Wild Water

I may be back in the frigid north, but my heart is still in the warm sunshine of Florida.

It’s not going to be much of a surprise when I tell you that the two highlights of my short visit to the sunny south both involved water.  The first was a stroll on the beach at Sharky’s on The Pier in Venice. I had heard about the restaurant and its neighbouring pier over the years and so a visit of my own was warranted.

sharkies-pier

The water was surprisingly warm (southerners might have a different opinion on that one) considering how churned up it was from the wind storm a few days earlier.  I wasn’t however warned that those waves were going to be unpredictable and occasionally outright rogue.

Let’s just say my capri pants were pretty well soaked for the drive home.  Even more astonishing (at least it was to me) was the amount of sand that managed to insert itself in places it didn’t belong.

The next morning we drove down to the Everglades for two things on my To Do list – an airboat ride and viewing alligators.  Riding an airboat on the Everglades has been on my wish list since watching the TV Show, Gentle Ben, in the late 60s.  For me, it was a life both foreign and exotic.

gentle-ben
Image from http://www.imdb.com – 1967

I got my wish on both counts.  Before we had even stepped on the boat, a huge alligator came over to pay us a visit.  I was going to keep my distance, thank you very much.

airboat
Big Gator on the edge of the shore to the far right

Besides the driver, my sister and I were the only ones on the boat and we had a blast.   I wish I could have taken photos of us flying over the river grass, but I was too busy just holding on.  Hydroplaning around corners was both terrifying and exhilarating.  As we skidded through the turns, I hoped that airboats could not be tipped over and was alarmed to later discover they can be!

If you’ve never been to the Everglades, I encourage you to add it to your adventure list.  It is as interesting to learn about as it is to experience.  I’m one of those people who thought it was simply a large swamp, but it’s actually a very slow moving river … 60 miles (97km) wide and 100 miles (160km) long.

everglades

It’s a massive wetland ecosystem, home to many animals – including both alligators and crocodiles.

I didn’t know that there was both a freshwater Everglade, which is home to the alligator and river grass, as well as a saltwater Everglade which is home to the American crocodile and the mangrove trees.

We were in the freshwater Everglades and there was no shortage of alligators to be found. Even after the millionth sighting, I was still bobbing with excitement.

everglades3

One of the most surprising discoveries of the day though was that the Everglades is also home to panthers. The name of the Florida Panther Hockey Team is now starting to make more sense.

panther-sign

However, if there is going to be a sign advertising panthers, I’m going to expect to see a panther.  Unfortunately, they were a no-show and I was majorly disappointed.

104 comments

  1. Wow, what an exciting and awesome vacation, Joanne! So glad no alligators or crocodiles came after you, as well as panthers! Yikes! I was happy to hear the water on feet was warm, that you had a fun time! 🙂

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  2. I grew up in the Everglades (not the part that you visited). There is still land near my parents with cypress stands that are dry in the winter and will end up waist deep in water during the summer. We learned to know what trees meant it was wetland and which grew on higher ground. The alligators mostly kept to the canals, but one extra rainy season an alligator came up to the yard and was eating the dog’s food. We had to call in a game warden for that one!
    I’ve been on an airboat ride in Okeechobee with my son for his field trip. It was a blast! Although I admit I have a bigger fear of alligators than sharks. We went water-skiing on Lake Placid and while I waited in the water, I kept thinking an alligator was going to come and eat me!!

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    • haha! I could see that if you grew up with gators, you’d expect to see them lurking in the water just about anywhere – even Lake Placid!! That would make the swim portion of the Ironman race a little more interesting! 😉

      I think it would freak me out just a little bit to have an alligator in my backyard! On the other hand, I’m not too thrilled when I get a skunk either 😉

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  3. Panthers? Okay… I could deal with the gators, I’ve tasted them before and in my mind that makes them less predator and more food. But I dunno about the panthers. Also the Everglades have been on my list, but not so much the airboat, I’d love to paddle in there… Minus the gator encounters.

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  4. Now that’s how I want to see alligators! Yes, this is on my bucket list as well…sound like a must do! And most southerners would consider the water cold…I would like it but would have to gradually get used to the temps.

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    • It’s off-season right now so it was perfectly quiet. There wasn’t another boat within sight or sound. It was wonderful.
      I recommend you bring a sweater or jacket though. I suspect you would have found the ride a bit cool 😉

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  5. I love this reminder of the TV show Gentle Ben, I’d forgotten all about that one. I’m with Su in remembering Flipper and Skippy too. Great post Joanne and I’ glad you enjoyed the trip.

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  6. Getting things off of your bucket list, seeing alligators…and being in panther territory sound like the ingredients for a very exciting vacation indeed. Thanks for sharing, and for the great photos. Welcome back to the North!

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  7. I didn’t know about the panthers. I’ll look out for one in my backyard. 😅 Your airboat ride sounds quite hairy. So glad you didn’t overturn. We have many pelicans in our trees at the moment. Maybe that’s why you didn’t see any there.

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  8. I miss going down to southern FL in the winter. It’s the perfect jolt for a winter weary body. It looks and sounds like you had a grand time, so I’ll live vicariously through you!

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  9. What fun Joanne! I had a similar experience a number of years ago when visiting my Mom in ?Florida, a very cool experience indeed! Love, love, love the first photo of the sun peaking through the pier!❤️

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      • I chuckled when I read your comment about the sand! This happened to Katheryn & I in Cape Town when big waves came crashing in, soaking us to our knees. We couldn’t believe the sand either! Hope you have an opportunity to return soon.

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        • Although we have a lot of experience around water, the ocean seems to behave very differently and I don’t know about you, but I have very little ocean experience. I could hardly wait to peel off the wet, sticky clothes and wash off the sand and salt!!

