Gator Park in The Florida Everglades – a must-see if you’re in the area. For convenience, the tour hosts a pick-up service at your hotel in Miami and then shuttles you to the Everglades with an approximate hour-long drive. Upon arrival, the tour guide hands out ear plugs, which you’ll definitely need when the airboats fire up their engines.
The airboats are conveniently docked for easy boarding, with enough room to comfortably seat 10 – 20 passengers on each boat. However, if you’re looking for something geared toward a bit more of a personal experience, there is a pricier option that offers a smaller 3-4 passenger boat.
The tour begins with a meandering ride through the lush canals, where visitors can observe Everglades wildlife. Birds indigenous to the area include bald eagles, osprey, white Ibis, brown pelicans, purple gallinules, pale pink flamingos, red woodpeckers and blue herons. Given the names of these birds, one would that think this ecosystem was a wash of bright colour. But the fact is, they seem to blend in. Still, they’re much easier to see than the variety of turtles, frogs, snakes and fish that live there.
Of course, spotting the lurking yellow eyes of a gator in the water amongst the water lilies and sawgrass is what most tourists come to see, and the commotion and splashing they cause in the blackened water as they dive for cover provides for some interesting photo opportunities. There is even opportunity to see American crocodiles as they co-exist with the American alligator in this area.
The airboat tour lasts roughly an hour and brings visitors back to the park again for an educational wildlife show, where various Glades species are introduced, including scorpions, toads, birds and reptiles.
Afterwards, tourists are free to explore the grounds, which includes a few gators kept in pens and some free range peacocks that wander around and put on a show with their colourful plumage. At the restaurant, visitors can grab a sandwich or burger, or if they’re feeling particularly adventurous they can try frog legs or alligator prepared several different ways. But no matter what you’ve been told about the taste – trust me, it isn’t like chicken no matter how it’s been cooked.
The tour concludes with a bus ride back to your hotel in Miami. Overall it’s a fun way to spend the day, not to mention very educational. It’s just a shame that one of the realities of the area is that this very important ecosystem is in danger and quickly disappearing.
Lead Photo courtesy of Gator Park