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A wading bird was drying out its feathers.
Backcountry Boat Tour - Everglades National Park
Closest available address
1 Flamingo Lodge Highway Homestead, FL 33034
From mid-December to mid-April 9:00am-4:00pm & other times 10:30am - 4:30pm
Best time to visit
The Backcountry Boat Tour is an approximately 2 hour narrated tour that travels north on a canal from Flamingo on the coast to Whitewater Bay in the park interior. The boat is relatively flat and travels relatively slowly especially in protected wildlife zones. Animals you may see on this tour include crocodiles, manatees, wading birds and perhaps osprey or eagles.
The canal water and Whitewater Bay are brackish in nature, meaning the water is a mix of fresh and salt water. The degree of salinity increases closer to Florida Bay. This part of the park is also mangrove country. Mangrove trees thrive in brackish or salt water and warmer temperatures, and Everglades Park has one of the largest protected mangrove forests in the world. There are actually three species of mangroves trees, red, black and white. The red trees tend to grow in open water. The black mangroves can be found along the shore, and the white trees are typically further inland. These remarkable trees can actually excrete salt from their leaves. Mangroves are also very important for many types of fish. For example, 90% of commercial fish in south Florida spend a portion of their lives in the mangrove forests. Mangroves also protect the coast from damaging hurricanes.
Although the evening tour was fairly crowded in late December, it was still a good time of year to go because there were few if any nettlesome mosquitoes. Animals are typically more active late in the day or early mornings. The best animal encounters were near the boat dock with an opportunity to see a manatee, crocodile and a large heron. Animals became more scare further up the canal. The boat captain was also the narrator. He initially discussed manatee and crocodile characteristics and behavior and then talked about the park, the canal, and mangrove trees. He spoke for most of the tour, which is a good thing because the mangrove scenery became monotonous after a while. Checking out Whitewater Bay was interesting due to the sheer size of this 100 square mile body of water. This tour was definitely better than the Florida Bay Tour as there were more animals to see, and the commentary was more informative. While it's not cheap at $32.25 (as of 2014), if time is limited and you want to see parts of the park that would otherwise be inaccessible, it's a decent option. The tour is best suited for birders and those who are into nature. It will minimal appeal for most children.
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