Saturday, February 13, 2016

Florida and the Everglades

So, whilst Winter Storm Jonas was silently burying much of the North East in 3 feet of snow, we were enjoying the more temperate (if a little soggy) climes of Florida. 

Not quite without its own weather anomalies - Florida is currently suffering a very wet winter. Typically, winter is their dry season, with perhaps an inch of rain in total - drought is not uncommon.  This winter, they've already had 20" of rain, and it was showing - flooded fields, overflowing run-offs, bedraggled looking wildlife...  It doesn't look good for the rainy season to come!

But we were able to enjoy a few days of sunshine.  Obviously it would have been rude not to enjoy some cocktails whilst we watched the famous Naples sunset from the beach bar...

But it wasn't all just lazing by the beach.  We also took a trip into the Everglades, mostly in the hope we'd see a real life alligator.  Admittedly it poured with rain for the entire trip, but we had the best time!

We'd booked an airboat trip, which took us into the mangrove waterways.  Our airboat was piloted by a very authentic-looking sea-dog, with curly white hair, a beard and a limp, and he raced us through the maze of waterways at exhilarating speeds.  Occasionally, the narrow avenues would open out into wide stretches of water - apparently perfect for hand-brake turns as we skidded sideways across the top of the water!  The whole area was a complete maze of water lanes, closed in with slightly creepy looking mangrove roots, and we were reassured when the pilot told us he knew the area like his backyard.

We saw an alligator almost immediately - just hanging out at the edge of the forest, not far from the harbour, the top of its head just visible above the water in the teeming rain.  And as we came back into the harbour, soaking wet but with the biggest smiles, we were also treated to the site of a mother dolphin and her calf.  Amazing.

Afterwards, we got to hold a baby alligator called, appropriately, Snappy, who was about 3 feet long.  He was actually quite cute, surprisingly soft-skinned, and he closed his eyes in apparent bliss if you scratched the top of his head!

From there, our tour guide took us on a back-road tour of the Everglades for a glimpse of more native wildlife.  So many species of birds, we lost count - wood storks, kingfishers, spoonbills, vultures, herons, pelicans, moorhens (just the ones I can remember!).  We also briefly saw the rising heads of manatees in the flooded pools as they popped up to breathe.  
And so many alligators - again just hanging out in the water by the sides of the road. The biggest one we saw was allegedly 12 feet in length - difficult to tell when you can only see their eyes above the water! 

 I think we definitely fulfilled our wish to see alligators in the Everglades!

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