Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Florida's Natural Beauty

Preface: This post begins my documentation of my September 2011 ecotourism vacation to Costa Rica. We had to fly out of Miami so we alloted a day for sightseeing in Florida/Miami.
You just missed the tram tour. There's another one in one hour. That's what we were told as we paid our entrance fee to the Shark Valley entrance - the closest one from Miami. The next one is another 1.5 hour drive away we were told. That wouldn't pan with our plans. We weren't planning on spending most of our 34 hours stop in Miami driving around. No sir. We wanted to see as much of Miami as we could before embarking on our Central American vacation.
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By missing the 10 am tour, we had an hour to stretch our legs, visit the loo, load up on the necessities which were readily available at the gift shop - things like bug spray and full size sunblock. You're asking why we didn't buy one at home? Post 9/11 as you know liquid items are restricted to 3 oz on carry on bags.

The hour seemed long when waiting as you all know, which gave us time to look around the parking lot and visitor center and its surroundings and photograph everything.

It was hot - as could be expected - although the humidity didn't factor into my total mood yet - just wait *grin*.

There is a canal just off the visitor center where lotus plants were growing. We spotted different fishes, one of them the "enemy" Florida gar. I could identify that one because its image was on the signage.

At some point during the wait, I had to step into shade because the sun was bearing down really hard on me. Although if you look at my pictures, I didn't look miserably hot. Yes, pictures do lie.

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Florida Gar
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They are not the rounded platter shape, but heart shaped, which I have only seen here for the first time.
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The tram, very airy.

A woman named Sylvia introduced herself to us and asked us if we could sit on the benches. She proceeded to give us the background of Everglades National Park, which you can read here. Midway through her intro, the 10 am tram was inching its way back to the parking lot. I guess that was the signal for Sylvia to commence her own tour.
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The Shark Valley Tram Road is a 15 - mile long paved loop. The slow speed of the tour gave us access to the subtle landscape, different wildlife including migratory birds and alligators. We stopped several times where Sylvia went down the tram to point out something of interest or pick up an algae to show what she's been lecturing on.

It was a peaceful ride, looking out in the vast flat landscape with bushes and shrubs and occasional trees and grasses galore.
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Borrow Pit
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Saw anhinga for the first time. We saw plenty in Costa Rica afterwards.
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Crane? She stands out anywhere.
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Yes the place used to be where they dug/explored for oil.
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A baby gator in one of the borrow pits.
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Midway through the loop, we stopped to visit the Observation Tower which is equipped with bathrooms. Lonely Planet describes this as, "Halfway along the Shark Valley trail is the 50ft-high Shark Valley Observation Tower, an ugly concrete structure that offers dramatically beautiful views of the park."
I have to disagree with Lonely Planet because I don't find this tower "ugly" per se, even though I can't say that it's a thing of beauty either. But I am one with Lonely Planet in saying the views from up there are truly dramatic. You can see for miles in a flat landscape. I saw walkers and bicyclists. We passed by many bicyclists along this road for there is a bike rental in the visitor center. I'd love to bike here, but may be around 6 am would be the ideal time to explore this massive place.
A few feet before reaching the tower we spotted an alligator blocking a walking trail. We were instructed not to go around a gator, sleeping or not, just so one can hike that trail.
The bug spray was useless as mosquitoes were having a picnic atop the observation tower, which made me cut my time up there. I wonder why I wasn't bitten on the ground where I'm closer to stagnant water?
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This trail is closed by a gator.
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We continued with the tram tour and I was definitely thanking my lucky stars that took me here. I wasn't keen on visiting Florida. Nothing against the state, because someday I really really would love to go see the Harry Potter spot in Universal Studios. However, the heat is really a deal breaker for me, most of the times.
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He's got lunch between his beaks, can you see?
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What a lovely way to start our Florida/Miami sightseeing. Next stop: find the hotel and get checked in and wash away the bug spray, sunblock and sweat off my body.
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Next time btw, I'd take this airboat ride. It looks fun. It's the one you see on tv when they show the Everglades.

I'm linking this post to Lesley's SIGNS, SIGNS.

23 comments:

The Nomadic Pinoy said...

That's a close encounter and really quite a sight to see an alligator blocking a path. Even if it's just the tail, it still looks menacing!

While I've been to Florida several times in the past, I've never visited the Everglades. I agree, the heat down south can be very unforgiving.

Chyng said...

sharp and clear photos! ganda.

scary naman ang alligator! you'll be surprised pala nasa likod mo na sya. hehe

kayni said...

yikes, alligator blocked the trail :(.

EG Wow said...

You made very good use of your time. I have read a few books about the Everglades but have never been there.

Pat said...

Thanks for the tour! Very interesting. And, yeah, that gator would have stopped ME dead in my tracks, too!

George said...

Thanks for taking us along with you on your tram tour. I've never been to the Everglades, although I would like to visit some day. I'm sorry the mosquitoes found you to be so delicious.

Carola said...

Nice shots and story. Great sign. Looks like a German flag on top of the sign. Do you have any idea?

VioletSky said...

FLA is not high on my list of places to see.... but this looks like a fun trip. then again, i didn't have to deal with the humidity ;)

Carletta said...

Looks like you had a great day. The humidity and the alligator would discourage me. The baby one however is cute! :)
Thanks for taking us along!
Carletta@Round The Bend

dong ho said...

and i only know of the urban side of florida. this gave me an idea of it's natural resources.

Lesley said...

What a start to your holiday!

Kim, USA said...

Ewwww that gator is the kind of the road! ^_^

Inger-M said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful tour; thanks for sharing it. Great shots!

Lindy MacDuff said...

Thank you for sharing your tour and magnificent photos! I'm rather partial to your dragonfly image as well as the birds. ;-)

JTG (Misalyn) said...

Thanks for "taking us" along with you on your tour. Nag enjoy ako. Katakot naman yung alligator.

docgelo said...

wow, mother nature's creatures at their best! ...i like the photo of that dragonfly over the others. pero tama ang ibang commenters mo, that alligator is really scary-looking!

note to self : i should visit this blog of yours more. lagi kasi ako doon sa isa e. i admire you for keeping up 2 (or possibly more?) sites, it's really passion more than efforts, right?!

dharma owl said...

the gator made the tour more interesting and unforgettable..those are the things that make it epic. :D

Daphn3 LaurA said...

That trail is definitely off limits! But I wonder what if the alligator was lurking in the foliage and visitors had no idea and you make your way on the trail, would it suddenly attack? Did the guide mention any gator attacks on that trail?

Luke said...

What a great place to see wildlife!

don said...

Thanks for taking us along pictorially on this fabulous visit to see all the interesting sights. It all sounds great except for the mosquitos and big creatures blocking trails. ;-)

Pietro said...

Thanks for sharing this pleasant and interesting tour! How many beautiful images!

JM said...

I always wanted to visit the Everglades. Your photos make me wish to go there even more, they're great!

Ginnie said...

I actually have seen the Everglades, Maria, so I know all about the heat and humidity. Actually, it's the humidity that does me in. UGH. So glad you got to see this part of the country...the other side of the world for you, I know. :)