For anyone planning a first-time trip to the Florida Everglades or for anyone who would like to learn more about its unique mosaic and its importance to Florida as a whole, then I have two recommendations to put on your must-do list. The first is the Pontoon Tour with Flamingo Adventures at the Flamingo Marina, and the second is the Tram Tour at Shark Valley.
The 2 hour Shark Valley Tram Tour takes you on a 15-mile loop road for an educational journey into the “River of Grass,” where you will learn the hows and whys of the Everglades’ unique topography and the wildlife it is home to.
There are so many interesting facts about the Everglades, and I found out many things that I thought I knew, I had wrong. For instance, I always called the Everglades a swamp, but I found out on the tour that it is not a swamp at all but actually a very shallow, slow-moving river that in some places is just inches deep and 50 miles wide. I also never knew that the Everglades is among the world’s most extensive wetlands and that it derives its water from rainfall.
It is called the “river of grass” because there is water under all of that sawgrass. All the observer really sees is a vast plain of grass; one can hardly tell that there is water there.
“There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth; remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them…”
— Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Below is a little snippet from our tour. Because of the tram noise, the audio in certain parts is a bit muffled, but I think you will get the idea of the scenery and the very close encounters with the wildlife.
Although each tram tour will be different regarding which wildlife species’ you will see, you do have a 100 percent chance of seeing wildlife.
I was amazed to see walkers and bicyclists sharing the same road the tram was on. Why? Because the gators were so close, we could reach out and touch them from the tram. Well, if we wanted to, that is.
One thing you won’t see at Shark Valley is sharks, so why is it called Shark Valley? I asked that question too, and the answer I got was that there is an area in the Gulf of Mexico known as the Shark River and that the water from this area of the Everglades flows into it.
There is a stop at a 45 observation tower about mid-way point on the tram tour, and from atop the tower, we got a breathtaking panoramic view. We also got a great view of Shark Valley’s only resident crocodile.
Other Shark Valley Things to Do
The best bicycling areas in Everglades National Park are at Shark Valley. Bicycling the 15-mile loop road is a great way to explore Shark Valley at your own pace. But beware, you share the road with the tram and sometimes some pretty big alligators too! Bike Rentals are available.
There are two short hiking trails at Shark Valley, and one is wheelchair accessible. Of course, you can also walk the 15-mile loop road that you will share with the tram, bicyclists, and perhaps a gator or two.
How to get there
Directions from Miami: Shark Valley Visitor Center is located on Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail / SW 8th St.) 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike, exit 25A (from the north), and exit 25 (from the south). From Naples: Take U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) approximately 70 miles east to Shark Valley. The Physical Address:36000 SW 8th Street Miami, Florida 33194
Park Entrance Fees & Tram Tour Pricing
The entrance fee to Everglades National Park is $30 per vehicle, and it is good for 7 consecutive days. The two-hour guided tram tour cost is $27 for adults ages 13 – 61, $21 for seniors 62 and over, and $14 for children ages 3 -12.
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