My orange-colored ear plug fell on the floor. Then it flew overboard and disappeared in water spray. The roar of the airboat engine grew exponentially as we flew over the sawgrass prairie at high speed.
When we slowed down and finally stopped altogether, the sky and land seemed to merge here, in the middle of this unique wilderness of 1.5 million acres. I took out the remaining ear plug. And listened.
The sawgrass prairie was beautiful and very peaceful. But danger was lurking in the shallow water, only 4-5 feet/1.2-1.5 meters deep on average. Over 200,000 alligators with a typical body length of 9-12 feet, a mouth equipped with 80 sharp teeth and over 1000 pounds of closing power in their jaws, call this swamp home.
They went about their daily life quietly in the water and on land. I was, without a doubt, a guest in their home.
Luckily humans are not on their menu unless we threaten their young. They observed me as I observed them, keenly, and I could see the skies reflected in their eyes. Mesmerizing.
I understood that in the Everglades, one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, danger is married to beauty.
The sawgrass prairie bloomed with Spider Lily and other beautiful flowers.
And so did the hammocks.
I found the airplants most intriguing. A seed lands on a tree, then grows and blooms. Just like that. One of the thousands of small miracles in nature.
And crisscrossing the prairie I found many of my favorite marsh birds, like the Great Blue Heron, the Great Egret and the Snowy Egret.
A family of Wood Storks got disturbed by our noisy approach and took flight.
And I spotted impressive Osprey nests, several feet high. At one of them, a juvenile was considering the benefits and dangers of flying. Her mommy watched nearby. And waited.
I saw many other birds enjoy the peace of this wilderness, like this Red-Shouldered Hawk, but it was a challenge to ‘shoot’ them from a fast moving airboat.
Particularly if they were moving too, like this female Anhinga, who was trying to swallow her catch.
Coming back to the airboat station, I spotted two familiar handsome males. A Red-Winged Blackbird and a Boat-Tailed Grackle.
From here my journey continued through the Big Cypress National Preserve. I made some interesting discoveries, like the smallest federal building in the US, the Ochopee Post Office.
I also visited some wildlife centers on my way to Everglades City, which really was a small, idyllic village with a few roads and houses on stilts due to frequent flooding.
I also spotted both modern and older versions of swamp buggies parked in front of the houses.
And found a nice place for lunch. Alligator was on the menu, but I opted for a chicken sandwich.
Arriving to the western side of the Everglades, I visited the historic museum in Chokoloskee, an area inhabited for centuries by the Calusa people, and for thousands of years by their ancestors.
My last adventure was a boat cruise through the western Everglades mangrove estuary known as the 10,000 Islands.
After speeding past many islands, we suddenly got company. Two Bottlenose Dolphins followed our ‘sister boat’ and then kept diving back and forth under our boat. In addition to us humans, dolphins are the only other wild species that like to play and have fun 🙂 Unfortunately coming up for a photo-op was not included in their scheme of fun for the day.
After a while they decided the fun was over and headed for their own underwater explorations. We continued towards the ocean past lovely small islands until we reached the southern Gulf of Mexico.
On our way back, we got company again. A young West Indian Manatee stayed with us for quite a while. This ‘sea cow’ can stay under water up to 40 minutes at a time so it was a thrill to capture it coming up for a breath next to our boat a couple of times.
Close to the shore I spotted an Osprey in flight above a mangrove island. That was a great ending to my adventure in the Everglades.
It was an unforgettable trip from the eastern Everglades through the Big Cypress National Preserve to the western Everglades. And I am more determined than ever to do what I can to preserve this wonderful wilderness, and others, for the future generations.
Thank you for coming along. See you later alligator.
86 thoughts on “Danger, Thrill and Beauty. The Unique Blend in the Everglades.”
Beautiful photos Helen. The everglades are a fascinating ecosystem filled with beauty and danger. I’ve only driven through the area and made brief stops (I’m uncomfortable being near alligators). I don’t trust that I’m not on their menu. I love how you weave your photos and words into an engaging story. Your passion for nature always comes through. 🙂
Thank you for traveling in the Everglades again, Brad! This time at comfortable distance from the alligators 🙂 I loved being able to observe their comings and goings.
Yes, I’d rather observe them from home or a safe place. 🙂
Thankyou for the work you do Helen, our future depends on each of us protecting and preserving nature and the wilderness. I would have opted for the chicken sandwich too ha! Great shots. 🍃🍀🍃
Thanks for being here on the ‘tour’, Karen. There was so much beauty to be enjoyed and we need to make sure it stays that way ❤
What a wonderful experience you had Tiny, it reminds me of the TV program series many years ago called The Everglades (I think) which I loved to watch as a kid. Thanks so much for sharing this experience with us, and the interesting history of the early inhabitants also. It reminds me of cruising the rivers up in northern Australia and seeing the crocodiles resting on the banks and cruising semi submerged. Have a great week my friend!
