Travel

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades

June 1, 2014


Alligator Spotting and Canoeing at Everglades National Park - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

When Andy and I road tripped down south in our RV, Florida’s Everglades National Park was high on our list of places to see. Florida didn’t impress us over all, but we loved swimming in the ocean when we visited Delray Beach, exploring some state parks further inland, and watching the shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral.

The Everglades: oh my goodness, how to sum it up? Despite being in the warm, southern climate, I was in my usual winter state and so would love to visit again at a different time of year. It was gorgeous, though, and I’m so glad we made this the second national park stop on our trip.

We saw more diverse wildlife than I’ve ever seen in one spot: alligators, dolphins, cranes, cormorants, and turtles, to name a few.

Canoeing and Alligators in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

A butterfly against the lovely blue sky.

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Anyone know what this bird is?

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

A particularly beautiful cormorant- love that blue-eye-orange-beak combo!

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

A crane spotted in the water from an elevated viewing platform.

Part of what makes the Everglades so awesome is its mission to serve as a wildlife habitat. This includes, of course, alligators, which I had never seen before and have not seen since being in Florida.

From the NPS website:

The park is home to a vast array of animals that have adapted to a subtropical environment in which temperate climatic conditions, characteristic of latitudes to the north, merge with tropical Caribbean conditions. The winter dry season, which lasts from December to April, is the best time for wildlife viewing in the park. Weather conditions are generally pleasant during the winter and standing water levels are low, causing wildlife to congregate at central water locations.

Female alligators will vehemently protect their nests and their young until they reach one to two years of age. Keep your eyes out for baby alligators in the Everglades – they’re about a foot long with yellow stripes.

We kept our eyes out all right. That alligator tidbit couldn’t have proven more true:

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Oh yes, I was not above the dumb tourist trick of pretending to touch some relatively close wildlife. Sigh.

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Mama alligator not far from where we were standing.

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Andy’s one close-up of a baby alligator- look at that eye! So cute.

That little guy above was part of a whole little nest that we stumbled onto. They were alone for a few minutes, and Andy managed to get this picture right before the mama gator came back:

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Baby alligators, piled on top of each other and waiting patiently for their mama.

That excitement was all on our first day in the Everglades. The next day, Andy and I did something rather uncharacteristic and signed up for a canoe tour of the Ten Thousand Islands. Neither of us could remember the last time we’d paddled a canoe, but hey, we were in the Everglades! Plus we were nearing the end of our 3 1/2 month road trip and needed a little bit of an adventure.

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

I saw my first dolphin while paddling in our canoe!

It took us a few minutes to get the hang of working together and coordinating our movements, but it worked out eventually 🙂

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Lots of turn-around-look-at-the-camera shots, since sat in front

Our tour was led by one guide and included about eight other couples. We paddled around the islands, watched for wildlife, admired the mangrove trees, and even stopped on a little island for lunch.

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Oh my goodness, there were so many canoes to maneuver onto this tiny island!

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

We couldn’t get enough of the beautiful blue sky and clouds: it was hard to focus on the water and things at eye level!

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

Andy and I in our super sexy orange life preservers.

Oh man, I love being on or near the water! These photos are nice motivators to plan something boat-oriented in the near future.

Alligator Spotting and Canoeing in the Everglades - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

 

*

No more cars in national parks. Let the people walk. Or ride horses, bicycles, mules, wild pigs–anything–but keep the automobiles and the motorcycles and all their motorized relatives out. We have agreed not to drive our automobiles into cathedrals, concert halls, art museums, legislative assemblies, private bedrooms and the other sanctums of our culture; we should treat our national parks with the same deference, for they, too, are holy places. An increasingly pagan and hedonistic people (thank God!), we are learning finally that the forests and mountains and desert canyons are holier than our churches. Therefore let us behave accordingly.      –Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

This is Nature’s own reservation, and every lover of wildness will rejoice with me that by kindly frost it is so well defended.     –John Muir, Our National Parks

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  • Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life June 2, 2014 at 12:24 am

    It looks amazing! I have not been to the Everglades since I was a kid (when my parents took me) and I would love to go back. I found it fascinating then and I know I would now as well. I love your pictures! What happened when mama gator came back?!
    Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life recently posted…12 Delicious Recipes for Your Summer BarbequeMy Profile

    • Christy June 2, 2014 at 7:13 am

      What happened: we high tailed it out of there! Andy says ‘scariest growl you ever heard’. Really, we heard the growl, saw a glimpse (she came back to the nest via a large underground pipe), and ran. Oh man…reminds me of the bears in Shenandoah National Park!

