Thursday, February 2, 2012

Everglades Safari Park - 02/02/12

We traveled to the Everglades Safari Park for an airboat ride through the Everglades today. This park is located 27 miles east of the Midway Campground in the Big Cypress National Preserve. The airboat ride took 40 minutes and was absolutely wonderful. We were surprised how smooth the ride was when flying through some stretches of the Everglades at 40 miles per hour. We were awestruck at the vastness of the Everglades. As far as the eye could see, there was a sea of grass growing in crystal clear water. In several we observed Egrets and Storks feeding on small fish. The captain of the airboat informed the passengers that the average depth of the water in the Everglades is only 15 inches. In some areas of the Everglades we would enter into a wooded Hammock area and that seemed to be where the majority of the alligators and turtles would reside. Indeed, we saw numerous alligators and turtles in these areas. In one Hammock area we saw a female alligator with her babies. The babies were only about a foot in length and the captain maneuvered the airboat to within about two feet of the babies. That was a very special moment. Mother nature at her finest!

At the conclusion of the airboat ride we visited a small museum on the property that housed some turtles and a variety of snakes. We then attended a lecture on alligators. The lecture was conducted within an amphitheater type structure with an enclosed fenced area that contained about six alligators. All of the alligators appeared to be at least six feet in length. In the fenced-in area with the alligators were several black-headed vultures attempting to secure uneaten remnants of chicken that the alligators had not gotten to yet. It was quite an amazing sight to see how close the vultures would get to the alligators to snatch bits of chicken. The lecturer explained that on occasion an alligator would snatch a vulture for a meal.

The lecturer arrived and provided the audience with a detailed history on alligators while standing outside of the fenced-in area. He then entered the fenced-in area containing the alligators to continue the lecture. All of the alligators were lying still and sunning themselves and paid no attention to the lecturer. He explained that these alligators had been trained to respond to verbal commands followed by a reward with meat treats. He approached one alligator, got down on his knees beside it and gave it a verbal command. Its head immediately came up off of the ground, opened its huge mouth and rubbed its head against his chest. He reached into his bucket of meat treats and threw a piece of meat into its mouth. The force with which it closed its mouth was astonishing. You could actually hear a loud sound as it clamped its mouth shut! The lecturer, still on his knees started to pet the alligator on the top of its head and back. The lecturer then got up and walked over to another alligator that was just lying there. He gave it a verbal command, he said "Bobby," immediately this huge alligators head came off of the ground, mouth wide open. The lecturer kneeled down beside it and started petting its head and back. At the same time the alligator, with mouth wide open, was rubbing the side of his mouth against the lecturer’s chest. The lecturer gave the alligator several meat treats and the alligator closed its mouth and put its head back on the ground. The lecturer then demonstrated on this alligator how they protect their eyes during violent encounters with other alligators and prey. He touched each protruding eye on the alligator separately. Immediately, the alligator retracted the eye that was touched, within a cavity in its head. This was without a doubt one of the most entertaining and bizarre wildlife lectures we have ever attended.

Upon completion of the lecture, we toured the Wildlife Park on the grounds. The park contains several species of alligators and crocodiles from around the world and they are contained within fenced-in ponds. However, since you are walking on a paved pathway through the grounds that are within the Everglades, you see wild alligators sunning themselves on the grounds throughout the self-guided tour. So visitors are well advised not to stray from the paved pathway.

We were able to access the Internet on our laptop computer tethered to our Smartphone at the Everglades Safari Park. Internet service through T-Mobil at this location was very sporadic and it took us a long time to complete everything we needed to accomplish.

We arrived back at the campground very late in the afternoon, a bit weary from a full day of activity in the sun at the Everglades. Time for some relaxation, sitting in our recliners outside on the patio, with a nice glass of wine.

Tomorrow, another new adventure begins!

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