The trip started at 8 am with a 9:30 am bathroom and breakfast stop at McDonald's. I wasn't loving it. We finally made it into the Everglades at 10 am and started with a walk in the famous Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, just like my company's tour. It's a 1.5 mile walk into the cypress swamp on a boardwalk that leads out to a "gator hole" where a mama gator was protecting her 15-20 young. Apparently Hurricane Wilma blew all of the mosquitoes away 2 years ago, but a recent hatch of Lubber Grasshoppers dotted the ground with hundreds of these little guys. The guide said they are an invasive, exotic species - but they're native!
Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea guttata)
This one reared up in a defensive posture to look more menacing. It's smaller than the size of a dime. I wasn't fooled. Once they molt and turn to adults, they have a much different paint scheme.
In the afternoon we took an airboat ride in Everglades City, the tiny port on the western edge of the glades. This airboat is more of a thrill ride, whizzing through the mangroves at 35 mph. It's a lot of fun, but you don't see as much of the wildlife. Well maybe except for this guy who gets fed by the guides. (Which is illegal) Tell me he's not cute?
Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
To complete the ruse, I posed with the alligator. I don't think I ever slipped up and didn't tell a lie until the end when I was asked when I was going home (tomorrow I said - when in fact i went directly home). I think my pasty white alligator-belly tan helped my disguise.
In the end, our trip has two boat rides, our airboat ride is better, lunch comes with the tour and our guides are the best! We see way more wildlife too! Who wants a tour with Everglades Day Safari?