The Everglades is a 1.5 million acres of subtopical freshwater marshland. Water once flowed freely from Kissimmee River to Lake Okeechobee and south to the estuaries of Biscayne Bay, the Ten Thousand Islands, and Florida Bay. It was a shallow, slow-moving sheet of water that covered 11,000 square miles.
It is home to many rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the Florida panther.
First up, an airboat ride out to find some alligators. The guide mentioned a couple of things I thought were funny. The first was that if something happened to her we should call the number posted on the boat for help. As she put it, "If you call 911 and tell them you're stranded in the Everglades they won't even know where to start looking (see 1.5 million acres)." The second thing was to keep arms and legs inside the boat. Not only will a gator get you (probably not, they aren't actually very aggressive), but the sawgrass will definitely cut a bitch.
Sawgrass literally has serrated edges like a knife.
Gator off the port bow!
We were lucky enough to see several alligators out and about.
It is beautiful on the river of grass. Deadly, but beautiful.
After the boat tour, we went ashore and were treated to a couple of presentations first about gators and then about other conservation efforts.
The guy sitting in front of me at the gator show was wearing this shirt.
After the gator presentation we had the chance to hold a baby.
For those of you keeping count this is the second time I've held an alligator. The first was in Louisiana, and both times the gator peed (either just before or just after I held it). Never on me, though. Never on me.
At this park the guy taped the mouth shut and then kind of just let everyone pass the little guy around. So this time was a little bit less controlled than the photo-op only experience in Louisiana. I can tell you this time around I noticed how strong these guys are. They tend to thrash around a little bit (kind of like a wiggly puppy), and you can feel the power in their tiny little bodies already. I would not like to meet a full grown, hungry, gator.
The next guy talked about their non-gator rescue operations. They have two Florida panthers;
When I first saw them I thought, "Oh, these are just cougars/mountain lions being called something else." Turns out they are the same animal just with different names and slightly different coloring in that part of the world.
It was also home to an adorable Fennec fox, and many other cute, furry beasts.
They also have snakes.
I've never held a snake; always turned down the chance when given the opportunity, but decided to just go for it here. The lady I asked to take the picture was taking forever to snap it (which is probably my camera's fault...I really need a new one), so the constrictor had a chance to start wrapping itself around and behind me.
The guy in charge had told us before holding it that he would wrangle the head so we definitely wouldn't get bitten. He also told us to either hold our arms straight at our sides or use an open hand to support the snake. No grabbing and holding it. The snake doesn't like to be grabbed! Anyhow, again I was absolutely floored by how strong this snake was. I could feel its muscles rippling and moving across my neck and back, and I could feel it wrapping itself around my arm. Again, I never want to meet a full grown, hungry constrictor. Ever.
Loved this sign!
I'm not sure why anyone would want to steal these guys, but I'm glad they're LoJacked just in case.