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See You Later Alligator



Our final day in Florida was spent in the everglades.  We went out first to Shark Valley, approximately a one hour drive from our hotel in Florida City.  Shark Valley is a unique area where the wildlife, including alligators can crawl up right onto the pathways as there are absolutely no barricades separating pedestrians from the animals' habitat.  I remember from my childhood alligators lounging in the sun on the tarmac pathways and actually almost tripping over one once.  I was informed on our most recent trip that in the over forty years since the park opened there have been no alligator related fatalities, injuries or attacks in the valley.  We saw a few tiny baby alligators swimming around the swamp under the care of their mother.  The highlight of the morning was witnessing a male alligator bellowing in the water.  I had never before seen this mating ritual, in which the alligator lifts its head and tail out of the water and creates a bellowing sound in its throat to charm lady alligators.
After wandering on our own for a few hours we took a tram ride through the valley.  The tram takes two hours to make its way through the park, stopping for twenty minutes to allow passengers to walk up the viewing tower to get a look at the miles of surrounding prairies.  Though the park is typically teeming with alligators there were comparatively very few out on this day.  The tram is a great way to learn about the everglades as it is narrated by an informative guide.  The tram moves at 15 mph and the driver makes frequent stops for pictures and to allow closer looks at the local wildlife.

Following the trip to Shark Valley we went across the highway to Miccosukee Restaurant, owned and operated by Florida Natives.  I always order the deep fried alligator bites...when in Rome!  I split an order of the alligator and a chicken wrap and fries.  When asked what alligator tastes like I always describe it as a chicken which has spent its life swimming underwater.

Since our Enterprise rental was due back at 5pm we went out to run a few errands before returning it and were returned back to our hotel.  For dinner I ordered a Cuban sandwich from Mario's, recommended to me by our first Enterprise driver, a Cuban native.  The sandwich was composed of ham, pork, cheese, pickle, mustard on a Cuban bun.  I wanted to have a Cuban as I've heard they are a popular choice in south Florida due to the high Cuban population in the area.  I wasn't particularly impressed with it though, I found the heavy composition of meat and cheese a bit bland.

In the early evening we went out to the Flamingo Visitor Centre in another area of the everglades, another hour long drive from Florida City.  I've affectionately nicknamed the visitors centre, "Barbie's Sixties House" due to its pastel paint job.  This is also where you can spot Florida crocodiles.  Though the crocodiles prefer to hang out on the shore just beyond a chained sign preventing the entrance of all but "authorized personnel"   As such, we were only able to catch a glimpse of one crocodile before being reprimanded by a park ranger.

That concluded the final day in Florida.  We were in bed fairly early that night as we had a long nine hours of driving to prepare for the following day.  I was not at all enthused about leaving the gorgeous weather we were blessed with all week.


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