Everglades National Park | WILDLIFE VIEWING

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

The following is a list of the best places and methods of seeing wildlife at Everglades National Park.

GULF COAST AREA

The only way to see wildlife in the Gulf Coast Area is in a boat. You can paddle the backcountry rivers and creeks, but when you get into the really dense vegetation, the animals become pretty scarce. Thus, you are most likely to see them in the more open areas such as along the shore of Chokoloskee Bay or on the wider sections of the rivers. Alligators like mangrove-free riverbanks where they can sun, and the large birds must be able to fly around freely.

Unless you have your own motorboat, the best way to see wildlife is on a boat tours run by Guest Services, an approved concessionaire that operates out of the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. On a guided excursion you don’t have to worry about paddling, and if you are into photography, shoot away. In a canoe or kayak, by the time you put down your paddles and get out your camera, the animals are usually long gone.

The 10,000 Islands Boat Tour ventures onto Chokoloskee Bay where dolphins and manatees are the draw. You will also see plenty of water birds and maybe a Bald Eagle. See the Gulf Coast Area Wildlife Photos web page for a gallery of photos from this area.

Brown Pelican in Halfway Creek

Brown Pelican in Halfway Creek

Dolphin in Chokoloskee Bay

Dolphin in Chokoloskee Bay


SHARK VALLEY AREA

The Shark Valley Area of Everglades National Park is hands down the best place to see wildlife. You can probably spot every bird the park has to offer, plus alligators, turtles, and snakes. It’s like being in a zoo with no cages.

The best way to see the animals is on foot, and you do not have to walk the entire 15-mile loop road. The western side of the road runs along a canal, and here you are so close to the animals that you must work to keep the required ten-foot distance between you and them. If you walk a short ways around the eastern side, where the terrain is more open, you can see the animals that prefer more space, particularly birds that like to remain in a flock.

You can also take the Shark Valley Tram Tour around the entire 15-mile loop road. This is the best way to see the entire park, and you will find plenty of wildlife, but on foot you can observe and photograph the animals on your own schedule.

See the Shark Valley Wildlife Photos web page for a gallery of photos from this area.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Alligators at Shark Valley

Alligators at Shark Valley


ROYAL PALM AREA

Imagine Shark Valley rolled into one small area and you have Royal Palm. The wildlife here is nearly as diverse, and it can all be found along the Anhinga Trail, a .8-mile loop trail that runs along a canal and ventures out to a small pond where you will find the largest concentration of alligators in the park.

See the Royal Palm Wildlife Photos web page for a gallery of photos from this area.

Purple Gallinule on the Anhinga Trail in Royal Palm

Purple Gallinule on the Anhinga Trail in Royal Palm

Alligators piled up along the Anhinga Trail

Alligators piled up along the Anhinga Trail


FLAMINGO AREA

As with the Gulf Coast Area, a boat is the best way to see wildlife in the Flamingo Area. Guest Services operates two excursions out of the Flamingo Marina. The Florida Bay Boat Tour is where you can spot dolphins, manatees, and possibly sharks, along with plenty of birds. The Backcountry Boat Tour covers the inland lakes where birds are the main draw. The trip starts up the Buttonwood Canal, and it is here that you may see the American crocodile. Flamingo is the only place in the park where you can see these rare animals.

For landlubbers, especially those interested in birds, there are plenty of roadside ponds and lakes where birds like to congregate. The National Park Service offers Ranger-led bird watching tours at various times during the busy winter tourist season. See the park’s Flamingo Ranger Guided Tours web page for a schedule. In addition, manatees and the American crocodile can be spotted from the docks at the marina.

Visit the Flamingo Area Wildlife Photos web page for a gallery of photos from this area.

Ranger-led bird watching tour at Mrazek Pond

Ranger-led bird watching tour at Mrazek Pond

Dolphin in Florida Bay

Dolphin in Florida Bay

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Last updated on February 24, 2021
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