Happy you came along for this adventure in unspoiled nature, Ashley! It is such a great ecosystem with so many different types of habitats…and inhabitants, from plants to animals 🙂 And the Everglades provides drinking water for one in three Floridians – it is a wonderful gift in so many ways.
Thank you Cindy!
Thanks for sharing your trip in such a colourful and engaging fashion.
Glad you enjoyed the trip, Sha’Tara!
Great trip. Thanks for sharing with us.
Happy you came along, Lee!
Amazing, thank you for sharing the images and story of the wildlife even the ones that look dangerous (glad to know humans are not in their menu!)
Thanks Indah for coming along for this tour of wilderness. No diving recommended 🙂
What wonderful fun!!!
It was so much fun! Thanks for coming along!
Great trip, thanks for sharing.
Thanks Maverick! Glad you enjoyed the tour at a comfortable distance from the alligators 🙂
You have all kinds of wonderful birds critters in this post. Great photos. Have you ever thought of hunting pythons in the Everglades?
No python hunting for me 🙂 I leave it to those with the swamp buggies and airboats.
What a great trip you had; so adventurous. You wouldn’t have any cobwebs to shake off after that ride! 🙂 One thing is for sure; I doubt that alligators will be on an endangered list any time soon… so many.
Wonderful coming along for the ride, Helen; I, too, would have chosen a chicken sandwich! And I loved the smallest federal building; it gave me a laugh.
On a serious note ~ it certainly is a very special wilderness that needs our protection..
It was a great adventure, Carolyn! Not one cobweb left after the two boat rides, grateful I still have my ponytail 🙂 The richness of untouched nature was wonderful to experience…and the chicken sandwich felt just right 🙂 That miniature post office was a special discovery, it made me smile too. It was there, in the wilderness, to serve the few families who live there.
Lovely tour; thanks for taking us along. 🙂
If you’re going to do what you can to protect the everglades, are you going on any python hunts? We saw a fantastic picture of a Burmese python that tried to swallow a full-grown alligator. Completely split his upper half. (Killed the alligator, too.)
When will our countries finally learn their lesson re:invasive species and stop allowing importation of exotic pests…er…pets?
I will leave the python hunting to those with the swamp buggies and airboats 🙂 But unfortunately there are also invasive trees in the area that someone imported from Australia. They have to be taken out by burning because nothing else will grow where they are. Thanks for coming along, Christine.
Wow, what an experience and so well documented in your photographs. Thanks you so much for sharing your pictures and thoughts.
Glad you came along on this wilderness tour, Susan.
danger married to beauty…great wording!
Thanks Kathy! That just how I felt there in the middle of this vast wilderness.
Thank you for the wonderful tour! Wow, that is a lot of alligators.
That Osprey nest is impressive. Great photo captures, Helen! 🙂
That was a lot of alligators! But you don’t think of that when you’re actually there because they just belong there…it’s all so natural 🙂 The Osprey nests were impressive…thanks Amy.
Hi Tiny!! Thanks so much for this incredible trip 🙂 Wow…beautiful photos…super descriptions. Mesmerizing…I’d agree…seeing the sky reflected in the alligator’s eye!
I hope all is as great as your wonderful trip in your world. Thanks for sharing an amazing area of our great state…you made me want to go explore it myself 😉
Thank you, Lorrie! It was an incredible adventure and nature immersion 🙂 From where you are, it will be easy to do what I did. I warmly recommend ecosafari.com – they will pick you up in Ft. Lauderdale and bring you back – a trip of 11-12 hours. Fantastic, well educated guides. Blessings to you too ❤
Wow, Helen…thanks for the heads up. I made a vow to see more of our beautiful state this year. This sounds like a super day trip. Great to see you…Blessings 💚
You will enjoy the trip, Lorrie ❤
I thought it would be hard to top your usual walks but this was stunning.
Thank you Tom. This was such a different experience…amazing wilderness.
It’s a gift to travel with you on your adventures, Helen. Your exquisite photos and stories raise awareness about the wonders of nature.
That is what I am hoping for, Carol. Thank you for coming along on this tour to the wilderness.
Excellent trip and what is nature there very beautiful
It was ‘wild beauty’ all along 🙂 Thank you Marylou.
How exciting! Thank you for sharing this very different experience close to home 💛
Thanks for coming along, Val! It certainly was a different – amazing – experience 🙂
Wow! 😀😀 Thank you for bringing us along on your trip of the Everglades! It seems to be one full-packed day. The photos are stunning and I feel as I am staring into the soul of the alligator in the photo of his face, spooky! The floral ones are beautiful and although I have seen airplants in my mother’s house, they are not anything like these wild ones. It’s so interesting to learn about the inhabitants and see their houses too and how amazing to be visited by so many other sea animals on your way back. I bet you were buzzing for days afterwards! 😀
Yes, I was definitely buzzing days afterwards 🙂 It was a full day from 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening, full of amazement! There were so many different wild airplants, but some were so much in the shadows of the trees that I did not get good pictures. The manatee encounter was one of the kind as they are very shy. This one seemed to love when we talked to it 🙂 Thanks for coming along Annika.
