*This is Miami – post 15.
Remember that list I made? The top 10 things I can’t wait to do in Miami? Well, an air boat ride in the Everglades was number 10 on that list… and to be quite honest I really didn’t think I was going to get around to doing it. There’s a reason I haven’t been in ten years..
To get to the Everglades takes at least an hour from our house, and it’s one of those whole-day-outdoor-nature-activities that most of my friends and family don’t enjoy doing…well, everyone but my little sister.
As it turns out, she is working on a project about the Everglades for one of her classes (as most primary school kids do in Florida at some point in their lives) and was really excited when my Mom told her that I wanted to go to the Everglades. So, last Sunday… off we went to the Everglades!
What are the Everglades? Let me get an official definition, as mine would be something like “marsh-like water/land that makes up a big chunk of Florida (not very good huh?)..so let’s see..
According to Wikipedia (ok not exactly the most official source but good enough for the purpose of this blog)..the Everglades are, “subtropical wetlands in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida, that comprise the southern half of a large watershed. The Everglades are shaped by water and fire, experiencing frequent flooding in the wet season and drought in the dry season.
Writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas popularized the term “River of Grass” to describe the sawgrass marshes, part of a complex system of interdependent ecosystems that include cypress swamps, the estuarine mangrove forests of the Ten Thousand Islands, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rockland, and the marine environment of Florida Bay.
Human habitation in the southern portion of the Florida peninsula dates to 15,000 years ago. Two major Native American tribes eventually formed in and around Everglades ecosystems: the Calusa and the Tequesta. After coming into contact with the Spanish in the late 16th century, both tribes declined gradually during the following two centuries. The Seminoles, a tribe of Creels who assimilated other peoples into their own, made their living in the Everglades region after being forced there by the U.S. military in the Seminole Wars of the 19th century.” – yet another instance of people being forced out of their rightful homes/land..but we’ll come back to this later.
So at around 1:00pm on Sunday, my Mom, my sister, and I headed out toward the Everglades. On the way, we saw this..a large boat being hauled by a truck..never understood how those trucks have enough power to do such things..
Anyway, we made it to exit 49 off of the Interstate 75 and onto Snake Road (my sister didn’t feel all too comfortable when she read that name, fearful that there were going to be snakes all over the place, but we continued along nonetheless.) From the exit we had to drive another 20 miles deep into the Everglades.
Let me explain something here – the term “Reservation” is used because this land belongs to the Native American Seminole Tribe. After forcing Native Americans off of their lands for the past 200 years or so, the US government made reparations to the Native American peoples by giving them “reservations” of land that they have complete autonomy over (when in reality, what the government was really doing was giving them back what was rightfully theirs). The government also passed legislation making it so that Native Americans, unlike all other US citizens, don’t have to pay any taxes whatsoever. Not that any of this makes up for the injustices suffered at the hands of the US government.
Ohh and on another note..the only reason Native Americans still exist in Florida to this day is because they hid in the Everglades during the Seminole Wars – skillfully evading the US Army. At the point in time, the US army was no match for Seminole Warriors.
The Seminoles opened up their reservations to visits from outsiders for the purpose of making money and preserving their culture and tradition. So, this is how we arrived on the Big Cypress Reservation and at Billie Swamp Safari.
Anyhow, to get to the air boat rides at Billie Swamp Safari, you have to enter through the gift shop first. I saw some really cool alligators that I wanted to take back..but decided to settle on the dream catchers instead -which in Native American tradition are supposed to trap bad dreams, and allow only the good dreams to filter through..
After paying for our air boat ride, we made our way outside through the small zoo and then out to the Everglades wetlands..
Then we hopped into one of these babies..but not before we put in our ear plugs..when you go on air boat rides they make you put in earplugs as the noise from the engine can be deafening.
So the air boat takes off and you go whisking around corners and stopping every so often to observe different flora and fauna.
And then you come to sights like the below..a floating forest of sorts..that just spring up out of the water..it is just beautiful .. and very peaceful.
Our tour guide stopped the boat for about ten minutes as he gave us a history lesson about the Everglades and about alligators in particular. I kind of wished he would stop talking and get going, especially after pointing out the alligators that were sitting pretty close to where our boat had stopped – but he seemed like he knew what he was doing! What did I get from the lesson? Well, that alligators have been around for 200 million years and that they are immune to almost all diseases and can survive for weeks on end with only one meal..be it a snake, a bird…or (if provoked) a human!
Well, that was only the first portion of our day at the Everglades, but as my Mom and I are always in the mood for food..we thought it best to finish off our air boat ride with an Indian Taco (not exactly sure how traditional that is)..but whatever the case, it did the trick. My Mom had been there once before with some other visitors and on that occasion had been brave enough to try the “Gator Tail” (see bottom of menu). She did NOT recommend it … way too tough and chewy. The Indian Taco was a much better choice!