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Everglades: A different face

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Celeste Rodas de Juárez

Although it might come as a surprise to many people, Miami offers a range of nature tourism activities: safaris, sightings of snakes, crocodiles and birds, and unique experiences such as ‘flying’ in a high-speed boat over its marshes. All these surprises are right on the city’s doorstep, in the enormous network of swamps and islands known as the Everglades.

This National Park is a vast, green maze that extends over more than 600,000 hectares, starting near Orlando and ending on Florida Bay. This is why it is considered to be the largest sub-tropical desert in the United States. Irrespective of exactly where in Florida people arrive at these wetlands, the standard visit will always consist of an encounter with crocodiles and other animal species typical of the area, and a ride in an airboat, which is the only way of getting around. A trip on this type of vessel is a delightful adventure, as the airboat is driven quickly forwards by the air that is generated by an aircraft propeller.

And when you see the spectacle that unfolds around you, you appreciate why this land is called ‘The River of Grass’. The tourism industry has designed a complete and complex range of excursions. Everglades trips that, for example, can be combined with other types of tour. In Orlando, a ‘combo’ can be purchased which includes the Everglades with a visit to the Kennedy Space Center. Or at Fort Lauderdale you can go to see the customs of the Seminole indians, while in Everglades City (the entry point to the so-called 10,000 islands) it is possible to go by canoe to the mangrove swamp tunnels.

This is a small Florida town that is the gateway to two of the most popular sections of the National Park, namely Royal Palm Area and Flamingo Area. The former is an ideal spot for nature lovers, because extrovert birds and amphibians can be seen from its trails as they wander calmly along near visitors.

Flamingo Area, meanwhile, has a marina where boats can be hired and there are facilities for eating and even camping. The visual feast in the park includes manatees, flamingoes, storks, pelicans, southern bald eagles, 18 different types of turtle, 28 types of snake and nine of lizard, and dozens of different amphibians. And that’s without even considering all the freshwater fish!

Everglades Alligator Farm, which is also in Homestead, is one of the most popular in the region. The surroundings are somewhat rustic, but the crocodile show is breathtaking: the attendant even puts his jaw on the tip of the animal’s snout.

If it’s camping you’re interested in, nothing beats Miami Everglades Resort, which covers an area of 13 hectares between Miami and Key Largo. In addition to an area where tents can be pitched, the resort boasts basketball and volleyball courts, trails for hiking and cycling, a heated swimming pool, and even a computer room.

No visit to the Everglades would be complete without tasting the local cuisine: fried crocodile or crocodile brochettes and burgers. More conservative visitors opt for shrimps, or a typical local dessert: key lime pie.

Other Activities
Homestead, 35 miles southeast of Miami, is where Homestead-Miami Speedway, the only speedway track in southern Florida, is based. On Fridays you can even drive a racing car there. Nearby is Schnebly Redland’s Winery.

Who would have thought that wine was made in southern Florida? Apart from tours that tell the history of wines made from tropical fruits, there are tasting sessions and wine classes, and you can also enjoy a karaoke night there, with dancing and concerts by local musicians. Downtown Homestead is small, but well worth having a look at. Something of vital historical importance in Florida is preserved there, for it was where the state railroad was promoted. The picturesque buildings date back to the early 20th century. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and quite rightly so, too.

Some facts

  • This National Park is a vast green maze that covers more than 600,000 hectares.
  • To visit the Everglades Wear long-sleeved shirt and pants, to protect yourself from insects, and closed sport shoes. Also remember to take water and refreshments with you, plus sun block, a cap, sunglasses, insect repellent and an umbrella or poncho.
  • On Fridays, you can drive racing cars at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • There’s nothing like a stroll along Lincoln Road for anyone who wants to go shopping in Miami.
  • The wildlife in the area is unusual: there are more than 50 types of reptiles in the Everglades, including turtles.

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