I decided to share our brief visit to Everglades National Park as this area has several important sustainability and biodiversity aspects to it! We had some time to kill one morning in Ft. Lauderdale before flying home and decided that a short, 4-hour excursion to the Everglades might be just the ticket! The Everglades is a large National Park that takes up a substantial portion of southern Florida. 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.
The drive from Ft. Lauderdale to the Holiday Park portion of the Everglades is about 40 minutes. Once you arrive, there’s a small restaurant and gift shop, as well as the more infamous airboat tours and gator show.
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 alligators have been found in cities, backyards, and other public areas, and if they had not been rescued by the team at Holiday Park, they would have been killed. I like the option of them having a second chance at life and providing education to visitors, much better than I like the option of them being killed because they ended up in the wrong place, especially since humans are continually encroaching on their habitat.Anyway, this gator show was educational and it was interesting to see Chris Gillette, star of Gator Boys on Animal Planet, interact with these incredibly powerful animals. I would seriously never mess with an alligator as they are stronger than I imagined! They provide lots of information on alligators and I feel I walked away knowing more about this species, their habitat, and the conservation and protection efforts of this team. Afterward, there was an opportunity to pet a baby alligator and a python, but I chose not to participate in either of those activities.
The airboat rides throughout the Everglades was a very fun experience! You don’t realize how big the Everglades are until you’ve spent an hour on the water and barely covered any substantial distance. 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!
It was so cool to see the patches of lily pads stand upright immediately after an airboat had just skimmed over the top of them. And, there’s nothing quite as cool 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.
Unfortunately, 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, and 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. We are glad we took the time to get a glimpse of this treasured area and learn more about it!
What a few tips to reduce your environmental impact on a trip like this?
- 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 or other form of public transportation instead of renting a car!
We are so excited to be able to add the Florida Everglades to the list of National Parks we’ve been fortunate enough to visit. To read about our other National Park posts, please click the links below:
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