Monday, December 30, 2013

Shark Valley

There are three areas of Everglades NP, each separated by a significant distance – Flamingo, Shark Valley and Gulf Coast.  I went to the the Gulf Coast area a few years ago when I came to Naples over Spring Break, we won’t be going there this time.  Shark Valley is on the northernmost part of the park and away from the saltwater and slightly higher ground – this means that the terrain is different, the animals are different, but it’s still a lot the same!  At Shark Valley there’s a tram that you can take or you can ride your bike the 15 miles around the road.   We went to Shark Valley and did the tram tour a few years ago and today Dad and I rode our bikes.  Biking is a much better way to experience Shark Valley, but then again it was cloudy most of the day and when it was sunny we were riding into the wind and that made it cooler, I’m sure that on a normal South Florida day with tons of sun & heat it would be miserable. 

When you ride your bike you have to go opposite of the trams so you can see them coming – they don’t make a lot of noise so you can’t hear them coming.   This means you start along the canal which is just crawling with animals – alligators, anhingas, great white egrets, snowy egrets, wood storks, little blue herons, great blue herons, and turtles!  It was a chance for me to learn what birds we were going to see so I could id them as we rode.  We also saw our first alligator.

Can you find it?


Here’s it’s eye:

P1140815There wasn’t much more to see until we got to the Observation Tower about halfway around.    At the tower there was a short trail and you could hike up the observation tower and get a 360 degree view of the “River of Grass”. 



The road we were riding on.


We saw a purple gallinule!


The trams stop at the tower and everyone gets out for 20 minutes then they have to get back on.  If you ride your bike you get to hang out at the tower after all the tram riders have left and it gets really quiet.

The trip back was more exposed and into the wind.  We did get to see more alligators!  Some where very close to the road!

P1080643P1140831This wasn’t even the closest alligator to the road, it was just the closest one I stopped to take a picture of. 

There were plenty of birds though….here’s a wood stork walking along almost on the surface of the spongy stuff (that spongy stuff is some kind of algae that feeds the apple snails and the birds eat the apple snails).

P1140833When we got back to the Visitor Center  we went back to the canal where we’d been this morning.  The sun brought out the alligators!

There are 5 alligators in this picture!

P1140843 I was able to take some great shots of the gators.


Alligator & Little Blue Heron

P1140846P1140858P1140861P1140864  P1140852

There were plenty of birds too!

Great Blue Heron


Great White Egret


Little Blue Heron




Snowy Egret




And even a turtle


After we left Shark Valley we took the Loop Road through the Big Cypress National Preserve.   It was a dirt road for part of it and on one side of the road there was a cypress swamp and the other was more jungle like.  There were gators on one side, not on the other!  There were birds too, but they were hard to see because of the trees and the undergrowth.



There were tons of air plants!


And a few Ibis


With one more stop in Florida, Titusville, my thoughts are beginning to turn to the trip home so today when I had cell phone signal I checked the weather forecast…it’s going to be a rude awakening back in Virginia – Friday’s high is forecast to be 29*!  With the coldest air of the season arriving Saturday!  And, there could be a snowstorm Thursday into Friday!  Fun Times!

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