I think I expected something more like a jungle or swamps surrounded by trees, but the Everglades looked more like the Serengeti than I ever would have guessed. It’s so incredibly flat and seemingly barren that the overlook in the center of the park rises about five feet off the ground for a “view.” But the barrenness is kind of haunting and beautiful, especially with a vast sunset stretching on the horizon.
And just like in Africa the wildlife all converge around the watering holes. One of the best places to experience what the Everglades has to offer is the Anhinga Trail. It’s a boardwalk set up around a pond teeming with alligators. If you didn’t value your fingers you could reach down and touch them they‘re so close. And they aren’t the comatose alligators you see at the zoo - these guys would open their eyes when you walked a little closer and shift their sunbathing positions. It was a little frightening.
The park service offers lots of interesting free programs (I think in an effort to trick you into believing there are tons of things to do in the park - but upon closer inspection the programs include “coffee with ranger” and watching an episode of the PBS series on National Parks). The program I decide to do is a nighttime walk of the Anhinga trail. We’re told to bring flashlights but when we get there we’re told to not use them so that our eyes will adjust to the dark. The moon is full enough so I don’t run into the people in front of me, but shuffling around in the dark in an area swarming with alligators is a little unnerving. The guides flash their high-beam flashlights at sounds in the dark and spot out some alligators on the move. They glide through the water, on the hunt for something to eat.
The guides are mostly talking about what this place is like in the daytime or during different seasons. They stop on the trail and talk in the dark. And it gives mosquitoes time to find me and converge. I thought they wouldn’t be out so late at night. But it gets so bad I have to leave early and rush back to the safety of my car. The mosquito ambush continues on the way into my tent. I leave the flap open for the minimum amount of time for me to slip inside, but about ten of the buggers have snuck in. And I see them hovering outside swatting against the mesh, trying to get in. I would say the Everglades is something you have to experience, but I would just recommend leaving before sundown.