Our first day at Everglades National Park we had scheduled a boat tour. The tour was a recommendation in every guide book and website that I had explored. It was well worth the $38 per adult, free for kids under 5.
Our boat left the marina at 10:05am. There are tours throughout the day, and I’m glad we signed up for an early one. The bugs weren’t as bad, it wasn’t too hot, and there were only 3 other people on our boat. The other boats we saw coming and going from the marina later in the day were pretty full of tourists.
Being a native Floridian and daughter of a Florida science teacher I wasn’t expecting to learn much. However, our guide was knowledgable of both the trees, water and wildlife as well as the park itself. We all learned at least a few fun facts that will stick with us.
Everglades National Park has over 100,000 Burmese pythons that are not native but have been released over time or escaped during a hurricane. They have caused the small mammal population (deer, raccoons, bobcats) to decrease by 80%-99% in the Everglades since the early 2000’s.
The park is also the most northern location of the American Crocodile. While on our boat ride, we saw at least 4 small crocs. When we were in the marina, we got the chance to view a 8 foot crocodile and even watch it cruise and swim away under the water.
The marina is also home to many manatees. We enjoyed visiting them each day.
Our favorite plant of the tour was the Manchineel tree. The tree is so poisonous that if you brush up against its leaves, you’ll break out in blisters. The Spanish (or maybe the Native Americans) would tie their captives to these trees before a storm and let the sap drip onto their skin, burning them. If you eat the small apples from the tree, two bites could kill you. Be on the lookout!
We all enjoyed this boat ride and would recommend it to even those with small, well behaved children. You don’t have to stay seated during the ride and most of the boat is roped off in such a way that kids can’t accidentally fall in.