Who wants to go to the Everglades at night? (Survivalman Mike might say no at this point). Wanna go on an airboat? Would you go on an airboat in the Everglades at night? That's exactly what I've proposed as a new addition to our Everglades tours and just a few nights ago we ventured out on a test run to assure we could do this safely.
I called the boss an hour before the trip and recommended that if we don't return to nix the plan. He agreed, wished us well and we set out for Sunset Airboat Tours on the Miccosukee Indian Reservation. Fellow guide (and stand up comedian) Dwayne Cunningham and I hatched this plan months ago, but before we unveil our new excursion we wanted to do a trial run - from the docks, across the sawgrass prairie and out to the Miccosukee Indian "hammock" (or island) and back. Airboat captain Regis, equipped with a headlamp similar to those used by the glades froggers, pushed us away from the dock and steered us off into the night.
30 miles east, the sky over Miami glowed orange and as we headed west into the darkness, an abundance of fireflies and click beetles used their bioluminescence to blink their photonic aphrodisiac to attract the opposite sex.
The ride was slower than usual and chillier than usual. Regis suggested the headlamps worked fine but we could have used a bit more light. I suggested doing the trip during the day.
But once we stepped off the boat and onto the Indian island, the airboat prop stuttered to a stop and the cacophony of Pickerel Frogs, Pig Frogs, Narrow-mouthed Toads, Green Tree Frogs and Mink Frogs provided a spectacular symphony that made the trip worthwhile. Walking the boardwalk, each few steps brings you to a new amphibian neighborhood where a new species dominates their tiny patch of swamp. With all of the noise you'd think it'd be easy to find them. We spotted one.
On our way out and back we caught the reflection of the orange-eyed alligators (which is simply a reflection of our lights off the reflective surface at the back of their eye called the tapetum lucidum). They feed at night on fish and whatever else they can easily chomp and swallow. We ain't on the menu.
In all it was a great trip and certainly one I hope we can start sooner than later. And you're welcome to come along.