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Best Place to See Alligators Miami 2006 - Shark Valley Tram Road,
the Everglades

With a diversity in wildlife rivaled only by watering holes in the Serengeti, the bicyclist or tram-rider on the fifteen-mile Shark Valley loop is almost guaranteed a stellar showing of Everglades fauna: Roseate spoonbills, wood storks, and great blue herons delicately pick their way through shallow pools and pose serenely in branches. Spotted gar, red-belly turtles, and anhingas swim beneath the water's amber surface. Cormorants decorate the tram road's watchtower like gargoyles, and short-tail hawks soar overhead. The king of this jungle, however, is the American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis, whose green-gray bulk is draped over every muddy bank and drainage pipe that can offer him some sunshine. Beware of this dweller of murky puddles: He may seemingly ignore the fluttering and prancing of the wildlife around him, honed by millennia of evolutionary adaptation to expend as little energy as possible (he navigates canals swimming, propelled by the merest flick of the tail) but the gator is no slow fuddy-duddy of a predator. "Never get closer than fifteen feet to an alligator," warn signs and brochures. "If it hisses or opens its mouth in defense, you should back away even farther." A nice reminder, rendered totally unnecessary at the first glimpse of sharp, crooked teeth. Bike rental is $6 an hour; tickets for the tram are $14 for adults and $8 for children.
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J.L.
J.L.

Don't forget about the wonderful walking trail to the south, Annhinga Trail. It is at the Florida City entrance to the 'Glades, past the visitor's center on the left at Royal Palm Visitor's Center. You will encounter wading birds, (Herons Great and Little, Egrets, and Wood Storks), Annhinga, Cormorants (which are glorified ducks, but hey, the tourists go NUTS posing with these annoying critters), osprey, Gallinules...blah blah blah...as well as the desperately desired close encounter with an Alligator, which often lurk in the waters next to the trail, on the banks of the slough (It is situated on Taylor Slough), or, conveniently enough, ON the trail you are walking on, since there are no barricades. You will see hundreds of gators, up close and personal. It's spectacular. For a particularly eerie sight, return at night either alone or for a ranger-guided tour. Bring a flashlight, because aside from becoming Panther or Gator Bait, you can also see the most eerie sight in all of South Florida... Stand on the elevated boardwalk in the darkness and shine your flashlight out over the open waters of the Slough. The thousands of glowing orange eyes staring back at you are reward enough for trekking out to what is left of the ends of civilization in the middle of the night.

Annhinga Trail @ Royal Palm Visitor's CenterEverglades Nat'l Park South EntranceFlorida City, FL

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