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A TRIP TO THE EVERGLADES.

Would you like to see something different than theme parks? Then why not try a part of "The Other Florida" - the fascinating Everglades. This is well worth a visit to get away from the Kissimmee/Orlando area for two, or preferably three days. You cannot appreciate its wonder in a day trip.

Covering the entire Monroe County and a large slice of Miami Dade County it is situated in the far south-western corner of Florida. The two main visitor centers are at Everglades City/Chokoloskee at the northern approach and Flamingo City at the southern (Miami) approach. Having used both centers our preference is the Everglades City one. From our home on the Ronald Reagan Parkway (CR54) we headed, after breakfast, for Tampa via the I-4 then joined the I-75 heading for Fort Myers and Naples which we reached in approx. 4 hours non-stop driving of 190 miles. You have several options at this stage. Book into a hotel and explore Naples or Fort Myers - we prefer Naples - or carry on to the select Marco Island via the US951 junction at the Golden Gate. Marco Island is a popular place for snowbirds and retired American citizens and rather on the expensive side. There are only two hotels here, the Hilton and the Radisson, both quite large and both on the beach. It is approx. 30 miles from Marco to Everglades City along the Tamiani Trail.

One of mother Earth's most unique eco-systems, the 1.5 million acres of wetlands are home to marsh rabbits, ancient mahogany trees and of course alligators of all sizes as well as the home of over 1,000 plant species, 300 species of birds and 125 species of fish. We went on an airboat from Captain Doug's and an experienced guide gave us an interesting commentary about the whole eco-system. In the afternoon a boat tour was on the agenda taking us through some of the Thousand Islands seeing manatees and then dolphins following the boat and leaping above the wash (waves) made by the boat at the stern end. For those interested, much can be learned of some Florida history, i.e. some of the islands are made of shells, laboriously carted there by the Calusa Indians to act as lookout posts to warn of approaching Spanish invaders. Everglades City, although rather small, has the City Motel and the Ivey House B&B. Located in the center is the Old Laundry, home of the Everglades Museum which is open Tues. to Sat. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The most important thing to take is insect repellent - mosquitoes are in abundance at certain times of the year.

Whilst in the area why not visit one of the six Seminole tribe Reservations - the Big Cypress Reservation? Ochopee, in the center, is home to America's smallest post office - 8ft. 4 inches x 7ft. 3 inches x 10ft. 6 inches. Buggy Tours are also available in the center at the Billie Swamp Safari Wildlife Park. Many concessions have been made by the USA Government, particularly taxes, and in the main the Seminoles are in charge of their own destiny.

This was a really interesting and educational trip which gave us an insight and understanding of the Everglades importance to life. Further information can be obtained by visiting www.florida-everglades.com

By Mike & Kath Trevena


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