Up Close With Dinosaurs in the Everglades

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There's a place I know of where you can get up close and personal with dinosaurs.

Yes. I said DINOSAURS.

T-Rex

No, no, no, not THAT kind of dinosaur.

THIS kind:

Everglades

Alligators and crocodiles are about the closest things to dinosaurs a person can hope to see up-close (and alive). Gators, like dinosaurs, are huge reptiles with very pointy teeth. And they're just about as old as dinosaurs, too — it's estimated that the first alligators appeared about 37 million years ago.

37. Million. Years.

Clearly, ‘gators have been doing something right to have survived for this long, and they're still thriving in the U.S. and abroad.

Everglades, Florida

Seeing alligators in the Florida Everglades

Most people will only see alligators in zoos or on TV. But if you want to see them alive and in the wild, I can't think of any place better than the Florida Everglades.

This area of natural wetlands in southern Florida includes Everglades National Park, and is characterized by what people call the “sawgrass prairie.” Don't be fooled, though — there's more water under that sawgrass than meets the eye.

Everglades, Florida

I've now been to the Everglades twice, both times following returning to Miami after cruising in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean. The area makes a perfect day trip in south Florida, with the most popular activity by far being taking an air boat tour out into the marsh.

These boats skim along on top of the water, powered by gigantic (and somewhat silly-looking) fans on the backs of the boats. But, despite the loud and silly boat ride, this is definitely one of the best ways to see alligators in the Everglades.

Everglades, Florida

The last time I was there, I visited Everglades Safari Park with some friends. I saw more alligators on this single airboat ride than I have in my entire life. And we're not talking just little baby ‘gators here… we're talking monsters sunning on the shore or slinking through the water.

Everglades, Florida

Everglades, Florida

Along with airboat rides, this attraction also offers up walking trails, reptile exhibits, and a “wildlife nature show” where a park employee jumps into a pit of gators and plays around with them while educating audiences about the animals and conservation efforts related to the Everglades.

Everglades, Florida
Everglades, Florida

The “wrangler” in charge of entertaining and educating our group brought a young alligator out into the crowd, and then promptly nearly dropped it on me and my friends because the animal was hissing and wriggling and just generally not happy about being handled.

I like dinosaurs and all, but I certainly don't want a distant, hissing relative landing in my lap!

Everglades, Florida
Right before he almost dropping this guy in my lap.

All ended well, however, and afterwards, while waiting for our ride to the airport, we popped into the Safari Restaurant and ordered some Gator Bites — deep friend hunks of alligator meat. We then proceeded to eat these while sitting on a (very low) fence near the airboats. In clear sight of a massive gator.

Everglades, Florida

I could swear he knew we were eating one of his brethren…

Want to take your own Everglades tour from Miami? Check out these options:

Have you ever visited the Everglades? If not, is it a place you'd want to go?

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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25 Comments on “Up Close With Dinosaurs in the Everglades

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  1. So funny…I am actually planning a trip there right now! I was in the midst of googling Everglades and tours, and lo and behold, get on Facebook, and here see your post!

      Talk about timing! Well, this post probably won’t be very helpful when it comes to planning, but it should at least give you an idea of what to expect!

    I would love to go the Everglades. Last time I was in Miami I was staying with a friend of mine who lived there and I was begging her to take me to the Everglades. Some of her friends (all Miami natives) overheard this and asked me why in the world I’d ever want to go to the Everglades, as it was ‘just a big swamp’. Apparently none of them had ever been to the Everglades in their life, despite it being just an hour or two from where they’d grown up. I was blown away.

      It’s crazy how living in a place kind of puts blinders on a person, isn’t it? I hope you get a chance to go there, because it’s certainly much more than just a big swamp!

    I’ve never been to Florida, but the crocs over in Australia were pretty terrifying things. Although you can’t eat those ones I don’t think…

      I think gators and crocs are all at once cool, ugly, and scary. Lol. I definitely wouldn’t ever want to get to close to any of them! (Though I did hold a little baby alligator there in the Everglades; however I’m convinced a bite from him would not have been life-threatening…)

    I am now looking out over the Everglades National Park from a rented home overlooking Chokoloskee Bay on the Western edge of the Park. The Everglades NP encompasses over 500 square miles of salt and fresh water areas. It has and unbelievable amount of wildlife diversity and is embedded with some really enchanted preserves such as Big Cypress Preserve, Royal Palm Preserve, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve, and Ten Thousand Island State Park. Some interesting facts: There are actually Florida Crocodiles…. much rarer than the Alligator. The Crocs live in the southernmost part of the Park utilizing the salt and semi-salt water….. Alligators prefer fresh water and can endure colder temps. Some of the rare and amazing things here are seldom seen such as the Florida Panter (looks just like a mountain lion but lives in south Fl., ) the huge Manatee, the Ghost Orchid, Bald Eagles, etc.
    No, it is not just a swamp……

      They should hire you to promote the Everglades, Dad. 🙂

      I forgot there were manatees down there! And Ghost Orchids… oh yes, now I’m thinking about the movie “Adaptation.”

    I have not been there but I would like to if someone would like to treat me. Alligators and Crocodiles are dangerous to mingle just have an extra care and don’t let yourself be amazed too much. Anyway, I love also Endangered Birds or Eagles that are kept in a Bird Sanctuary.

      The Everglades themselves are almost endangered, so I’m sure you would enjoy it. But yes, definitely don’t get too close to those ‘gators!

    Our favorite place to see alligators in the Everglades was on the Anhinga Trail – it was amazing!! There were dozens all over the place, climbing on each other and swim-stalking after birds. So cool to see them in their natural habitat.

      That would be cool! But also a bit nerve-wracking if you could stumble upon one at any time, no?

        Thankfully the trail is mostly a raised wooden walkway, and there are some viewing platforms over swampy areas where they liked to hang out. So it felt pretty safe, but the gators were still super close. And I think in a few areas they could get close to/on the trail?

          Well I guess that makes it sound a little better… though not much! Lol.

    There’s a giant croc here in Sydney named Rex and marketed as the last living dinosaur – pretty cool… I love me some dinosaurs and love seeing these massive beasts, even if it is frightening 😉

      I just find it so absolutely insane that these creatures have been around in some form for 37 million years!

    […] damn special, too. It’s huge and diverse and very, very beautiful. From New York City to the Florida Everglades to the Grand Canyon to San Francisco, this country has SO much to offer. And so much to […]

    Cool how close you could get to them! 🙂 and can’t believe they have been around for that long!

      Cool, but also a bit scary that they are RIGHT THERE!

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