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Looking to take your next travel adventure to the wetlands of Southern Florida?  Would it be even better if you had the opportunity to learn about sustainability and the area’s biodiversity.  Whether you have a full day or just a few hours, visiting beautiful Everglades National Park is a great outdoor adventure for you!

Getting There

This large National Park takes up a substantial area of Southern Florida.  This means it is easily accessible from major cities like Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, as well as other Florida hot spots.

From the cities surrounding the Park you can drive or take a tour into Everglades National Park.  One of the best ways to experience the bulk of what this Park has to offer is by airboat!  This is the only real way to dive deep into the Everglades.

Cruise Ship Excursion

Coming full circle on the proximity to Florida’s major cities, it is important to note that a trip to Everglades National Park is available as a cruise ship excursion.

Some cruise lines even offer a short adventure on the debarkation day of your cruise.  If you have some time to kill before catching your flight home, this might be a great option for you!  

We knew there was no way we could cover the millions of acres that make up this sprawling wetland, but we thought we might as well go explore what we could since we had the opportunity.

Holiday Park

We were traveling in and out of Ft. Lauderdale.  The drive from Port Everglades to the Holiday Park portion of the Everglades is about 40 minutes.  It is an interesting ride away from the city and out towards central Florida. Once you arrive at the Holiday Park center, you’ll notice they have built quite the little tourist business.  There’s a small restaurant and gift shop, as well as the more infamous airboat tours and gator show.dscn0204

Gator Show and Animals

While potentially controversial, I feel the need to address this portion of the park and tour.  Animal tourism is something which my feelings have evolved on substantially over the years.  I know unethical interactions tend to be of utmost concern for some travelers.  On the other hand, there are also plenty of travelers who could really care less about these types of issues.

Let me start by saying I wasn’t too sure what to think of the gator show.  I’ve become much more aware of animal exploitation in tourism recently and am trying to be more conscious of my support of these types of things. 

The one thing that peaked my interest on this was the explanation that all of the alligators housed at Holiday Park are what they refer to as “nuisance gators”.  Basically, this means that these particular alligators have been found in cities, backyards, and other public areas.  If they had not been rescued by the team at Holiday Park, they would have been killed.  Having a second chance at life is a better option of them.  dscn0222

Where To Draw The Line

As a spectator, I found myself wondering where to draw the line between rescuing nuisance alligators and exploiting wild animals.  This gator show starred members of a television show called “Gator Boys” which features their work rescuing alligators. 

If the gator boys are so concerned about the well-being of alligators, I pondered why so many of these animals were all contained together in such small enclosures at Holiday Park?  Yes, they had some water features and some shade, but this is definitely a thought-provoking show.

I noticed another questionable choice immediately after leaving the show arena.  Nearby employees were holding a baby alligator directly near the exit.  For $10, you could pet and fondle the little guy all you wanted.  We did not participate in this offering.

Learning Opportunity

Although I wasn’t sure what to think of this part of our visit, I walked away knowing more about this species, their habitat, and the conservation and protection efforts of this team they chose to share with the visitors.

Because we believe in providing learning opportunities with others, we wanted to share this element of our visit with you.  We encourage you to really think about these types of activities when you travel.

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Everglades Airboat Ride

Riding an airboat throughout the Everglades is a very fun experience!  These tourist boats are built to pack a lot of people.  If you want a good view, try not to be assigned to a seat in the middle.  Another consideration are seats in the very front row.  The sun beaming through the protective plexi-glass shield gets super hot!

 

You don’t realize how big the Everglades are until you’ve spent an hour on the water and barely covered any substantial distance. 

Make sure to bring the following for your ride:

  • Sunglasses (that won’t fall into the water)
  • Hat (that also won’t fall into the water)
  • Chemical-free sunscreen
  • Camera

Biodiverse Wetlands

The Everglades are a marshy, slow-moving river of grass, with water, reeds, trees, and wildlife spanning every direction, as far as the eye can see.   If you don’t know where you were going, it would be very easy to wind up disoriented and completely lost in the labyrinth of channels. 

