Travelling to the Florida Everglades
Located at the very tip of Florida, the Everglades is a unique ecosystem that offers visitors lots of interesting scenery as well as a mix of native animals to see. Don't think of it as just a swamp either. There is so much to see in the Everglades that is should be on everyone's list of places to visit someday.
This huge area is a large wetland filled with heavily forested areas of cypress and mangrove that grow on small hummocks and islands. It is easy to get lost as all the little waterways look the same. Its a beautiful as well as mysterious place.
The area is protected as the Everglades National Park, with the larger Big Cypress National Preserve just to the north (it works like one big park, more or less). It's a fairly short drive from Fort Lauderdale or Naples.
Seeing the Park
Most people are familiar with the large "air boats" for these tours. They have a large fan propeller on the back and they can skim over the shallow water very quickly. They are a bit noisy and you can't always see the smaller details of the area when whizzing past so you might want a slower pace in a canoe. Of course, not all of the park is boat-only and you can see quite a bit on foot from the many wooden boardwalks that can take you over the water.
You can explore through most of the park on your own (particularly if you are on foot) but there are many guided tours as well if you want to have a staff member there to show you your surroundings with more detail.
Animals in the Everglades
Though the area is extremely tropical and exotic to look at, there isn't a huge range of animals to be seen. Well, at least for mammals. You can see deer, foxes, raccoons, otters, opossums and several other standard American forest animals. The Florida panther also lives here but you are not too likely to see one.
The reptiles and amphibians are much more varied. Alligators, crocodiles and caiman are commonly seen in the waters all over the park and there are many snakes and lizards through the wooded areas too. What you will see most are the birds. Wading birds like the large herons and storks are very common but there are more than 350 different types of birds in the park overall. If you watch the water, you may see a manatee.
Plan Your Trip
There are several visitors centers throughout the park where you can get information, directions or assistance from park staff. The park is open daily 365 days of the year (yes, even Christmas). There is a fee for everyone who enters the park, and additional fees if you are bringing in your vehicle or planning on camping overnight. They have hookups for Rvs as well. The costs are very reasonable ($5 per person and $10 for a vehicle). You can rent bikes or boats once you are there.