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Everglades Freshwater Turtles

Posted by Cristina

Everglades Freshwater Turtles

The Florida Everglades is home to thousands of animal species. From mammals to reptiles, birds to insects, anyone who adventures into Everglades National Park is sure to encounter animals along the way. As you’re on the lookout for alligators during our swamp buggy or airboat tour, you may notice small heads popping in and out of the water’s surface. Though what you’re looking at may be a fish or a bird it is likely one of many local turtle species. Some of the most commonly seen turtles include, Florida Softshell Turtles, Striped Mud Turtles, and the Snapping Turtle. Learn about each of these fascinating reptiles below so you’re able to identify them as they bask along the shores or swim amongst the sawgrass during your tour.

Florida Softshell Turtles
One of the most interesting looking creatures in the Everglades is the Florida Softshell Turtle. This large, flat turtle has skin covering its shell and a very long neck. When full grown, males reach 6-12 inches and females may reach 11-24 inches. The unique characteristics found on the Florida Softshell Turtle are due partially to its preferred habitat. Soft Shell Turtles like to partially bury itself in soft mud and is said to be especially speedy at tunneling and digging. Their long neck and nose can be seen sticking above the water while swimming.

Striped Mud Turtle
The Striped Mud Turtle is a small, aquatic turtle with an oval shaped shell. When they are full grown, the Striped Mud Turtle can reach four inches in length. This turtle has a brown shell with three stripes that may not be visible. The underside of the shell is a lighter brown. You can easily identify these turtles by the two small yellow stripes on each side of their heads. The Striped Mud Turtle is different from most other turtles species in South Florida in that females nest in the fall, rather than the spring or summer. Striped mud turtles inhabit calm freshwater habitats, such as swamps and canals.

Snapping Turtle
One of the more unique species of turtles in the Everglades is the Snapping Turtle. These are prehistoric looking creatures. Snapping Turtles get their common name from their tendency to snap or strike defensively when they feel threatened, and they are indeed capable of delivering a bite. With its primitive looks, the Snapping Turtle is easily recognizable. The shell of a snapping turtle is adorned with jagged ridges that range from black, brown, tan to olive in color. These turtles can be found in most freshwater habitats in the Everglades including lakes, ponds, marshes, swamps and slow-moving streams and rivers. They have also been known to wander into brackish habitats occasionally.

Are there Medicinal and Edible Plants In The Everglades?

Posted by Cristina

As one of the most plentiful ecosystems in the world, the Florida Everglades is a unique landscape that provides all its residents with the necessary tools to survive and thrive in South Florida. Though of course, animals are the first creatures that come to mind when thinking about resources available in the Everglades, there is a wide range of edible and medicinal plants that grow naturally in the Everglades.

Some of the most ancient and popular native plants in the Everglades include: Pennyroyal, Beauty Berry, Bracken Fern, Muscadine Grape, Dog Fennel, and Bidens Albal.

Please keep in mind, do not eat anything you may find during your tour. Doing so may pose a risk to your safety! Look but don’t touch (or eat.)

Pennyroyal is a member of the mint family and is quite common all across the North American continent. In Southwest Florida, Pennyroyal prefers to grow in sandy, sunny areas. Pennyroyal smells very similar to mint and when tasted, it leaves a menthol aftertaste. The most common use for Pennyroyal is to steep it in a hot water to make a delicious tea!

Beauty Berry is easily identifiable due to its vibrant bright purple pea-sized berries that grow in clusters. Interestingly enough, it is not the berries that are the most useful part of this plant—it’s the leaves! Crush the leaves and rub them on your skin to make a natural mosquito repellant!

Bracken Fern is a fern that grows plentifully all across Southwest Florida. Young Bracken Fern can be edible and can even be found in fine restaurants in salads. Oppositely, the adult fern can be used as emergency toilet paper! For salad, use small amounts of the fern, for toilet paper, use large amounts!

Muscadine Grapes are some of the more well-known edible plants available in South Florida. When these grapes turn dark purple or black, they are ripe for the picking! Muscadine grapes thrive best in a hot, humid environment and the bushes provide a habitat for many animals. These grapes can be used to make wine, jelly and more.

