopped to ask a family what they were photographing and it took a while for me to spot this snake sticking it’s head out of a dead branch about head height in the woods.
The spider, pictured, is by far the most beautiful I’ve seen (a golden silk orb weaver) and I’m not someone who likes to get close to arachnids. The Everglades is an amazing ecosystem to experience and is full of life, I just hope that it can be protected sufficiently to keep it alive!