Wednesday, 26 December 2012

See you later alligator

Whilst we were visiting Miami, we could not pass up the opportunity to visit Gator Park in the heart of the Everglades and take an airboat ride through the "river of grass".  

The Everglades was coined "The River of Grass" by Marjory Stoneman Douglas  because the water is not stagnant like that in swamps, but instead travels very slowly from north to south. The Everglades is one of the world's largest and slowest flowing rivers. 

Our guide was a quirky, barefooted guy with a raspy voice that conjured up images of rusty nails. He was a real character who obviously enjoyed his job and as he turned the engine over he would call out to the alligators by name (obviously all for show) and they would appear in the water alongside the boat. I think the vibrations in the water caused by the engine being switched on and off was the more likely lure!

C'mon out lil fella
The first part of the ride was slow so we were able to observe alligators, soft shell turtles and various species of birds and plant life at close quarters. Then he cranked up the engine and off we went at pace over the water that seemingly stretched as far as the eye can see. He threw in a few jack knife turns which caused the water to spray over everyone and the whole experience was exhilarating! It's hard to believe the water is only a few inches deep.

After the boat ride we went to an alligator show presented by another character with a craggy face and voice to match. All he needed was a parrot on his shoulder!  As well as demonstrating how the natives wrestled with the alligators in order to keep and eat them, the show featured the largest toad I have ever seen, a snake, a giant scorpion and a cockatoo. Normally I am not comfortable watching any kind of display involving animals but this one was relatively short and very informative giving a brief history of the native people who inhabited the area and their relationship with their environment. 

River of Grass
The Everglades: River of Grass is a non-fiction book written by Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 1947. Published the same year as the formal opening of Everglades National Park, the book was a call to attention about the degrading quality of life in the Everglades and continues to remain an influential book on nature conservation as well as a reference for information on South Florida.

For more info on the Everglades National Park go to

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