Thank you for the beautiful tour, Tiny. I visited the Everglades with my parents when I was a child ~ the wildlife was bountiful and impressive. I remembered being dazzled. It’s nice to know it’s still there and it is so important that we do what we can to keep it wild and wonderful.
I am happy you have experienced the wonder of this beautiful place! It is still quite unspoiled and we need to keep it that way. Thanks you for coming along, Barbara.
My, my, Tiny, you make me want to pack a bag and go right now 🙂
You should! You would love it…and ecosafari.com is the home of a wonderful company for ethical ecotourism. Their guides are living encyclopedias 🙂
Your photography is stunning!
Happy you enjoyed the documentary evidence, Laurie!
Quite an adventure, Tiny. Your boat ride was much longer than the one I took some 10 years ago, and you saw many creatures and things, with wonderful photos of them. I am envious! 🙂
It definitely was an adventure …from 7 am to 7 pm. But I could have stayed longer 🙂 Thanks Hien.
What an incredible adventure! Wonderful images, as always!
Happy you enjoyed the ‘tour’, Susan. Photographing was a bit challenging at times when I discovered something while ‘flying’ fast over the water.
Thank you for the beautiful tour Photos. wonderful.
Thanks for visiting!
Very beautiful photos and great story, thanks Tiny
Happy you enjoyed this little adventure, Eddie!
It was an amazing adventure Tiny. Wanted to write so much more and did but the words kept tripping over each other and I never could get them out.
Thank you for your kind words, Eddie. I wish you a wonderful weekend.
That looks like a wonderful adventure in nature, Helen. Your photos are as always, really superb. The alligators look quite friendly really. 🙂 I’m assuming this was a day trip. How long were you out there for? A chicken sandwich would also have been my choice. 🙂
Thanks Sylvia! The alligators did not seem that dangerous, really, when they were just going about their business in their natural habitat – far from human residents. I was there the whole day …traveling from east to west. I was picked up from Ft. Lauderdale beach around 7 a.m. and was back there about 12 hours later, or just before that. I highly recommend ecosafari.com if you want to have a day adventure at the Everglades.
Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂
Cool photos! Love the nature even if there’s danger or risk involved.
Thank you Anna!
Oh my goodness Helen what astounding photos! Each of them so vivid making me feel as if I was secretly watching over your shoulder. I can’t help chuckling at the thought of an alligator eyeing up a lone orange ear plug. 🙂
Great you came along, Sue! I’m sure the ear plug attracted some attention from Alli – and I did fine without it. It was a great adventure and I have probably not learned this much in one day…ever 🙂
These are incredible photos! And when collected together, makes a trip to the Everglades a must-add trip for my bucketlist. Thanks for sharing!
Oh did I ever enjoy this trip through the Everglades, Helen. Your photos and descriptions are so wonderful, and the info was great too. I am so happy to see there are over 200,000 alligators there. The Everglades are so special, it was wonderful to see it is looking so beautiful. I know they have their problems, but it is so great that this lovely place exists. And I was thrilled for you to have seen a manatee. They are so very difficult to find in the wild, what a joy that must have been. Many thanks for this great post.
This is great post. We have not visited to Everglades and I am sure that Your gorgeous photos are enough for us (no need to visit). We do not love crocodiles. 🙂
Have a good day!
Thank you, sweet Tiny for taking me along in pictures to see some of the beauty and amazing wildlife in FL. I have never been to FL and will never get to go so I am happy you were kind enough to share some of the beauty of the Everglades. I have seen those airboats on TV and thought they would be so much fun to take a ride in. My hubby would have gotten a big smile out of that tiny post office, he retired from the post office. He probably would have enjoyed working at one that small. I really enjoyed this post. Hugs
I so enjoyed going along on your adventure through the Everglades and southern Florida’s natural beauty, Helen! How cool! This place is on my bucket list, including the airboat ride!
It is truly worth a visit, and if you like a whole day adventure with an award-winning eco-tourism company, I can highly recommend http://ecosafari.com They have extremely knowledgeable guides and the tours leave from both west-side and east-side of Florida. I was in Ft. Lauderdale on vacation anyway, so I left from there. That was a truly cool day 🙂
A high school rower who went to Florida recently told me that she had to watch out for manatees trying to tip the boat over for fun!
The Manatees are very friendly, but might have a fun streak too. Our son was swimming here at our beach a couple of years ago when a manatee came to ‘sniff’ him 🙂
Beautiful pictures. . . I enjoyed being able to vicariously enjoy the Everglades via this post.
Happy you enjoyed the tour, Sheryl.
Beautiful and scary all in one package. 🙂
Yes, indeed! But it’s funny that the gators didn’t seem so dangerous seen in their natural habitat.
Wonderful photos and a great blog post. I am glad I clicked on your post. I have never been to Florida but seeing this post makes me want to add the Everglades to my travel bucket list.
Nice shots – looks like a great trip!
Wow! Mesmerizing! Although I have to admit that I’m glad that my swamp has no gators;)