Dog Fennel attracts butterflies and can also be used as a flavorful spice on many dishes including soups and potato dishes. Additional uses, old roots can be used to start camp fires. The scent and taste of Dog Fennel is easily compared to dill.

Bidens Alba, also known as Shepard’s needles or beggarticks, is a multipurpose use plant. You can eat the white flowers and the new growth. Interestingly enough, the leaves are a natural pain reliever.

The Everglades offers hours of fun, adventure and even natural products we can use in our everyday lives! During our tour, your guide will point out any interesting flora you may come across.

Join us on an Everglades Adventure by clicking here.

The First Everglades Explorers, from Ft Myers to the Everglades

Posted by Cristina

Millions visit Everglades National Park each year to witness the beauty of the River of Grass first hand. From alligators to the skunk ape, there is always something interesting to learn or see. Off the beaten path and away from the tourist attractions, the Everglades remains wild and much like it did when the first explorers encountered the vast landscape of sawgrass.

Though much of the development occurring in and around the Everglades occurred less than 100 years ago, the first explorers first encountered the Everglades in its most true and untouched form in 1512. Spanish conquistadors exploring the southern area of Florida’s Gulf Coast encountered native tribes. At this time, 5 tribes of a total of 20,000 individuals inhabited South Florida. The largest tribes were the Tequesta in southeast Florida, the Mayaimi near Lake Okeechobee, and the Calusa in the southwest.

The cultures of these tribes were well established and the cultures thrived by fishing, hunting and gathering wild and natural foods. In fertile areas of the Everglades, it is thought that native populations likely grew corn. Many of these tribes settled near estuaries and on coastal ridges and traveled into the Everglades to establish outpost camps to gather food.

As legendary explorer Ponce de Leon approached Southwest Florida and the Everglades in 1512, after mapping what is now the Florida Keys in search of The Fountain of Youth, he and his ships encountered the Calusa tribe. The encounter resulted in the Calusa damaging the ships and equipment, and even an attempt to board one of the vessels.

After their failed attempt, the Spanish returned in 1521 with more men and supplies necessary to colonize the area. Ponce de Leon was wounded during this attempt and ended up passing away after forced from the area.

For the next 150 years, numerous explorers including Hernando de Desoto and Menéndez de Avilés explored the area and even attempted to establish settlements across South Florida. Desoto led an expedition into the Caloosahatchee region, right in our backyard of Fort Myers Beach. Menéndez was able build several small forts along the Gulf coast of South Florida. None of the settlements could survive due to the hostile native tribes and the harsh climates of South Florida.

One look at the vast landscape of the Everglades will provide you with a glimpse of what Spanish explorers likely encountered during these first expeditions into the area– a beautiful, yet harsh landscape. Native Americans had adapted to the climate and were skilled in surviving off the land they called home. The territorial Native Americans fought to keep their lands as they had existed for many generations, and now it is our turn to do everything in our power to conserve this landscape.

There is only one Florida Everglades and it is our duty to provide you with a glimpse into the natural beauty of the now National Park while still fighting for conservation to keep South Florida preserved for future generations. Had the early explorers been able to settle in this area, the Everglades in its current state may have been lost long ago.

Are there Flamingos in Florida?

Posted by Cristina

Everglades Flamingos

Bird watchers and avian enthusiasts have flocked to the Everglades for many years to catch sight of a number of rare birds. From Bald Eagles to Ibis, Red Shouldered Hawks to the Everglades Snail Kite, some of the most magnificent sights to see in the Glades are in the air or in the trees. One bird that is not always associated with the Everglades? The Flamingo!


In the early 1800s, South Florida and the Everglades was visited by the beloved pink birds. At this time, Flamingos traveled in droves to spend their winter away from their homes in South and Central America in the tropical climate of the Florida Everglades. Unfortunately, over time, these birds were almost eradicated by early settlers through egg and feather harvesting, and the beautiful pink creature no longer dotted the landscape of the Everglades.


Flamingos have been returning to the Everglades and South Florida.


According to the National Audubon Society, an organization that protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation, 147 flamingos were recorded in Florida in 2015.


“They keep coming back every year,” says Mark Cook, lead scientist of Everglades Systems Assessment at South Florida Water Management District. He said it “amazes” him that the birds found the freshwater wetlands in the center of the state, 80 miles northwest of where they historically occurred.


