Monday, February 13, 2017

Gators Gone Wild–Everglades National Park

He looks like he's ready to catch a turtle!

Ever since our first visit to the Shark Valley Visitor Center during our first year of full-timing, I’ve always wanted to go back again.

Since we’re staying all the way down here in the Everglades, I decided this was a perfect opportunity for us to go back.  If we could have flown like a bird, or taken a boat, it would have been a really quick trip,

but since we had to stick to the roads, it took us an hour and a half.  It was a beautiful day for a drive, though, so we didn’t mind.

The Everglades were waiting . . .
Everglades National Park
In the parking lot, we ran into Mike & Annette and Russ & Betsy, fellow-full-timers and RV-Dreamers that are staying at the same RV Resort as us.  Mike & Annette were waiting for a tram, and Russ & Betsy we getting ready to set out on bike in the direction recommended by the NPS Rangers.
We unloaded our bikes as well, but we set off in the opposite direction – the same direction as the tram. 
Biking in the Everglades
The east road is more wide-open, so this let us ride with the wind pushing us in this direction; returning on the west road, going into the wind, we would be more sheltered so the wind wouldn’t be too bad.

It wasn’t long before our first gator sighting,
He looks like he's sleeping
First gator of the day

We made our way through the swamps of the Everglades,
Everglades National Park

keeping our eyes peeled for alligators and interesting birds, but mostly making time towards the Observation Tower.
The birds aren't concerned at all

We knew there would be much more to see on the ride back to the Visitor Center!  The first 8 miles passed quickly.

We made it to the Observation Tower
We reached the Observation Tower

We parked our bikes and took our snacks up to the tower.
Observation Tower
There was a tram full of school kids on a field trip behind us, so we climbed to the top of the tower while they enjoyed their picnic lunch in the grass at the bottom.

Nice view from up here! 
The view from above
Mike & Annette were on the tram behind the field trip, and we ran into them at the top of the tower.  Mike was kind enough to take a picture for us.
Tom and I on top of the Tower




On the way back down, we ran into Russ & Betsy.
Tom with Betsy & Russ
We chatted for a few minutes, and Betsy told me about some baby alligators that they had spotted along the walkway to the tower.  I made sure I looked for them on the way back to the bikes.

They were camouflaged pretty well at the base of a tree, but we found them!
Baby Gators
More baby gators
A few more babies




On the ride back, we did spot more gators than on the way out, but not nearly as many as we had seen when we were here 4 years ago.  Maybe it was the warmer weather, but it seemed like most of them were down in the canal,
A pair of gators




rather than in the grass along the edge of the road. 
Lurking in the grass

There were some lurking in the grass, though.
Looks like he's smiling




We also saw a few turtles,

and LOTS of Great Blue Herons!
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron





Most of them didn’t even mind when we came up alongside them.

Another Great Blue Heron

We also spotted a Black-Crested Night Heron (had to google that one!), and lots of butterflies.
Black-crested Night Heron




Finally – an alligator up in the grass!
One of the few we saw near the road

And another one crawled out of the water as we rode past!
This guy crawled out of the water as we road past




The highlight of the day, though, came when we were almost back to the 2 mile marker on the trail.  We saw another gator in the grass, but from a distance, something looked strange about him.
We got close enough to see clearly, and saw that he had caught a turtle in his mouth.
We weren’t sure what to think – it was the craziest thing we’d ever seen!  The turtle was still alive – he was moving his head and feet around.  We didn’t know what was going to happen next; I’ve always heard that gators drown their prey, so we though he might take the turtle back into the canal.  We were standing there thinking about it, when suddenly he threw himself into the air and kindof flung the turtle.
He almost got away!
We thought it might get away, but the gator reached out with those giant jaws and grabbed it sideways!
He flipped it on the side so he could get a better angle
Got it!

He stayed like that for a few minutes, appearing to be resting, and then he flung himself upwards again, repositioning the turtle in his jaws.
He's working on getting it turned around

He was apparently working on getting it flipped over so he could bite into it easier.

He got it flipped over
After every re-positioning, he would stop and rest.  We would wonder whether we should move on, and other bike riders and walkers stopped to take pictures and then moved on, but we just couldn’t drag ourselves away.  We kept wondering what he would do next!

Once he had the turtle upside down, his next move was to open his jaws and then close them with a quick snap.
20,000 pounds of pressure in those jaws

We heard a “Crunch!”, and knew he had broken the shell!






It was disgusting – guts flew out of his mouth!
Pieces of turtle are flying

Once again, he re-positioned it, and continued to crunch on the poor turtle!
Getting gross

At this point, I took a short video with my phone.  You can hear the crunch as he breaks up the shell, but I’m also told that Tom’s sound effects are pretty entertaining!

He was still working on swallowing it when we finally moved on.
Now he just has to swallow it all!

WOW – That was not something we ever thought we would see!  It was gross, but amazing!  Nature in action . . . and we witnessed it up close!  It certainly was a memorable end to a great day!


  1. After taking the Tram Tour in 2014 Kathy would get within feet of those guys. Bet if she had seen what you did she'd have been a bit more cautious.
    Kathy was surprised when she saw the video.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. We were pretty darn surprised, too! It was so amazing, we couldn't drag ourselves away!

  2. All I can say is WOW! It is amazing what you might see if you get out and experience nature.

  3. What an amazing experience, I would have been grossed out & yelling @ the gator to drop the poor turtle. I'm not brave enough to watch the video. Becki

    1. It's only 18 seconds, and actually the worst part was over by the time I thought to video!

  4. Marci you look fabulously tan! While I am sure you miss your boys you sure look like you are glowing as an empty nester! It sounds like you two are really having a wonderful time in south Florida.

    WARNING when you get back up here to Central Florida in March it is VERY crowded. Crowded like I don't ever remember so enjoy the wilderness while you can.

    1. Thanks Susan! We're torn between loving the peace and quiet here, and feeling like it's so darn far from everything! Not looking forward to crowds and traffic, though!


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