Added by Christian Murillo
Taking a long walk through Shark Valley in Everglades National Park offers you a special opportunity to see an abundance of Everglades wildlife, all in one place.
I would like to preface this adventure by saying that if you prefer to bike Shark Valley, please reference Rob Witt's adventure "Bike through Shark Valley". Biking is certainly the best way to see the whole trail, and not spend the entire day doing it.
Hiking (really walking) this trail is a slightly different than taking the tram or riding a bicycle for several reasons. At a slower moving pace, naturally you will see more wildlife. In an environment that is saturated with beautiful wildlife within dense sawgrass and other foliage, I believe that you can observe the wildlife with much more intimacy at a walking pace, rather than just breezing by a 12 foot alligator that you can easily miss.
With that said, a betting man would place all of his chips on you seeing alligators, turtles, anhinga, great blue herons, great egrets, and many other wildlife, all within the first few miles. Part of what makes Shark Valley so rich with wildlife is the channel of water, lined with a thick wall of saw grass. This forms somewhat of a "valley" for wildlife, between the paved path and the sawgrass that runs the whole 7 miles to the observation tower. In the winter and early spring months, this water channel is somewhat of an oasis, when the majority of the Everglades has dried up. These are also the cooler months of the year, and even though it does not cool down much in Florida, you will also appreciate the diminished mosquito population this time of year.
Close to the observation tower, there are several short walking trails on boardwalks and through swampy forests. Up on the observation tower, you will be able to see a 360-degree panorama of the expansive and impressive Everglades National Park. It is simply incredible, thinking that as far as you can see on the horizon in any direction is one of the worlds widest and slowest flowing rivers.
Note: Alligators are not aggressive to humans by their nature, but they are lightning quick, and if they feel like their territory is being compromised, they are not animals that you want to be close to. Always make sure you stay at least 15-20 feet away from them. If they decide to make themselves comfortable in the middle of the path, you will have to test your patience and just wait. This could take a while, as alligators have the right of way here. However, it is not hard to make light of the situation, as it is not every day you get to marvel at these mysterious prehistoric creatures.
This is extremely rare, but if an alligator does approach you, stay calm and walk away while facing the alligator. DO NOT RUN. Alligators can run extremely fast in a straight line over short distances (+30mph), and since the trail is one straight line, you definitely cannot do the recommended zig-zag run. Get a stick, and press on the alligators nose to guide it another direction and it will more than likely be on its way. The fact that I feel the need to tell you this is for two reasons: 1) I have seen too many tourists (and locals) freak out and do all the wrong things around alligators, and 2) You really will be that close to some of the coolest wildlife that these are very real safety precautions.
- A lot of water
- Camera (with medium-long lens preferably)
- Sun Screen
- Bug Spray
- A stick (Best defense from an Alligator, just poke it in the nose if it approaches)
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Chillin, Cycling, Hiking, Photography, Running
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