The Everglades park is a UNESCO heritage site, but we definitely would not have seen its true beauty without a guided tour. What you can see of the Everglades from the visitor centers and roadside is not the same as being inside a cypress dome! And, there is no way we would have felt comfortable trekking into a cypress dome on our own.
We chose a private tour for several reasons, and we think we made the right choice. We didn’t want to be in a larger group and miss what the guide pointed out at the front of the group. We also aren’t really “group people”. More importantly, we wanted the ability to be able to call it quits if we got tired. We were told that we would need to reserve a full day for private tours which I completely understand. As long as we would be able to stop early, we would be fine.
The first and most unique activity was hiking through several cypress domes. You would never imagine what the inside of a cypress dome looks like based on the outside. The interior was several degrees cooler than outside with a ton of wildlife. Our cameras couldn’t even capture the beauty of the filtered light. We saw plants that I had never seen out in the wild including orchids. We saw several alligators, a large (nonvenomous) snake, lizards, fish, frogs, and over a dozen species of birds. At times, the water level was up to my knees. I definitely made use of the mud shoes they offered.
We continued on to freshwater kayaking among mangroves. It was enjoyable but not as unique as the cypress domes. We continued to see several alligators and bird species. At the end of the freshwater kayaking, it was about 6pm.
We chose not to continue on to the saltwater kayaking because it had already been a long day. OK. I admit it. I’m a wimp, but I’m not used to being outside in the sun and the heat for more than a couple of hours. I hadn’t seen a bathroom for six hours. I had previously emailed that stopping early was going to be likely for us, but we felt that we had to apologize that we were stopping. Also our guide spent a lot of time taking photographs. I had assumed that the photographs would be for us, but we never received them.
In summary, unforgettable experience but I’m glad we had an exit plan. If I had been with a group, I would have continued on and felt sick for the rest of my vacation.
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