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  10. Very cool – I took that same boat ride just a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. The first time I went to Florida (way back when I was a teen) I remember meeting some Canadians – two girls about my age. They did not speak much English, but we had a great time playing in the ocean.

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    • Lots of Quebeckers head to Florida every winter. The wonder of children is that they manage to get along just fine even with limited common vocabulary. We adults could learn a lot from that 🙂

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    • I’m grateful for not getting dumped into the water. It was clean and shallow … but the thought of snakes and alligators makes me shudder! Thankfully not a single snake was seen on this visit. That’s one kind of wildlife I’m happy to go without.

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  11. I do like the first picture particularly but must confess I was scrolling down the page in slight trepidation. Having been a little frivolous with a comment on a recent post I was dreading seeing your arm languishing in the mouth of an Everglade Alligator. Relief, all round 🙂

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    • LOL!! Not that the big gator near our airboat wasn’t considering something like that 😉

      When we returned and I was getting off the boat, he opened his mouth reeeeeallly wide. At my sister’s squeal, I scrambled out of there pretty quickly.
      … which only goes to show that I’m a questionable photography. With my camera in hand, I was more absorbed with saving my butt than capturing an interesting photo 😉

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  12. This is great and brought back some really old memories. When I first left my home country of South Africa, my first point of entry into the U.S. was Miami and of course we visited the Everglades. I remember mostly being so boiling hot as we wore long sleeves and long pants, shoes and socks so as to avoid the mosquitoes. I don’t remember their being many mosquitoes but I remember the heat and yes, the alligators of course. This post brings it all back…. haha.

    I really like the photo of the water going over the Pier in Venice. Sounds like you had a good break and got a bit of sunshine.

    Peta

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    • I understand it can get brutally hot and humid in Florida … I can just imagine how uncomfortable a day in the Everglades with long pants and sleeves would have been.
      I don’t care for the heat or humidity, so I was glad that temperatures were cool by Florida standards, but perfect for me – mid 20s (that’s celsius of course) with no humidity. I could tell all the locals by their sweaters and jackets 🙂

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  13. Wouldn’t catch me going on one of those things anywhere near our crocodiles. Looks fun though. The most I remember Skippy, is when my aussie Greek mates refer to us anglos as ‘Skippy the bush kangarula’ Funny thing is kangaroos are pretty dense; not a bit like Lassie or Flipper.
    I’ve been told the Everglades are choke up Australian meleleucas (paper barks). Did you see or hear any evidence of this?

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  14. Oh how exciting your airboat ride sounds! I’ve only driven through part of the Everglades back in the 80’s. I thought it was gorgeous. I spotted that gator by your airboat! It was a big one! I’d be excited to see them for the millionth time too, but from a safe distance. 🙂

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  15. that is so funny about you in the water. We can always tell tourists from ‘up north.’ You guys are brave to get in that cold water in January!! 😀 The Everglades are amazing–so happy you enjoyed them.

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    • I could definitely tell the ‘locals’ from the tourists. It was cool by Florida standards (mid 20s /70s) and the locals were all wearing sweaters and jackets, meanwhile I’m basking in the warmth 🙂

      Just for the record, I didn’t VOLUNTARILY get wet! Call me a newbie 🙂

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  16. From the get-go, not that it matters to me where I sit now, but I’m glad alligators and crocodiles have defined their territories. Don’t plan to be in either one. The airboat ride sounds good, but in the movies, there are still ‘gaters or crocs involved. Yuck. Great post. Don’t mind if I appreciate your post because it’s safe from waayy over here. 😀 😀 Great pictures, by the way.

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    • I know what you’re saying. I watched just a few too many gator videos before I left. They move FAST! … and I was just a little leery of getting too close. I always tried to make sure there was at least one other person around me who was going to run slower than me 😉

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  17. I’m glad you had a great time, and I’m so glad you got some good photos of the gators. I was on an airboat ride, but it was a rainy day (they almost wouldn’t take us out) and most of the wildlife was laying low. I love the top photo of the pier.

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    • Thanks Dan. That top photo caused my first soaking by a rogue wave. The waves looked so innocent … until they weren’t. Lesson there, I think 😉
      I would go back again just for another airboat ride … but then, I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie 🙂

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  18. My husband used to take business trips to Ft. Lauderdale every couple of months. While he worked I went down to a preserve called Swamp Billie’s and took a ride through the park in one of those monster jeeps – we saw a few of the panthers. They’re smaller that I thought they would be and very shy. The ostriches were much larger than I expected and they weren’t shy at all!

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  19. Two years ago, my husband and I were in southern Florida (Miami and Key West) prior to our trip to Cuba. I really regret that we didn’t have time to visit the Everglades nor did we see any alligators. Btw, we have lots and lots of pelicans that you could see here in San Diego… just saying.

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  20. I don’t blame you; seeing a panther would be wonderfully wild. I am glad you were able to have those adventures. I love the beach and lived near the everglades. I know I have been there, but never on one of those boat rides. I have to add it to my bucket list.

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  21. I didn’t know the gators were that abundant in Florida. With that many gators, they must be very competitive for food, so it really is a good thing your boat didn’t overturn.

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  22. Fun stuff! Glad the gators didn’t disappoint you. And that you had a chance to wade into the waves a bit. You’ll just have to come back again so you can spy a panther!

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  23. Great photos. I’m so glad you had fun. And ‘Gentle Ben’ … wow I hadn’t even thought of that show for years. Now I’m remembering ‘Flipper’ too, and ‘Skippy the Bush Kangaroo’ … though I’m picking you probably didn’t get that one in Canada.

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