Everything You Need To Know About The Everglades Alligator Tour
Written by Jaillan Yehia
At number 2 on my top 10 travel lessons to transform your trips is the importance of getting up close with nature and especially wildlife at any (respectful & safe) opportunity.
No matter how much I travel absolutely nothing reminds me of how lucky I am to see so much of the world and puts a huge smile on my face like meeting animals in their natural environment – and on my second ever visit to Florida I managed to finally fit in an Everglades Alligator Tour.
As well as being delighted I’d decided to take the tour while in the Sunshine State, I was even more happy with the resulting pictures – and memories.
Here’s what I think you need to know before your Everglades alligator tour…
1. Bring Your Best Camera
On this trip I actually remembered to bring my Nikon camera and huge zoom lens, which I originally bought for a safari but often forget / neglect to bring on day tours – this is because I usually complain about having to carry around the weighty lens with me (boo hoo, I know) but here it really paid off.
I got some great shots of this mean looking fellow – and of course as you’re inside the airboat you don’t need to worry about any carrying.
So the first tip I’d give if you’re going on an Everglades alligator tour is to bring the best lens you have, because the results will be so much sharper than anything you can get with a phone camera or point and shoot.
2. And Your (fully charged) Phone
As much as there’s plenty of wildlife to be seen on your tour which you’ll undoubtedly want to shoot with a decent camera, you’ll probably need your phone for those selfies (I really wanted me with a gator in the background but I had to make do with this!) – and also because I found that when you do get a sighting it’s best to throw everything you’ve got at the picture (and video) taking and that might well mean snapping away with camera and phone simultaneously to get the great shots you want.
It’s also really useful to have two different types of camera, I found the moody shots of the Everglades scenery on a cloudy day were actually a lot better with my iPhone (above) than my camera.
3. You’ll Need to Get Comfy With Airboats
Alligator tours in the Everglades, as well as other ecotours in bayous and marshy and shallow bodies of water in the southern states, are all about the airboat – this is to avoid having to use a traditional motor boat with a propellor.
Here at Everglades Holiday Park I’m told the depth of the Everglades water is just 32 feet, which the 2 tonne airboat can handle – it can even cope with areas such as one nicknamed ‘the shiner hole’ which clears just 4 feet between the bottom of the boat and the bottom of the glades.
If you’re a little nervous, there’s no need to worry – despite being a bit noisy (and you’re given earplugs) once you get used to the sensation the ride is a lot of fun.
4. Be Prepared To See More Than Just Gators
You’ll be in for a twitching treat while you’re out looking for gators – including spotting birds like these, the Gallinula chloropus, also known as a moorhens, but much more memorably nicknamed the swamp chicken.
5. Play Around With Framing Your Gator Pictures
Like many tourist activities, after a certain amount of time you become comfortable with your surroundings, the sensation of the boat and the relatively stark scenery, and realise that to make the pictures interesting for your friends and family back home, you’ll need to play around with different ways to show them the cool creatures you met.
The colour palette and subject matter is similar, especially in the flat light I had on my particular (rainy) day, so I had to get creative with the way I photographed Tripod the alligator and his wife and friends.
Our guide Captain Mike knew the stories behind each of the gators with which we interacted, called for them by name, and regaled us with other facts that he’s learned during his 8 years at the helm of Everglades alligator tours.
A few of my favourite facts include the fact that an alligator’s bite is 3 times stronger than that of a great white shark, they can breathe underwater for up to 15 minutes and can even seal off their ears and nostrils and stay under for up to 6 hours.
6. Even If You Don’t See An Alligator (which would be unlucky) The Scenery Is Pretty Special
There are half a million alligators in the Everglades, and 5 million in the state of Florida, so a little bit like the time I went eagle watching in British Columbia and foolishly asked if I’d definitely see an eagle, I think we can safely say if you want to see a gator in the Sunshine State, it’s pretty doable.
But even if you somehow got unlucky, the boat ride, expanse of swampy scenery and other wildlife makes an Everglades Alligator Tour a great little Florida excursion in my book.
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