The question remains, did these birds escape from exotic animal zoos or are they wild migratory birds? Though the answer is still unknown, populations continue to rise. Our friends at Good Time Charters even caught sight of a wild Flamingo on one of their tours!


Many state and local organizations are hard at work to “tag” the birds while they are in our area in hopes of tracking their movements. Though this is not an easy task, researchers state that they have noticed many of the local Flamingos are pair bonded and stay close together. Fun fact: Flamingos are believed to mate for life!


Only time (and science) will tell where these birds are coming from and if we can expect their populations grow in the Everglades and other areas of Florida.


Though numbers are low, guests on our adventure tour are encouraged to keep an eye out and have a camera ready for a flamingo sighting.


Did you know South Florida is home to Alligators AND Crocodiles!

Posted by Cristina

What is the difference between an Alligator and a Crocodile?

Most, if not all, of our guests have one common goal in mind while enjoying our tour— the opportunity to encounter an alligator! Good news, alligator populations are on the rise and we will most likely get to see a few wild alligators! At our up close and personal animal encounter activity, you will even get the chance to touch one!


A common misconception is that alligators and crocodiles are the same animal. The truth is that though both are covered in scales, have long tails and large jaws filled with teeth, the alligator and crocodile are completely different animals!


The major differences in these species fall in their outward appearance. Crocodiles are traditionally a grey-green color, have a fourth tooth on their lower jaw that is exposed when their mouth is closed and most noticeably, crocodiles have an extremely narrow, tapered snout. Baby crocs are identified by their light coloring with dark stripes.


On the other hand, Alligators are black in color, only their upper teeth are exposed when their mouth is closed and have a boxy, rounded snout. Like crocodiles, baby alligators are light but characteristically have yellow stripes.


In relation to behavior, it is commonly thought that crocodiles are more aggressive than alligators, and this is true for some species. American alligators are more docile than their saltwater friends, the saltwater crocodile. Saltwater crocodiles, though not as common as the alligator, can be found in the waters of Southwest Florida and the Everglades naturally.


Much like the alligator and saltwater crocodiles, populations of many other Everglades species’ populations are also on the rise—including invasive species like the nile crocodile.


An invasive species is defined as a “non-native (or alien) organism introduced to the ecosystem and causes ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native.


Nile crocodiles have been introduced to the Everglades ecosystem. The Nile crocodile has not yet begun to breed in the Everglades and are quite rare to find. If the population of Nile crocodiles begins to grow, it will spell trouble for our beloved alligator as the crocs will likely encroach on the alligators’ ecosystem and delicate food web.


Don’t worry if you haven’t studied up enough before your everglades adventure, our experienced guides will be able to identify any animal we may come across—except maybe the Skunk Ape!


Join us on an unforgettable adventure into the Everglades, complete with alligators and more!

Everglades Wildlife Etiquette

Posted by Cristina

On your Everglades Adventure tour, you are sure to see all kinds of local wildlife. From butterflies to alligators, our guests should expect to encounter a few of what we like to call our “locals.” It’s all part of the Everglades Adventure experience!

Wildlife needs plenty of space: Bring a pair of binoculars or spotting scopes to get close to animals exploring the natural environment of the Everglades. All our local wildlife needs space to retreat if necessary and don’t forget to never chase an animal.

Recognize the signs of alarm: Wild animals are just that… wild. Increased movements such as flapping, pacing, tense muscle movement, staring, or vocalization may mean you are too close. If you feel like an animal is disturbed, back away. Enjoy animals in their natural environment and do not disturb their natural actions in any way.

Be respectful: The animals you see may be nesting or denning. Though you mean well, an intrusive visitor may cause animals to flee and leave their young vulnerable to elements or to predators. Be as noninvasive as possible.

Be aware of young animals: When young animals are alone, they may be sick or have their “parents” waiting nearby.

Never feed wildlife: Feeding wildlife may compromise both your safety as well as an animal’s safety. Please note, it is illegal to feed or harass wildlife.

Tread lightly: Remember, you are a guest when you visit the Everglades. Please leave no trace of your visit and do not disturb or destroy the natural beauty of the glades.