  • thedoseofreality June 2, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Despite the fact that the alligator pictures kind of make me want to cry, I would totally LOVE to go there. It looks amazing! Great photos!-Ashley
    thedoseofreality recently posted…Would You Rather: Summer Sandal Or Summer Hat?My Profile

    • Christy June 2, 2014 at 10:26 am

      No, don’t cry! I was going to say I love all animals, but I don’t love centipedes. Or spiders of any kind.

  • Seana Turner June 2, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Visiting the Everglades is on my bucket list. I don’t know why, but I’ve just always wanted to visit and never done it. This is a great reminder for me of what a treasure this place really is!

    • Christy June 2, 2014 at 10:30 am

      It really is worth the trip! Thanks for your comment, Seana 🙂

  • Carolann June 2, 2014 at 11:04 am

    wow….what amazing pics! It looks like you guys had a blast! I think I would love to do something like that, but my hubby on the other hand…well..nope! lol
    Great post….I really enjoyed it!
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    • Christy June 2, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Thanks, Carolann, I’ll pass on the praise to my Andy!

  • Katie June 2, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Welp, It’s official. I need to move to Florida right now.

    • Christy June 2, 2014 at 11:43 am

      Haha- I’m not sure I’d want to live there- I appreciate different seasons and landscapes too much!

  • Rachel June 2, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Wow! You captured some amazing pictures. I’ve never been to the Everglades, but it just landed on my list of places to visit.
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    • Christy June 2, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Thanks Rachel! I’m so eager to visit more national parks- I’ve never even seen the Grand Canyon! So many places, so little time 😉

  • Kerry June 2, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    It looks really beautiful there and being able to canoe. Though if I saw the alligator I would probably run screaming! Haha!

    • Christy June 2, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      Yes, I love that we did the canoe trip! I didn’t see anyone in the park running or screaming, so I think everyone there pretty much expected to see alligators 🙂

  • Tamara June 2, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    I don’t really love Florida… UNLESS.. it’s in the middle of winter and New England is miserable.
    AND I love this part of Florida. What an adventure. I love seeing alligators, actually. I have a story about canoeing in Florida that still makes me giggle.

    • Christy June 2, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      Yeah, I feel the same way- I wouldn’t want to go back to FL except to see the Everglades again- and the Keys! Because hello, Caribbean 🙂

      And if I hadn’t already sent you your questions I would have asked about that alligator story! I’ll have to get it out of you another time!

  • Dana June 2, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    How cool – my kids love watching Swamp People and I think they would be beside themselves if they actually saw an alligator in the Everglades. And I would so be that tourist pretending to touch the gator – how could you resist?

    • Christy June 2, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      Haha, I couldn’t! I was just incredulous that they were just *there*, feet away and it was totally chill. And I imagine it would be a fantastic place to take kids!

  • Megan June 3, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Everglades National Park is yet another place that I need to visit. I love canoeing and it looks like you had such a good time. Maybe that will be added to my list for next winter!

    • Christy June 7, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      Yes, we had a great time! I recommend visiting the Everglades for sure! Thanks for stopping by, Megan 🙂

  • Miss Angie June 4, 2014 at 11:01 am

    That is soooo neat! Alligators are terrifying, but also so fascinating!

    • Christy June 7, 2014 at 9:18 pm

      Haha, you said it exactly!

  • katherine June 4, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    My dad works with National Parks a lot, so I’ve been so fortunate to see more than I can count. Visiting the national parks NEVER gets old to me. The beauty of nature is just unreal to me. I absolutely loved the everglades when we visited. Oddly enough, we went canoeing there too. It was so much fun. I didn’t see the alligators though, which may be a good thing seeing as those look quite terrifying!
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    • Christy June 7, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      Oh I love that we both went canoeing there! Aren’t all the national parks just gorgeous? I can’t wait to cross more of them off my list. The next closest one that I haven’t been to is Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee!

  • Akaleistar June 7, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Amazing pictures!

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