Shark Valley is one of Florida’s main attractions. That’s why I avoided it for a while, thinking that hoards of tourists harrassing gators would not exactly be my cup of tea. On one of the last weekends in Miami, though, curiosity got the best of us, and we drove out into the Everglades once more.
I was positively surprised: sure, the parking lot was packed and there were quite a few people, but most of them seemed respectful and interested in just enjoying the park quietly. The biking loop is 15 miles and took us a couple hours to complete. You can either rent bikes or bring your own. I wouldn’t rush through – there’s so much wildlife I wouldn’t have seen, had it not been for our slow pace.
Being the big wuss that I am, I still had a minor heart attack every time we passed a gator (and by passing, I literally mean riding past it from a 30 cm distance – they lounge around everywhere, on and off the road), but it was so worth it. My favorite sight was baby gators next to baby turtles. Less cool: a dead gator floating upside down.
Halfway through the loop, there’s a viewing tower with a great view of the surrounding area. Bonus: we saw a few super fat gators hanging by the water – from the safe distance of the tower, which is still my alligator viewing option of choice.
After the tower, you still have a fair bit of cycling to do, but fortunately, tailwinds sped up the trip a little – we were getting exhausted (and, even though we had a couple big bottles, we were clearly under-equipped with water). On the second half of the loop, gators in shallow ponds dominate, which makes it even easier to spot them.
Some more photos are over on flickr. I absolutely recommended Shark Valley as a great day trip if you want to escape from Miami for a bit!