If you see something, say something: Let other park visitors know of any wildlife you have seen. Everyone visiting the Everglades wants to experience the magic of the area. Keeping others alert allows them to also respect the space of the area locals.



What are your must do activities when visiting Southwest Florida?

Posted by Cristina

So now that you’ve explored the Everglades, what is there left to do? The answer is get out on the water and cast out a line!

The entire team at Everglades Adventure is pleased to announce a brand-new adventure we know you’ll love… Paradise Charters! You’ve cruised through the Glades, now cruise through the waters of the Gulf of Mexico with one of the most skilled and friendly native fishing captains in Southwest Florida, Captain Ryan.

You’ve driven through the swamp, now soak up some sun aboard Paradise Charter’s 24′ Tidewater vessel. Designed primarily with the fishing enthusiast in mind, it holds up to 6 people comfortably. The Tidewater has padded seats to add to your comfort and has ample room for storage. There’s an on-board cooler, but small carry on coolers are allowed as well.

Choose from two types of Fort Myers Beach charters:

Half Day: 4 Hours

Full Day: 8 Hours

Spend the day on the water fishing in nearshore, back bay locations with one of our area’s most skilled (and friendly) native captains, Captain Ryan. Expect to catch a variety of fish including sharks, snapper, red fish, spotted sea trout and more! Enjoy the added bonus of being immersed in one of the liveliest landscapes in Southwest Florida for dolphins, birds, manatees and more.

Choose from two types of Fort Myers Beach charters:

Shelling, Dolphins, Wildlife

The shelling, dolphins and wildlife cruise accompanies up to 6 Passengers and leaves in the morning or the afternoon for an ecotour you’ll be talking about for years to come. Dolphins, manatees and other wildlife. Stop and comb a beautiful secluded beach for some of the best shelling in the area all the while getting up close and personal with sand dollars, star fish and conch.

Sightseeing Tour

Truly experience the best of island life on the sightseeing tour. Enjoy relaxing during your private tour and learn all about the local landscape as you enjoy the sights and the sun. Expect to run into a few locals, including dolphins, manatees, birds, and more.

Before you go, get to know Captain Ryan!

Captain Ryan is Paradise Charters’ full time backwater fishing guide. A native Floridian, he has been fishing and boating Florida waters his whole life so far. He knows how to work with the tides and loves fishing the backwaters along the mangrove shorelines, popping bait over grass beds, and casting near oyster bars. He also loves to hit up the near shore reefs and drift the passes. Ryan holds a bachelor degree in hospitality and he aims to deliver a high standard of customer service for all his passengers. He is also a certified Coastal Florida master naturalist and loves to share this beautiful paradise surrounding Fort Myers Beach with you. His friendliness and patience paired with his guide experience will provide you a great time on the water and memories to last a lifetime.

For a private, one-of-a-kind Fort Myers Beach Charter experience, put your trust in a local company that truly loves being out on the water… Paradise Charters!

All charters and tours depart from 4765 Estero Blvd. Ft. Myers Beach, FL 33931 (Behind Publix Supermarket).

Everglades Food Web

Posted by Cristina

The Florida Everglades is not only the perfect place to get in touch with your wild side during your time in Fort Myers Beach or Southwest Florida, it is also an intricate landscape that plays host to the ecosystem that allows our destination to be one of a kind. Yes, alligators and airboats are half of the fun, but the Florida Everglades is on its own, a world wonder that only exists in one place… right here! To understand the Everglades is to understand the natural systems that keep this region, including its plants and animals, vital and functioning—and the number one measure of health for the river of grass is, you guessed it, food!

The Everglades food web is an intricate, balanced relationship that allows every living thing in the area to thrive. As with all life on earth, the everglades food web begins with the sun. Year-round sunshine provides optimum conditions for all the creatures and plants that call the everglades home to remain healthy and happy. The sun provides all our local plant life, such as the butterfly orchid and the bladderwort plant to thrive. Sun also keeps the sawgrass, mangroves, and cypress trees alive, which in turn provide shelter for numerous animals both big and small. When the plant environment is strong, all the other wildlife is provided a sturdy foundation to live and reproduce upon.

Animals as small as our local mosquito, to the eastern mud turtle, in the right conditions lay their eggs and provide a healthy environment to enter. When the lower levels of the food chain thrive, the upper levels can also sustain their populations and continue the Everglades food web.

