The Shark Valley Visitor Center
, located in the Everglades National Park, is home to the popular Shark Valley Tram Tour. It has an extensive educational center that includes displays, videos of the park, an underwater camera, and informational brochures.
There are several ways to see the park and several trails to take that start in Shark Valley. There is a guided tram tour, two short walking trails, or you can rent a bike or bring your own and go at your own pace. The two walking trails are the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail and the Otter Cave Hammock Trail. The Bobcat Boardwalk Trail is a 0.5 mile long, self-guided trail that takes you through the sawgrass slough and tropical hardwood forests. The Otter Cave Hammock Trail is a 0.25 mile long, self-guided trail that takes you through a tropical hardwood forest with footbridges over a small stream.
Shark Valley Tram Tour
The Shark Valley Tram Tour is a two-hour, narrated, open air tour that takes you on a fifteen-mile loop through the Shark Valley section of the Everglades National Park. These tours are led by park-trained guides with not only a vast knowledge of the area, but a real passion for telling their guests about all the many ecosystems that make up the Everglades and all of the animals that call the Everglades home. The open vehicles allow guests to see the wildlife in the sawgrass prairies on both sides of the tram. They are always on the lookout for wildlife and are really great about stopping when they see something of interest so you can get a picture.
Shark Valley Observation Tower
Halfway through the tour you come to a 45-foot high tower with an observation deck that offers a view extending twenty miles out in all directions, giving you a chance to see something different everywhere you look. To get to the observation deck there is a spiral ramp that gradually takes you to the top; it's beautiful. The tram tours are offered daily every hour on the hour from 9 AM to 4 PM, but the hours can vary slightly between the winter and summer seasons.
Shark Valley by Bicycle
Another great way to take this trail is by bike. It's fifteen miles of paved road with no hills or rough terrain, which makes it an easy ride but it still normally takes two or three hours, depending on how many things catch your eye. Bringing your own bike is fine but they also offer both adult and kid's bikes for rent, you can also rent helmets and baskets, and they have several bikes with child seats available.
A few things to remember when biking or hiking in this area are to take plenty of liquids and bug spray, the best time to go is in the morning before it gets too hot and before the afternoon storms roll, especially during the summer, and you must try and stay at least ten to fifteen feet away from wildlife at all times for their safety as well as yours.
At the end of the Shark Valley Tram Tour trail, there is an observation spot with a view of alligators and other Everglades wildlife. The various species change with the seasons and water levels throughout the year; because of this every journey through the Shark Valley is a new and different experience for visitors.
Shark Valley Visitors Center
After your day of animal watching and information you may want to stop back by the visitors center. They have educational books, postcards and other souvenirs for sale. There are also snacks and drinks available.
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com