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An Airboat Ride on the Everglades

Most people visit Miami for the shopping, people-watching, the beaches and the fabulous dining. I came to Miami for the Everglades, one of the natural wonders of the world. Heading out of the sprawling city early, I drove down the aptly named Tamiami Trail. This two-lane highway was considered a feat of engineering 75 years ago as it cut through the sandy pines, oak hammocks and inhospitable swamp land. As the sun warmed the banks of the drainage ditches on either side, alligators lumbered ashore and lay out for a day's sunbathing, a bit like their two-legged counterparts back in Miami. The ditches gave way to canals, then after a couple of sluice gates, opened out into the mighty Everglades; 70 miles of slow-flowing River.

Photo by milan boers

Photo by milan boers

Passing the last casino, I stopped by an Indian village and waited under a porch. A weathered Indian ambled towards me and nodded to the airboat. With earplugs in and perched on a bench, the huge air propeller on the back roared into life and we were off. Zipping through the eight foot high reeds and disturbing wading birds, herons, egrets and more, a tiny frog jumped and landed right on the front windscreen! Stopping eventually at a boardwalk in the middle of nowhere, I explored an Indian hammock settlement and saw the biggest alligator yet “ all eleven feet of him. I bought beads from the Indian women and smiled at the children playing before boarding the airboat again. Flying back towards civilization, the wind in my face, I laughed as the airboat turned sharply and spray flew up in our wake. These airboats are so agile, noisy and exhilarating. Back on dry land I shook hands with my new friend, one of the last Miccosukee Indians, and returned to the 21st century again.

By Gillian Birch

Gillian | May 20, 2009 | Category: General

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