Airboats are loud so we have cotton balls stuck in our ears. I think if you book a private tour, they give you a headset instead. Before getting in the boat we were ushered to a “show.” We came to scout for gators, but didn’t know we’d see them in captivity first.
“This is so sad,” my kids said to me and we walked over to look at the turtles, who were swimming in a dirty plastic pond, surrounded by a fence.
“At least they have each other,” I tried to offer as a consolation to my kids because I see them growing more upset in a “why are we even here giving money to this place?” kind of way.
Luckily the show was short. We met a baby alligator and a boa constrictor. The boys pet each and I took pictures. We learned a few facts about alligators and the strength of their jaws before we headed to the dock.
There were so many people, and my 15 year old was desperate to get a front row seat. It seemed disorganized, and slow. But the tour guide was finally there and he organized us in groups to see how we would get in the boat. I wondered if he ever thought of being a teacher, and soon we were on the boat, cotton balls in our ears, waiting for him to untie the ropes holding the boat to the dock.
“I’m on Florida time,” he says. “I’m on my time. That way I don’t get stressed.”
Right away there is an alligator in front of us, and the boat stops so we can all get a look. “Look now,” the guide says, “that way I won’t feel bad if this is the only gator we see the whole tour.” I hope it isn’t the only one we see, since my 12 year old dreams of seeing as many as possible.
We learn that the Everglades is the slowest moving river in the world, and I think about how the swamp feels almost exactly how I expected it to feel. Is it because the books I’ve read are so good at describing this quiet slow humidity, or am I just experiencing this through the lens of having read books that take places in swamps? Also, have I read an abundance of books that take place in swamps? I don’t think so.
We see a few more alligators, and laugh at our tour guide’s jokes.
Later we will drive through the everglades, and spot so many alligators off to the side of the road in the canal. We will stop at Big Cypress National Preserve and see even more alligators from the safety of a boardwalk. A volunteer will stop by and we will learn that gators need to rest in the sun to digest their food. Otherwise it rots in their stomach.
When we get back on the road and see more aligators as we drive by, my 12 year old will say, “I’ve seen so many alligators now, they’re just like squirrels to me.”