Florida Everglades Tours
Florida Everglades tours tend to center around three park Entrances -- Everglades City (west), Shark Valley (north) and Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center (south).
The most famous of these tours are the airboat rides. Now you can't actually take an airboat tour in the park itself (it's forbidden), you can ride an airboat around the edges of the park, like in Everglades City.There are all kinds of other Florida Everglades tours available, including tram tours, ranger walks, boat rides (including kayak and canoe) and eco tours. There are also self-guided tours on boardwalks around the park.
Shark Valley Tram
The Shark Valley entrance has a great tram tour that takes about two hours. It makes a 15 mile loop and the guide points out all kinds of wildlife, even to the point of stopping if its a rare or unusual sighting.
You'll need to buy your tickets ahead of time, and they run in the vicinity of $14 a person. The Shark Valley tram is a definite "must do" tour if you are anywhere in South Florida.
The trams run every hour from about 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. They are very popular, so you might want to book your reservation as soon as you enter the park.
Florida Everglades Tours -- Boating
If you are interested in a boat tour of some kind, your best bets are in the Everglades City area, on the western edge of the park. Once again, although you won't be inside the park boundaries, for all intents and purposes, you are in the Florida Everglades.
Canoe and kayak tours are popular, due to the amount of waterways in the area. While a tour is best, because you have someone taking you to the good locations, you can rent a kayak or canoe and explore on your own. Just take a GPS with you, and a good map as well. It is very, very easy to get lost in this area.
There are also boat tours out of the Flamingo area and Chokoloskee that let you see the park from the perspective of either Florida Bay or the Gulf of Mexico.
Most of the eco tours involve boating in some fashion. But there are also tours by vehicle and guided walks, mainly through the Big Cypress area (on the northern boundary of the Everglades proper).
In the Fakahatchee Strand, again just north of the park boundaries, there are ranger-led walks that go into the heart of the park, which is totally fascinating. If you love orchids, this is the walk for you. You also have a better chance of seeing a panther in this wilderness environment. One thing to keep in mind, though -- this walk can get very wet, so wear clothes and shoes accordingly.
Something to note: I've seen at least one outfit that boasts of eco tours that includes an airboat ride as part of the day-long package. Which is kind of a shame, since the rest of the tour sounds great! See the section on airboats below before you make your decision.
A Word About Airboats
Airboat tours are neat, that's true. But keep in mind that the are ecologically unsound in this fragile environment. The noise tends to frighten away the interesting animals, and the airboats also pose a hazard to anyone kayaking or canoeing (I know this from experience). So think about it before venturing on an airboat tour in the Everglades area.
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