You simply can’t visit Miami and not go on a tour of the Everglades. I didn’t hire a car this time, so I went on a guided tour. Mine happened to be with Duck Tours who also do the hilarious trips around Miami and Miami Beach on an amphicar, but that’s another story. There are several tours to choose from, so it doesn’t really matter which one you pick. The main purpose of course is to experience an airboat ride and to look a gator or two in the eye without the danger of having one’s arm bitten off. And the adventure surpasses expectations. The airboats alone are a sight to behold and so are the drivers cum wildlife guards, straight out of central casting. Only four people are allowed to sit in a row, but there is ample room in the boats. Here are two important tips: when the drivers go full throttle, you will get pretty wet, so protect yourself. Secondly, bring your own earplugs. Two years ago, when I went on my first ride, earplugs were supplied and included in the admission fees. Not any more. The economic crisis has even reached the Everglades. What you are provided with now are tissues which you are supposed to screw into your ears. They don’t work but you need ear protection as the noise of the engine is deafening.
The ride starts slowly and just gliding through the dense forest of seagrass and spotting the lazy gators is marvellous. They do have names, believe it or not and the guides call them. Then it’s full speed, the boat jumps and bumps and the spray gives you a good shower.
After the ride you can watch a show and hold a baby gator if you feel so inclined. It’s certainly worthwhile to go privately by car and to visit the Miccosukee Village, located 30 minutes west of the Florida Turnpike. For some reason, the tours don’t go there, but they provide a taste of what the Everglades, which by the way are not a swamp but a very slow moving river, are like. The experience inspired the following little poem I wrote on the coach back:
Mysterious smells,
mysterious sounds,
mysterious rustles on the ground,
mysterious faces,
mysterious places,
lost Indain souls,
here they abound.
You are after all in Indian country and their history is closely connected to the Everglades.