Even in the short distance we covered, it’s easy to see why this area is so important and special.  The eco-system provides a huge amount of biodiversity!  The Everglades are home not only to alligators and crocodiles, but to other animals like iguanas, turtles, and the endangered manatees, multiple bird species, fish, plants, and so much more!  In the not so distant past, Floridians tried to get rid of the ‘Glades.  Now, they are a protected area. 

It is so cool to see the patches of lily pads stand upright immediately after an air boat had just skimmed over the top of them.  And, there’s nothing quite as exciting as seeing something in the water up ahead and realizing it is the eyes of a wild alligator just above the surface as it makes its way across the water.

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Sustainability

Because of the demands and continued urban sprawl in cities like Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, and other environmental factors, the natural resources of the Everglades are being tapped more and more.  Some of the species and their habitat here are threatened.  Fortunately, because it is a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site among other things, there are protections in place, as well as opportunities to get involved with a variety of group’s efforts in protecting this site.  

Sustainable Tips

  • Add on this type of side trip or outing while you’re already in an area instead of planning an entirely separate trip to see one thing.
  • Take the bus, tour, or other form of public transportation instead of renting a car.
  • As with any National Park, we recommend following the Leave No Trace Principles.
  • Do not feed wildlife.

There are many groups working to help save the Everglades.  While our visit was brief, we are glad we were able to visit this natural wonder.  

 

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19 Comments

  1. So informative thanks for sharing!
    It’s so lovely that you know that the aligators you saw wouldn’t be alive if they weren’t taken to that place. Makes it nicer to know they aren’t there instead or somewhere better! Sounds like a place I need to put on my list!

  2. I have heard of the Everglades but didn’t really know much about them until now! This is a really informative and educational post and I love the vision you gave me of the lilypads springing back up again after the airboat had passed over them – brilliant. I also appreciate your honesty and thoughts on the gator’s as it’s always a difficult subject but I also prefer the fact that these gator’s are still alive instead of being killed. Loving your sustainable posts, keep them up 🙂

  3. The Everglades are amazing with its biodiversity. Liked how you pointed out that the cities are taking away the natural resources of the Everglades which are being trapped and species habitats are being threatened. Great that it is an UNESCO site to protect the land. How amazing to experience this and thanks for sharing 🙂 I have not been there yet but will have to take an air-boat ride to see this biodiversity.

  4. The Everglades are a wonderful journey. Living in Florida most of my life I watched how it has changed over the many years. Gators can be a pesky problem, nothing more scary than to see one in your swimming pool. Nice post thanks for sharing your experience.

  5. The Everglades are one of those places I really want to see. I hope the rich biodiversity is well protected so future generations don’t miss out on this beautiful part of the world. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks Jennifer for a very informative post about The Everglades. We heard about it before but didn’t really know what to expect. Your post is very informative and full of useful information. We like how you focus on being sustainable while travelling. We made few mistakes in our youth and we now make sure to consider this idea when we are travelling. We recently decided to avoid snorkelling with whale sharks in Cebu, in the Philippines as the mammals are fed and kept in nets. Instead we chose to go to Donsol where we were swam with whale sharks in their natural environment! We are taking a year off in 2017 and plan to spend at least 6 months in South America! We cannot wait! Keep up the great work on your blog! Where are you and Darin travelling next?
    Patrick and Cécile from http://www.travel4lifeblog.com

    1. Thanks for stopping by and subscribing!! I do one post a month that’s part of my sustainable Sunday series. It’s amazing what little changes you can make in your travels that are helpful for the environment, much like you did with swimming with whale sharks! We have a few small trips planned in January, but our next big trip is in March to Italy!!

  7. The Everglades and Florida for that matter is another place on our list! We really want to do a road trip one day around the county. I’m all for education when it comes to animals, so thanks for sharing that about the alligators, really interesting. Great pics too, video’s a bit scary!

  8. I think the everglades would be a really cool spot to visit, since I’ve seen countless shots of them on TV. I like that there was a purpose behind relocating the alligators to the Holiday Park, at least it saves them in a sense. I bet the airboat was a lot of fun too. Neat!

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