weekend away - The Everglades
Written by Oryx
Theres more to the Everglades than gators and swamps – from stunning mangrove tunnels and hardwood hammocks to 10,000 islands and pristine beaches.
Spanning over 1,900 sq. km, from inland marshes to coastal waterways along the Gulf of Mexico, the Everglades is the USA’s only subtropical wilderness, and is still relatively untouched.
Perhaps the most popular way to experience this diverse ecosystem and all its flora and fauna – which range from the ubiquitous alligator to various types of herons and manatees – is by airboat. There are also chances to watch alligator shows and even hug baby alligators along the way! For those who prefer to explore the area on foot, there are several boardwalk trails, many of which offer educational titbits about the local plants and wildlife.
For the true nature lover, for about US$2 a day, experience the Wilderness Waterway trail, which runs 160km from Everglades City to the town of Flamingo on the Gulf of Mexico, and which can be paddled in nine days, with ample campsites on the ground, beaches, or chickees (built-out decks over the water).
Since fishing opportunities in the Everglades abound, there’s no shortage of down-home, delicious seafood joints. City Seafood in Everglades City is a working dock, and diners aren’t frowned upon for throwing shells from their just-eaten stone crabs into the water. For more adventurous foodies, the best gator steak is offered at Joanie’s Blue Crab Café in Ochopee.
A word to the wise – take plenty of insect spray, sunscreen, and water (the waterways are all salt water and absolutely not drinkable) on any Everglades adventure and avoid the sweltering summer months as temperatures in these parts can reach well into the 30s, with August being the rainiest month.
The airboat, the Everglades’ choicest ride
Although the airboat is thought to have been invented in the early 1900s by Alexander Graham Bell, it wasn’t until the 1920s that this flat-bottomed, airplane-propeller driven vessel was first used in the swamplands of Florida. Ideal for navigating in shallow waters – the propeller is encased in a cage at the back of the boat, completely over the water – this boat whips over the waters, giving its riders a thrilling, smooth ride through the mangrove tunnels and grassy rivers of the Everglades.