My son-in-law, whom I will call Gander, had two main purposes in his Florida adventure, in which he graciously invited me to participate. The first was, as I have intimated, to feed his boundless passion for snorkeling. In this he was definitely not disappointed, as he was able to indulge nearly every day we spent in the Keys. I accompanied him on all but one of these excursions, and my only disappointment was in the results of the photos I was able to make with my old waterproof camera, a Pentax WG-2. The resolution was so poor that, when I tried to enlarge even a fair portion of an image, there was not enough detail to bring you any examples. For this I’m sorry. I let Gander use my little GoPro, with far better results, I’m happy to say. I don’t usually post other folks’ work, but here’s one. The second was a fond wish to take an airboat ride into the Everglades and to see an alligator. We had booked one for our first morning with a group that met due east of Miami and were there well in advance of the meeting time, but it rained so hard that they had to cancel the trip. Gander tried bravely to hide his sadness at the letdown and we made up for it, partially, by driving to the Keys earlier than planned. Although more rain had been predicted for most of our week there, it dissipated later that day and the weather turned far more friendly for the rest of our stay. I knew how eager he’d been for that airboat ride, though, and managed to squeeze in a new reservation for the morning of our last day, before flying out of Miami again. We checked out early, drove north, and met at the same spot, this time under clear skies, and were soon skimming through the seemingly-endless sea of water and grass. Although there were noticeable, relatively grass-free paths, there were soon too many to count and we just sat back and enjoyed. Our guide said he’d been doing this for 20 years and seemed to know it like his own back yard. One of our first stops was in one of the sparse areas of (only relatively) solid ground with trees visible for great distances (known as hummocks), in which he knew there were several young alligators, about two years old and about 18 inches long. And then he took us to see the Big Guy, a mature, 12-foot male that he had been visiting for years. The gator was so at ease with our guide’s presence that he was able to reach down, ease his hand under its leg-thick tail, and lift it gently out of the water.He dropped a few leaves into the water next to our boat, an invitation for it to come in closer. It knew the routine well, having obviously practiced it numerous times through the years, and soon eased in to within less than a foot of the boat’s edge. Our guide assured us that what we were seeing was the result not of training, but rather of trust. Within another minute or so I could have reached out and petted it between the eyes. As this was my first 3rd-kind close encounter, I resisted the temptation. Maybe next time…
What marvellous shots of the alligator (and the turtle). I can assure you I wouldn’t have been game to get that close (even with that trust).
In my mind, wild creatures are just that and so unpredictable in many ways. I immediately think of that man, Timothy Treadwell, who spent so much time with bears and was eventually killed. (Had to Google his name as my memory is too poor :) )
We must always remember that they are, indeed, wild, and it’s their unnatural–“trust” isn’t really the right word; “tolerance” is closer to the mark–of people in close proximity that makes the so dangerous. I know how fast an alligator can move, and I also know how small their brains are. I was definitely not completely at my ease.
Wonderful photos & place!
It was indeed wonderful to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. Sure would love to be able to see some of the magnificent coyotes you’ve been showing us! I’ve been lucky to see a couple (and one wolf!) in norther Minnesota, but they’re so very reclusive.
I’ve never been to the Everglades — “river of grass” seems an apt description for it, and your photos are beautiful. I’m glad things worked out for you — it would have been sad to end up with all rain and gloom.
Alligators are such a part of our life here. Spring is the worst. Those primal juices get flowing, and the boygators looking for girlgators roam pretty widely. They show up along highways, in swimming pools, in marinas and drainage ditches.
Some years ago, they pulled a really big one out of a local marina.They didn’t mess around. They went straight to a couple of Cajuns who were accustomed to dealing with the critters, and let them capture him. They used a rope to essentially lasso him, then flipped him up on the bank. Some duct tape around his snout, a few fancy knots, and he was ready to wait for Parks and Wildlife to show up. In the meantime, our task was to rub his belly. Apparently, it really does relax them, because he seemed pretty mellow.
This was my favorite sighting of the spring. Aren’t they cute?
They sure are–and what a wonderful shot! I’ve heard (or read–it was a long time ago and I’m not sure which it was any more) that the reason that they calm down when they’re flipped over on their backs is not mainly due to any tummy-rubbing, but rather that gravity pulls their brains into a niche in the top of their braincases that squeezes some portions of the brain and partially compromises the circulation. This fascinated me as a boy, and I’ve had the same results when, on a vacation in Florida, I gently turned an anole that I caught on its back. Within ten seconds or so it relaxed completely. I find myself wondering if this is possible with most lizards.
We’ve had our share of weather snafus on vacation as have most of us. Glad that yours was only temporary.
I’ve never been to Florida so haven’t seen a gator or croc, but I am pretty sure I’d not try to pet one. I’ve no desire to be known as “Lefty”. Your guide left out hunger is his assurance of trust.
I was happy to see that our guide didn’t offer him any food–but, of course, who knows what goes on when he’s out there by himself? I overstated it a bit in my original post– I was definitely not really tempted to stretch out a hand to get any closer.
I’m fascinated by the gator interaction – and you must have been truly enthralled. Nile Crocodiles were my version, but I never ever got that close! :)
From what I’ve read, that was really a wise decision. There are some crocodiles in Florida, but they are not very aggressive, unless they’re seriously disturbed and guarding territory or young. I would also stay well away from any salties in Australia.
I love the idea of building trust with a reptile. I once had a small snake that I swear responded to me. She was a happy presence in my kitchen, where I kept her to keep her warm.
I’ve had a small pet (garter) snake too, as a boy, and it became very comfortable with my handling it and slithering around between my fingers. they do like our warmth. i wish i’d made a photo!