When mosquitos thrive, the creatures that feed on mosquitos thrive! Frogs like the southern leopard frog and fish like the grass carp and even small birds can sustain themselves and their newborns when they have access to mosquitos they can feed on. Herbivores, like the eastern mud turtle remain healthy for reproduction when aquatic and terrestrial plants thrive.

As you may expect, when these animals who hold a place in the middle level of the everglades food web are plentiful, they eventually become food for those who hold placement in the upper level of the food web. Mammals like raccoons, as well as large wading birds like the great blue heron can dine on these lower level everglades food web species, which will in turn sustain their populations. At the top of the food chain, you guessed it, alligators, panthers, and bears (some of the most endangered species in the Everglades) can sustain their populations and complete the natural food web of the Everglades.

Like every other ecosystem in the world, The Everglades is the result of a delicate balance of a variety of species all thriving in one area—South Florida. We must do all we can to preserve this relationship to ensure the survival of all our native species for years to come.

The best part? See the Everglades food web in action on our adventure tour!

Bears in the Everglades

Posted by Cristina

Alligators, panthers, birds and….bears? Oh my!

When thinking of all the animals that live in the Everglades, the Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) may not be the first to come to mind. Though you can’t get close to them on a trail or in an animal encounter, it is important to bring them into the public eye for safety purposes as well as to assist with conservation efforts.

Florida black bears are the largest terrestrial mammal with an average weight of 300 pounds though some have been known to grow up to 500 pounds and can be up to 6 feet tall! There is a possibility of potentially catching sight of a bear during one of our tours, these creatures love to live in the forested sloughs and oak scrub in the Everglades. Their long, sharp claws help them climb trees or dig for food. Bears are omnivores, meaning they eat both vegetable and animal matter. Some foods a black bear may eat include acorns, insects, berries, saw palmetto and sabal palm fruits, armadillos and honey.

Like many other animal populations, the Florida black bear needs protection to ensure that they can live peacefully and continue to be members of the Everglades ecosystem.

Masters of Camouflage In The Everglades

Posted by Cristina

Our guides at Everglades Adventures are absolute pros when it comes to locating animals for our adventurers to enjoy. During your tour, expect to see plenty of birds, alligators, turtles and more! What you may not know is that when you’re out in the Glades, there will likely be animals in plain view that you and our guides may not notice. The reason? Camouflage.

Natural camouflage is an amazing mechanism that many creatures use, including those in the Everglades. Camouflage is an adaptation that animals both large and small have developed over many years through evolution to increase their chances of survival in the natural world. In short, camouflage is defined as an animal’s ability to hide itself from predator and prey.

There are several factors that determine what sort of camouflage an animal may have. The first factor that will determine how an animal will camouflage depends on the behavior of the animal. For example, a solitary animal like the American Alligator will camouflage differently than say, a wood stork that will generally travel with a flock.

The most important factor in regards to camouflage is thought to be the animal’s environment. The simplest camouflage technique is for an animal to match the “background” of its surroundings. For most animals, “blending in” is the most effective approach. In most mammals, camouflage coloration is seen in fur because this is the outermost layer of the body. In reptiles, amphibians and fish, it is in the scales. In birds it is in the feathers and in insects it is part of the exoskeleton.

Baby White-tailed deer as well as baby alligators are a few of our favorite masters of camouflage. Baby white-tailed deer are born with white spots to better blend into their grassy surroundings. These spots will disappear as the animal matures. Baby alligators are born with brownish-grey scales, but unlike their parents, also have yellow striping on their backs that also help them blend into low lying banks of a watering hole. It is not uncommon for newborns of many species to have different coloring than their parents. These physical changes allow for a higher chance of survival for these young creatures.

Copperhead snakes are an excellent master of camouflage as its coloring is almost identical to the leaves and grass that they slither upon.

One of our ultimate favorite masters of camouflage? The Florida leafwing (pictured above). Though beautiful, the Florida leafwing is federally endangered. In flight, the bright orange upper wings make this species easy to spot. However, when at rest, coloring of its lower wings makes this animal look like a dead leaf.

Bring a camera and keep your eyes open! Let’s try to spot some of these masters of camouflage together!