State #32 Florida Stop #3 of ?

The whole family has been excited about the Everglades. The big cypress trees and the mangroves blocking out the sun with just moments where the canopy opens and you get a glimpse of sunshine. The dark damp swamp. Gators lurking around at every corner to eat you. So exciting.

Our first stop was to Everglades Safari Park to see some gators and take an airboat tour. The first thing our tour guide says to us is that the Everglades is not a swamp. First thing! What????? It was like he was reading my mind. That…or tons of people before me have thought the same thing. Swamps have stagnant water. The Everglades has one of the slowest moving ecosystems in the world but it’s moving not stagnant. The water moves at about a rate of 2 or 3 miles an hour. The Everglades are not a swamp. Mind blown.

It has two distinct season wet and dry. We arrived at the start of the dry season which is great. Weather is good and the gators are out sunbathing as opposed to submerged in the water keeping cool. This also means the waters are almost gone and it’s just coastal prairie. Big wide open sawgrass prairies with dwarf cypress trees. No where even close to what we imagined in our heads. This is not a swamp. The guide was right. We have, however, seen lots gators and some crocs and we have felt the wrath of swarms of mosquitoes.

And if you’ve never experienced the bite of no-see-ums, be forewarned it hurts and they are everywhere in this area. Think what it would feel like if a mosquitoes and a fire ant had a baby and then you made it mad just by walking outside and it and a few dozen of its buddies bite you before you can get back in the camper. Make sure you have bug spray with DEET down here. The family friendly stuff I bought was useless. We all got attacked. Poor Tuck looks like he’s getting over chicken pox. Ha!

I’m struggling. It kind of feels like a let down. But that’s not the Park’s fault. It’s ours. So I’m trying to give it a fair shake but it’s hard. It’s kind of like we you’re drinking tea and you accidentally grab the wrong glass and take a big sip but the other person was drinking Coke. Know what I mean?

But I’m digressing. Back to the Everglades Safari Park.

Until Christmas it’s a pretty slow time in this area, so the airboat wasn’t very crowded. Sweet! The tour was neat and we saw all kinds of birds and half a dozen alligators. Pretty cool. Our guide was very knowledgeable and humorous.

See…nice and open. Not swampy.

After the boat ride we watched the alligator show and then paid the extra $3 bucks so Mason could hold Snappy the alligator.

Well worth it! He thought that was the coolest.

We walked around the park and saw some more gators and one little crocodile. The facilities themselves were pretty dated but the staff was great.

I made our lunch and we sat at a picnic table outside by a tree with some birds. I’m not a bird lover in the first place but when you’ve got fearless birds, I like them even less. There I was minding my own business; eating my lunch, when all of a sudden this bird swoops in under the umbrella and snatches a bbq tater chip right out of my hand just as I was bringing it to my mouth to eat. Startled me so bad I screamed. It was so bizarre. Trev was laughing, of course, and said it was awesome. It shaved a few years off my life I’m sure.

This is also the same day as the fridge debacle and where the grab handle incident happened. Momma needs to go back to bed and start this day all over.

But we keep moving. On a random note, there are a TON of nurseries out our drive through Homestead.

We also got to see half a dozen people parachuting along the way. Just another random note.

We stopped at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center before heading out to our campsite. Flamingo Campground is currently the only one with electricity in the park. It is also another 38 miles from the park entrance.

The weather is great! Our campsite was awesome. It was shaded on the door side and it was on the end so there was plenty of room for some family football. Despite being on the end, I wasn’t worried about traffic noise because it’s pretty quiet out here. Not too many people camping as you can see.

The next morning we went out to the Flamingo Visitor Center and to the marina. The picture below is of the old Flamingo Visitor Center. It is currently closed waiting for rehab after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Wilma in 2017. The current one is in a mobile unit.

There were quite a few manatees swimming around. I love manatees. They are so sweet and calm. Mullet were jumping up out of the water and Trev spotted a crocodile with his amazing animal finding vision superpower.

We hiked the Guy Bradley and the Eco Pond trails before heading back to the camper for lunch. A lot of the trails in the Flamingo area are not being maintained. But the park has opened up some EcoTents for rental while at the park.

After lunch we made the trek back towards the front of the park to the Nike Missile Site for a guided ranger tour. This tour was great! Ranger Leon Howell did an outstanding job. I would recommend this tour if you like history and/or military stuff.

Mason earned his Jr Ranger badge. Tuck wasn’t feeling it. The volunteer yells out that they had a new Jr Ranger and asked everyone in the center to give him a round of applause. If this had been Tucker he would have been taking a bow and hamming it up. But no. It was my sweet Mason, who was so embarrassed. He smiled and was polite but he was so hating life at that moment.

Later for dinner, Mason tried some grilled gator and a plantain from the Everglades Gator Grill. He liked the gator; plantain not so much. Tuck refused to try. Whose’s shocked? Anyone?

Today we headed back to the marina to rent a canoe.

The paddle out was fun. It was a slow start to our wildlife viewing but then it picked up.

We saw some manatees, some baby crocs sunbathing on branches and tons of birds.

Right before we got out to Coots Bay we saw a very large croc. He saw us too and immediately drove into the water. I didn’t have a chance to snap a picture. By the time I put my paddle down to reach for my phone he was already under the water.

(It is painstakingly obvious from these two videos why we have a blog and not a vlog. Haha!)

It was supposed to be a two hour paddle but it was already an hour and a half before we made it to the bay which is the half way mark. So the paddle back was not near as fun. We were hot and tired and now we were trying to get back as fast as we could to minimize our overage. This is where real life and Instagram tell different stories. You have to stop complaining in order to smile for a picture. Ha! The boys did great for their first canoe trip. I felt so bad for Trevor. He basically paddled for five people. I say five because me and the boys probably drug our paddles through the water more than actually helping move us forward. We were 45 minutes late getting back to the marina. They didn’t care. They were also really nice about letting all four of us on a three person canoe. Thanks Flamingo Adventures!

It’s moving day tomorrow. Getting to our next destination is the KEY to the next week.

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