By Jacinthe Roy
Confession time: I lived in South Florida for more than 15 years before I ever visited the Florida Everglades. Shame on me — especially since no other excursion has been as wild or ecologically dazzling.
To those of you considering a Florida vacation, consider this: 99.9 percent of the people visiting the rugged, subtropical landscape will never leave the road or boardwalks, let alone get in the water. But the little adventurer in me overcame these fears recently with the help of a small, responsible and fairly unknown company that takes curious folks like me deep into the Florida Everglades and the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. I called Meagan at Dragonfly Expeditions and I was soon on my merry way, driving west on the Tamiami Trail.
After a quick stop at the fantastic Clyde Butcher gallery — which pays tribute to the beauty of the Everglades in mesmerizing black-and-white photographs — we arrived at the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, threw on our wet shoes and hats, grabbed our walking sticks and headed for the wilderness.
Our tour guide Charles, a fantastic story teller, told us about the first inhabitants of the region and how they lived. He drew our attention to the natural beauty, the wild orchids, the numerous bromeliads growing all over the trees, the “knees” of the great cypress trees poking out from the cool and fresh water, the sounds and the wildlife in this rare and unusual ecosystem called a swamp. We were so captivated that we almost forgot we were waist deep in water.
Don’t take this jaunt alone: sign up with Dragonfly Expeditions or another local tour company. And why not use the trip as an excuse to plan a beach vacation?
Since no hotels exist on the grounds — and who would want to stay in swampland anyway? — I recommend the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa, a four-star oceanfront hotel just 30 minutes from the Everglades. The beauty is that you can spend the morning in the remote location then be back at the luxury property in time to catch a sunset from your gulfview balcony.
Newport Beachside Hotel & Resort on Collins Avenue also offers outstanding value and the perfect spot to enjoy the Sunny Isles and Miami beaches. This Miami hotel offers outstanding value and perhaps my favorite perk: a free 25 minute massage per stay — something you’ll need after a hike through the Everglades.
Jacinthe Roy is a Market Coordinator for the Southeast region. An avid sailor, scuba diver and adventurer originally from Canada, she settled in South Florida after many years cruising the Caribbean.