“Crikey!” To quote Steve Irwin, that’s how I felt yesterday while doing a 15 mile bike trek at Shark Valley in the Florida Everglades National Park. Shark Valley is located in the Northern most part of the Everglades 30 miles west of Miami and about 75 miles east of Naples on US 41 (Tamiami Trail.) It’s the third largest National Park in the Continental US.
It was definitely worth the hour and some change trip. We arrived a little after 12:30 PM. It cost us $10.00 to enter the parking lot near the 15 mile loop paved trail. The ticket is good for 7 days into any entrance in the National Park. How freakin’ cool is that? They also offer Tram tours but I recommend either walking part of the trail or best of all biking (if you’re able.) You can also catch numerous Air Boat Tours off of Tamiami Trail.
Tram tours are controlled and walking the trail or biking gives you a more up close and personal view of the Sawgrass Prairie and wildlife along the trail. Be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, bug spray, and maybe some snacks. Whatever you do don’t feed the wildlife! That is a big no no.
Children under 10 are required helmets just FYI. Oh, and don’t rent the park’s bikes. Every mile or so someone was fixing either a broken chain or had tire problems. They’re pretty rickety.
The trail closet to the Visitors Center and entrance to the parking lot is the one you will want to start out on. I’ll get to the reason why later. Immediately when we entered the parking lot I had already spotted a huge Alligator on the other side of the marsh. I made TZ drop me off so I could snap a few photos while he unloaded our bikes from the back of the truck. Nice girlfriend huh?
It was the perfect day for the trip. We’ve had an unseasonably cool Winter here in south Florida this year and luckily there was no humidity and best of all no biting bugs to contend with. The sun was shining in almost clear blue skies. Everything was so green and vibrant. While TZ snapped this photo, me and the tourists behind me were checking out a baby gator. Cute as all get out! Not much further down the trail we spotted a Mama gator with about six of her youngins. Some were taking a swim close to Mom while others were hitching a ride on her head and back. How cute is that?
Here are a few other photos of birds which I’m not sure what they were. This is where a tour guide would have come in handy. If anyone might know please feel free to drop some knowledge on me. At first I thought these were Pink Flamingos but after Googling a question I came up with either a Pink Ibis or Pink Spoonbill. Anyone know? Anyone?
Not far down from these birds we spotted this gator which appeared to be doing a death roll in the water, but I think it was just trying to eat some small fish around it really. Kids, don’t try this at home. It’s important you respect the Alligators and their environment. Note the piece of dead Sawgrass on the gator. In an attempt to get a better photo of the gator, someone who shall remain nameless *cough cough Me* threw a piece of dead sawgrass into the water to get the gator to come up out of the water. This gator hissed at us so we
hauled ass out of there moved forward in a pretty damn fast manor.
Seriously, respect all the wildlife in the park. It’s important to remember that these are wild animals who can strike at any moment. Make sure to keep a safe distance. Remember that the trail is surrounded by gators on both sides. If you’re snapping photos have someone look around or if alone pay attention to what is around you. I think in this situation the buddy system is always best.
Halfway through the bike trail there is a 64 foot observation deck to view the breathtaking Prairie and wildlife from another perspective. . To the right of TZ was a lovely marsh area adorned with lily pads. Swim anyone? Anyone?
While walking up the observation deck we spotted a Snapping Turtle in the water below. Well at least that is what someone else said it was. Once up on the deck I zoomed in on a group of sunbathing gators. On the way back down I snapped this photo of the vast land which reminded of an African Safari. Although, I’m not sure, but I think I can see an Indian Casino at 1:00.
After we came down from the observation deck it was time to head back. We were only mid-way through the trail. We still had 7.5 miles to go. We noticed most everyone was going back the way they came from. The good “rule followers” we are… errrrrr ehemmmm… we went counter clock wise the way the website had recommended.
About 10 minutes later we realized why everyone went back the way they came. This side of the trail was just mostly vast prairie land with almost no sight of gators. Mostly just birds and Sawgrass. It made the ride seem so much longer.
However, we did stumble upon a few loner gators, which still made it worth the trip back. At least that’s what I tried to convince myself. At that point I was trying my damnedest not to complain and be positive. I’m not kidding, my rump was sore! I saw no end to that trail in sight. Only vast land with a few straggler bikers.
The whole trip probably took us somewhere around 3 to 3 and a half hours with exploring, photographing, and resting. I recommend this trip to anyone that is able to sustain. What a great day!