The Everglades National Park are recognized nationally and internationally as a unique habitat. Most people mistakenly think of the Everglades as a swamp, but it is actually a very slow-moving and shallow river, which originates in Lake Okeechobee. It then flows over the southern Florida plains on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. It takes its time getting there, at a rate varying from 2,000 feet a day to about one mile in two and a half days, according to water depth.
At places only a few inches deep and 50 miles wide, the River of Grass creates a unique ecosystem that is home to a rich and varied flora and fauna. These include a hundred and fifty species of trees, forty species of mammals, hundreds of types of colorful birds, and reptiles and amphibians like crocodiles and alligators. One of the best ways to explore this ecosystem is by tram or bicycle, and Shark Valley Tram Tours can take you there.
Owner Bob Nodell explains what you can expect: "The tram tours in Shark Valley provide visitors with a two-hour guided tour through the heart of the fresh water slough. Trams provide a unique opportunity for guides to narrate their way through the area, pointing out interesting and important features of the ecosystem, as well as, visible wildlife in the region." There's an Observation Tower at the half-way mark, with a twenty-mile panoramic view.
Self-guided bicycle tours, too, allow visitors to get close to the natural world, and to travel at their own pace. Nodell's advice is to "Stop longer at some areas which appeal more to you, get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for peace of mind, and explore an internationally recognized natural wonder."
As in any natural system, the wildlife you can expect to see varies with the seasons. Winter is the best season to visit the National Park, since it is also the dry season. At this time, says Nodell, "temperatures are a little cooler to keep things more active, water levels are lower to concentrate wildlife, and migrating birds become true 'snowbirds' to the region.
Alligators, which spread out across the Everglades in the wet times (summer,) must gather closer together in the dry times, relying on the life giving water of the 'glades."
The tram tours are very popular and fill up quickly. Especially in the winter, Nodell recommends making reservations in advance. The best time for bicycling is early in the day, when it's cooler and the animals, having encountered fewer people, are less shy. As with all wildlife, visitors are asked to keep a respectful distance and to avoid disturbing dens and nesting areas. For alligators, the best advice is the common sense one: stay away!
Visitors will find a browse around the gift shop a great way to collect mementos of their trip, including tee shirts, plush and educational books for children, and Shark Valley Gear such as shirts, reusable water bottles, hats and more.