Wrestle an Alligator in the Everglades

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Port of Miami is the Cruise Capital of the World accommodating some of the world's largest cruise ships. But there is much more to this South Florida city than cruises, the Miami Dolphins and Miami Heat.

While visiting what Forbes Magazine named "America’s Cleanest City" in 2008, be sure to check out the art deco buildings at South Beach, take a day trip to the Conch Republic and ride an air boat through the Everglades in search of alligators.

South Beach

In the 1930’s South Beach experienced an architectural revolution which introduced Art Deco, Streamline Moderne and Nautical Moderne architecture to the beach.  South Beach claims to have the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world. Be sure to take a stroll down Ocean Avenue amongst the art deco inspired boutique hotels and stop in for lunch at one of the many outdoor cafes.

Conch Republic

The Florida Keys are an archipelago of 1700 islands beginning at the tip of the Florida peninsula 15 miles south of Miami.  Many of residents of Key West were immigrants from the Bahamas known as Conchs and in the 20th century, many of Key West’s residents began to refer to themselves as Conchs. 

On April 23rd 1982, in response to an inspection point looking for illegal drugs and immigrants set up by the United States Border Patrol on the highway leading to Key West, the city mockingly declared itself independent of the United States in an effort to lift the roadblock which they claimed was hurting tourism in the area.  They called themselves the Conch Republic and immediately declared war against the United States by breaking a loaf of stale bread over the head of a man dressed in a US naval uniform then quickly surrendered and applied for one billion dollars in foreign aid.

The event generated great publicity for their plight and as a result the roadblocks were lifted soon afterward.  Tourism also boomed as a result spurring the city to celebrate their “independence every April 23rd.

While visiting the southernmost point of the United States (only 90 miles from Cuba) be sure to check out the butterfly sanctuary, Hemmingway House and the Southernmost Point Monument.

Air Boat Alligator Tour

Named for the blades of sawgrass that seem to go on forever,  the Everglades are a subtropical wetland starting in Orlando, with the Kissimee River which discharges into the vast yet shallow Lake Okeechobee forming a slow moving river 60 miles wide and over 100 miles long flowing southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay. 

Since 1882, around 1,400 miles of canals, levees and water control devices were constructed to divert the water to the cities and portions of the Everglades were transformed into farmland to grow primarily sugarcane.  With approximately 50 percent of the original Everglades turned into farmland and urban areas, it wasn’t until the 1970’s when international attention turned to the environmental crisis of the Everglades and it was designated as one of only three wetland areas of global importance.

Since the water is shallow, air-boats are used to transport tourists through the swampy river to view the abundance of wildlife including birds, turtles and alligators.

Check out my Everglades Video

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