Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gators Galore and More

Air boat in the Everglades
Freeloaders, uh, birds, along for the ride
You'd think we'd had our fill of alligator sightings, but nope! Not yet! We're still seeing them and not always looking for them either. Today we wanted to see more of the Everglades. There was a reasonably priced boat tour, a catamaran that goes out from the Everglades National Park. When we got to the park, the boat was very full and it was going to be an hour's wait. We decided to head down to Speedy's airboat tours. They claim to go thru the grasslands instead of just the water, unlike some of the other tours. Well, they don't call themselves "Speedy's" for nothing! These guys LOVE their jobs as demonstrated by the way they pilot the boats. We were expecting a sedate boat ride, a naturalist's commentary on the Everglades, and a slow boat to China type tour. Wrong! (That's the national park tour) This was the hang onto your hats and seat rails, as you are going to be swung around every open marsh pond, leaving a monstrous fan-tail swoosh behind you, each one bigger than the last! It's a good thing they provide ear protection because these boats are LOUD!  Even with ear protection...No commentary to speak of, just a fabulous ride into Everglades country, seeing gorgeous scenery, marshlands, mangroves, and beautiful birds. We saw pelicans land on a competitor's boat, (they obviously must feed them.)  Bet that can get messy sometimes for both boat and passengers! We saw an osprey tear into some fresh prey...we saw a gator about nine feet long, but nothing like the ones we've been seeing along highway 41 around Everglades City and highway 29....

Mangrove tunnels
There had been quite a bit of rain a couple of days ago, so the water level was good for the ecosystem....we drove quite a bit through heavy mangrove tunnels that were just absolutely gorgeous. They seemed very healthy and were growing like crazy.  It was a beautiful sun shiny day, in the 60's, but you actually needed a jacket to stay warm today. At some points, they drive the boats FAST! which adds a little wind chill factor in, lol...At the end of the tour (about an hour) we got a great tip from the captain to go see gators safely. Instead of gawking along highway 41, which is a dangerous stretch of road with no place to pull off, pull into the Big Cypress Bend Nature Preserve, and check out the Turner River Road Scenic Drive. It's a left turn off highway 41 South past state road 29.

This drive has a boardwalk at the beginning of it, and we saw some incredible things...the usual gators, a BABY alligator that tried to crawl through the observer fence into the parking lot but then backed his way out after getting stuck for a moment, many herons, and an anhinga (the black bird that spread its wings constantly to dry them out before he can go fishing again). It was beautiful!

Where's my mama? I know she's in here somewhere!

But nothing tops the five or six alligators that we have seen every day in the same spot sunning themselves along the canals along highway 41 just north of state road 29 as we drive back to Naples. Nor can it top all the herons, ibis, egrets and hundreds of variety of birds that camp out on that same stretch of canal around the Everglades City area.  For some reason, this is the right time of year to see all the alligators and birds on this highway, and there are a TON of them. You just need to make sure the driver isn't doing the sidelines watching, you are! Either way, highway 41 or the Big Cypress Nature Preserve, it's truly awesome to see all this nature for free!
Cool bird seen at the Big Cypress Nature Preserve

OK,  I've saved the best "baddie" for last...thank goodness there was a fence between us..this is only about a 4X zoom in at that! And I DO mean it this time, see you LATER, alligator!

The baby alligator's mama, we think!


  1. What a magnificent shot Jeannie. National Geographic material I say. Bobbie, Sydney, AUS

  2. We have got to come down there sometime and check this place out. Is there any place cheap to stay down there?

  3. your cool bird appears to be a wood stork... love the teeth picture