We didn't expect much of this entrance-to-the-Glades tram tour because of the crowds (we were in line to get into the parking area for almost an hour -- on a weekday!) and because its run by the government. But OMG! THIS was a peak experience.
We took the tram around mid-day. It was hot! Our guide and his wife, our driver, were knowledgeable and friendly and deeply committed to showing us the sights and the animals. We saw dozens of gators during the tram tour-- big ones, babies, even some with mouths open. Couldn't have been more interesting. Or so we thought...
When we stopped at the observation Tower, husband and I were hot and decided to walk the path into the hammock, instead of climb the tower. It was a gorgeous walk -- and even a bit more than gorgeous. We walked a winding shady course, bounded on both sides by a lagoon full of water lilies and alligators. Yep. Gators, hundreds of them, all stacked up next to and on top of each other, mosying about the lagoon, and resting on the banks. We walked in deep, intending to complete the circle of the path. But, as we rounded a bend, we drew up against two mammoth gators lying nose to tail across the full width of our path!
Yes, we briefly discussed leaping over them. That is how husband's mind works. But not mine. Instead, we stood transfixed, like statues, no more than five feet from the pair. They blinked a lot but gave no other acknowledgement of the fact of us. After about 8 minutes, their even-bigger brother glided from mid-lagoon to the edge of our path and prepared to make land and join them. You will understand that we did not turn our backs as we retreated back the way we came.
If you are the type of person who is thinking about going to the Everglades, you already know what a bucket-list thrill this experience was for us. When we rejoined our tram group and reported the experience with "our" gators, even our guide was astounded. In the heat of the day, gators are almost always stretched out in the water. Ours were up on our path, at least 20 feet from the edge of the lagoon. And in the shade! As our guide said: "They know better than that!"
We loved the Shark Valley Tram Tour.
When you reach the Tower stop, take the hammock path instead. It's on your left, just past the first big lagoon-viewing area, before you plow forward toward the Tower. Keep your eyes open, and your wits about you! And say hey to my gators!