The Shark Valley Tram Tour was a great way to see the Everglades! This open-air 2 hour tour went through the heart of the River of Grass and stops at a 45-foot high observation tower where the view seems endless across the flat grassy plains.
Richard, our tour guide, and Eric, our driver, were a great duo. Richard would tell us stories, point out the many birds nestled in the grass. And Eric had a keen eye for the alligators, which he often spotted just a few feet from our open-air tram!
While it’s possible to rent bikes and ride along the same path to the observation tower, you’ll miss the education (and entertainment!) that Richard and Eric provided along the way.
The 2-hour tour was not all movement – we stopped many times along the way. Once to see a Mama alligator close to her nest of eggs. Another when Richard actually got out of the tram and poked an alligator that was just feet from the side of our car…so we could get a better glimpse?!
The alligator nest was fascinating in and of itself. It looked like a giant compost heap, and in fact that’s exactly what they are! The decaying grasses that the mother alligator puts over the eggs keeps them warm before they hatch. The males alligator eggs are the warmer ones on the bottom; The female alligator eggs are colder and closer to the top.
We saw a few young alligators (1-2 feet long) as we drove through the everglades. We were told that by 3 years old there are will usually be just 3-4 alligators that survive from the initial 34 eggs that were laid.
The observation tower gives you a breath-taking view. Visibility on the day we were there was 17-18 miles in all directions. It was neat to see that approaching thunderstorm across the grassy savannah and the lightning bolts streak to the ground many miles away.
Shark Valley gets its name from the Shark River, the area of Florida Bay where sharks lay their eggs. The head waters of Shark River are in the Everglades “valley” that’s 50 miles wide with Miami to the east (elevation of 25 feet above sea-level) to Naples on the western side (elevation of 30 feet above sea-level). Shark Valley may be a valley, by definition, but your eyes will tell you it is a flat and wide savannah.
During the tram tour, they told us about the troubling invasive Burmese python in the Everglades that appears to have no predator. Eric (our driver) told us a story where we had caught a 13-foot long python at the observation tower and it was a pregnant female snake with over 30 eggs. Eric let the kids try out his snake-snaring rod after the tram tour.
The Shark Valley tram tour was a great way to see one of the most unique National Parks that our country has to offer. After the tour, we visited the Ranger Station, the kids earned their Junior Ranger badges, and we even took a short stroll along the Bobcat Trail / boardwalk seeing a few turtles and snakes along the way!