I got distracted at the front gate, where a giant elephant of a tree was stretched out along the ground.
Walking around it, I saw where it had, at some point, been knocked partway out of the ground. Instead of giving up, it just kept growing. Awesome!
We walked down to the docks where we boarded an airboat and put on ear-protectors to drown out some of the engine noise. These airboats are large enough to hold about 16 - 20 people (depending on the size of the people).
Like all good airboats, ours cruised along the waterways
even when we couldn't see the water.
Our guide knew his way around, and found lots of beautiful herons, ducks and other water birds. And like all Florida water tour guides, he went looking for alligators and found them. He didn't get too close to them; it's a terribly noisy boat but he had it judged nicely how close he could get before they would sink under the water, without a ripple to show where they had been. As usual, Randy was even better at spotting them. Even in a field of water weeds, he could spot one lying motionless.In this field of water and weeds, one tree stood out.
In its branches was a female Snail Kite. These birds are a "locally endangered species in the Florida Everglades" with just around 400 breeding pairs, but they are doing better in other parts of the world.
Due to the impact of water-level controls, Florida was running out the big snails these kites eats. According to our guide, some were imported to provide the bird with food.
If that's true, it sounds like a bad idea to me. Every definition of apple snails that I found described them as an invasive species. But maybe I heard him wrong... On the base of this tree are some big snail egg pods. They are bright pink when immature, and turn whiter as they near maturity.
The biggest surprise of the day was seeing several cows in the lake, some of them up to their jaw in the water. I guess the water grass tastes sweeter out there, and our guide said they are too big for the alligators to mess with. Like the birds and alligators, they moved out of our way, although they made more of a wake.
After the ride we drove to the Sinha Brazilian Steak House for a late lunch. It's a small place and I was concerned that they would do "Brazilian" right, but they did just fine. The salad bar was enough for Donna, while the rest of us opted for what they call BBQ. In this case BBQ means all the salad bar you can eat, plus what Lambert's Cafe calls pass-arounds. But here, they pass around meats. The waiter came by with a big double skewer and gave us chicken. That was followed by beef, sausages and lamb. When he offered us pineapple grilled with cinnamon and brown sugar, I figured that was the dessert course. But no, next he came by with bacon-wrapped chicken and bacon-wrapped beef, and finished with sirloin. At that point he asked us if we would like him to start over at the beginning, but we were all totally full. So we let Pete drive us all home while the rest of us relaxed into a semi-food coma. Good day.