Everyone knows Florida to be home to Disney World, hurricanes, the Miami Heat and the best beaches. However, it’s important not to forget the one place that over 200,000 American alligators call home… the Everglades.
Did you know the Everglades is the only location in the world to be named a Wetland of International Importance, an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site? Beat that, city lights! Theme parks are definitely something you can’t miss when visiting Florida, but experiencing an alligator in its natural habitat is what we call impressive. So we're calling all our city friends near and far... Below we’re sharing 8 things you can learn on a Florida airboat ride that’ll excite you more than the architecture of a city or a theme park.
- A natural habitat – A city that never sleeps is awesome when you want to fit as many activities into the day as possible, but what about when you actually want to catch some ZZZ's? The only noises you’ll hear in the late hours of the night in the Everglades is the sound of the water moving, and maybe some frogs croaking. What’s better than these natural, calming sounds putting you to sleep? There are no lights! You won’t find any street lights out here, so when the sun's sleeping, so are we. Finding complete darkness in a big city isn’t that easy. Here at Wild Florida, you can go on a night-time airboat ride and experience the swamp after the sun has set.
- Only two seasons – It may seem hard to believe, but here in the Everglades, we only have two seasons: wet season and dry season. Out on the swamp, we don’t experience the cold winter months or the leaves changing in the fall, we only notice the change in water levels. So while the rest of the coast is beginning to experience sunshine and summer time, we experience cloudy days and intense rain, which we call our wet season. But don’t worry – here in Florida the rain doesn’t last long, and before you know it the sun is shining again! The wet season starts around the middle of May and lasts through November. Although it’s wet during this time, the humidity and heat is no joke. The heat index is said to be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during this time of the year. Tourists aren’t the only ones who prefer the dry season; the animals do, too! Dry season runs from December through April, and there’s nothing but cool temperatures and clear skies during this time of the year. Dry season is the ideal time for birds to nest, and that’s what brings them down to the swamp.
- The Everglades is the only place in the world where the alligator and crocodile co-exist – Who knew these two big reptiles could live in the same habitat together without hurting one another? We’re not saying you’d see these guys hanging out together, but they’re definitely not enemies. We know alligators to only be found in fresh water, but crocodiles can live in both fresh and salt water. So how is it possible they co-exist in the Everglades? Well, the fresh water in the Florida Bay meets the salt water of the Gulf of Mexico in the Everglades, which allows for an ecosystem suitable for both the gator and the croc.
- Florida has one of the largest populations of alligators – Florida is currently home to 1.25 million alligators, with over 200,000 of them living in the Everglades. That’s over a million more gators than you’ll ever find in a city. These guys are all over the state and Floridians usually aren’t bothered by them. After all, they are one of the biggest parts of what Florida and the Everglades is known for.
- Bald eagles are everywhere – You won’t find our national bird flying around buildings of a busy city. Florida is currently home to 1,166 pairs of bald eagles, representing 10% of the breeding population. Our airboat captains here at Wild Florida are pros at spotting a bald eagle just hanging out in the trees of the swamp, so make sure to pay attention, because they disappear into the trees fast.
- 1 in every 3 Floridians rely on the Everglades for water supply – Not every state can say they have a National Park that provides them with fresh water. In Florida, the Everglades is the primary source of drinking water for over 7 million Americans! Americans aren’t the only ones who rely on this water, so do the 60 endangered species that live in the Everglades.
- Over 8 habitats have been identified – You heard that right, more than 8 distinct habitats have been identified in Everglades National Park. You won't find that many different habitats and animals in a city. The 8 most-known are hardwood hammock, pine rocklands, mangrove forests, coastal lowlands, slough, freshwater marl prairie, Florida Bay and cypress trees. Our backyard is more of pine rocklands, slough, prairie and cypress trees.
- Home to over 60 endangered or threatened species – The Gopher Tortoise, Florida Panther and Everglades Snail Kite are just a few of the endangered species that can be found out in the swamp. You probably don't see too many tortoises walking around a city. Here at Wild Florida, we do everything we can to give these species the extra care and protection they deserve. Did you know that the bald eagle was removed from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife in 2007?
Impressing your city friends doesn't have to stop after you take them on their first airboat ride. With over 200 animals to meet, two animal shows and the chance to get a #slothie with our precious George, they'll definitely be in awe.