Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Gator Drama In Shark Valley

©Bert Gildart: Yesterday in Shark Valley, a 15 mile long loop road that can only be explored by bike, foot or the tram, alligators were going berserk. At one particular moment, a 10-foot gator was crossing the road beside us, another was bellowing, while yet another was tossing a recent kill around, trying to soften the carcass to facilitate swallowing.

GATOR CROSSING ROAD: Of course, I realize in my last post that I said we were moving on and that, in fact, was our intention. However, this is the weekend of President’s Day, and all campgrounds we called were full. Midway Campground just north of the Everglades in Big Cypress, which has seldom filled before late afternoon, was full by 1 p.m.

Our friends, Jack and Carla Rupert–campground host and hostess there–suggested we drive another eight miles to the park’s overflow campground, which has no hookups. Because it was almost full as well we could see the handwriting on the wall for this weekend, and so we remained.

But today we do have reservations back at Bay Bayou in Tampa, and we will be staying there for one week, during which time I will make the two hour drive to Orlando to see my uncle. Though Orlando does have camping sites, usually they are full at this time of year because of the Disney World crowd.

And, so, here we are; back in Big Cypress National Preserve. But once again, this is proving to be an incredible base, in part because we are a 25 minute drive from Shark Valley—and all those alligators that seemed to be going berserk. Previous blog readers will recall that Big Cypress is contiguous with the Everglades and serves, in fact, a vital function as both a water source and as a buffer. As well, it also protects the Florida panther.

GATOR BELLOWING: Shark Valley in the Everglades has managed to retain much of its natural environment, which, of course, it should as part of a national park. Here the River of Grass, or the Pa-hay-okee, as the Indians once called it, is still subject to the annual fluctuations brought on by Florida’s two seasons, the wet and the dry season.

Winter is the dry season—a season of plenty because so much life is crammed into smaller spaces. But it’s also the time gators begin making known their desires and intentions.

One hour into our bike ride and the silence that first greeted us was replaced by an alligator bellowing from a substantial gator hole. Now then, when you are less than a hundred feet from the source the sound can be quite disturbing.

Because late February is the start of mating season, the bellowing was apparently predictable. Apparently bulls are establishing their proprietary rights for the lady of their desires. And they don’t want interference from potential competitors. Roaring is a way of reducing fights.

GATOR FEAST: While all this roaring was going on, yet another incident was occurring. Immediately next to us a gator swam into view with its recent kill of what appeared to be a large Wood Stork. Eyeing us with a baleful glare, the gator turned its back and began flinging the carcass into the air while still retaining a hold on one small portion. Then it turned sidewise to us, and that’s when Janie and I began photographing the feast.

After “softening” the carcass, the gator then held it in its mouth for almost an hour. Then it again turned its back, threw the carcass into the air one last time, and then it gulped down a portion of the stork. Storks, of course, are not small birds, but the gator’s loosely hinged jaws allowed the reptile to begin the process of swallowing.

To facilitate the effort, the gator raised its front quarters in the same manner that you or I might perform a pushup, then it raised its head and with a huge effort, tilted it down and then swallowed once again. Over a several minute period the gator repeated the maneuver; then it closed its eyes and settled in for what seemed a long rest. Biologists say that gators eat but once a week and apparently this one was satiated.

Janie and I continued our bike ride, but rather than complete the loop we returned along the first portion of our ride so that we might take another look at all our new gator acquaintances. But now when we passed, the two gators in the first hole seemed asleep, as did the gator that had just finished its feast.

And the gator that had lumbered across the road in front us had disappeared? Perhaps it was now waiting its turn for something to eat. But for the moment—and probably only a moment—peace and quiet seemed to rein over Shark Valley.

One Response to “Gator Drama In Shark Valley”

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