Travel

Everglades National Park: an intriguing swampland

We head out to Florida’s Everglades National Park for a boat tour on the world’s slowest flowing river. 

The ride lasts 35 minutes in total through swampy waters where some 1.5 million alligators and crocodiles are estimated to live. These waters are also filled with various types of fish. The tour, conducted in an open air boat, starts off slowly but speeds up suddenly over the shallow waters of this swampland.

This tour is ideal for people who love adventure; you speed through the reeds of the Everglades, which is basically swampland that seems to go on forever. Under the shallow waters here lives a whole different world.

Our boat slows down when we approach the areas where lots of crocodiles, alligators and fish live. The tourists on our boat tense up when we see our first reptiles. There are just so many; some large, some small, some in the water, some out. The cost of the tour is $25 per person.

We are told by our captain that in recent years the Everglades have been overwhelmed by a sudden increase in the number of Burmese python, and that these snakes are a serious threat to the wildlife here. From Southeast Asia, the Burmese python has become popular in the US for its extraordinary coloring. Many people started to keep them at home, but they are not without their problems. Namely, these owners often find it difficult to feed and take care of them and so, even though it’s forbidden, the pythons are let loose into the wild. This has led to a rapid increase in the number of pythons living in the wild. And now, no one can seem to get the numbers under control. The pythons are even eating young crocodiles and alligators in the swamp waters, thus harming the natural fabric of the Everglades.

An alligator show at Everglades National Park.

Up close with the crocodiles


After our boat tour, we are treated to an actual alligator/crocodile show. First, visitors get to see an eight-month-old crocodile up close. After this, visitors can view a seven-year-old alligator and get some brief information about this reptile. Most of those in the audience watch with their mouths open in surprise; the children try to take as many photos as they can.

We leave the Everglades behind, and head out into Florida. Our next stop is a real rodeo, where we get to watch people competing to see who can stay atop a wild bull the longest without falling off.

The bull we watch tries with all his might to throw off the man who is sitting atop him, though rodeo workers try to distract him. The rodeo is quite dangerous; someone falling off an angry bull could be stepped on or seriously hurt in some other way.

In the end, no one actually manages to stay on for long; the only thing that really changes is how many minutes they make it. But in the end, the bull always tosses the rider off, one way or another.

Later, in Miami, we visit the district they call Little Havana. Lots of people from Cuba live here, which is why the area gets this name. Throughout Florida, there are an estimated 1.2 million or so people of Cuban origin. In the Little Havana district, the spoken language is of course Spanish. When you get to what they call “Calle Ocho” or Eighth Street, you’ll really feel like you’re somewhere in Cuba. The Cuban flag waves next to the American flag here, and the place is full of visitors from all over, as well as Cuban Americans, of course.

The Cubans who come to visit this district get in line for their Cuban coffee; it’s clear they love and miss their culture. Migration from Cuba began heavily after the 1959 revolution in Cuba. Tens of thousands of Cubans made their way to Florida at that time, settling there for good. Interestingly, we note that one of the gravesites at a cemetery we came across in Little Havana belongs to former Cuban President Carlos Prio Socarrás, who led the island between 1948 and 1952.

Nurdan ARSLAN
Email: 
nurdan@thelondonpost.co.uk

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