During your stay in Naples Florida, we hope that you will take the time to see the Western Everglades. The Western Everglades is still part of the Florida Everglades, which is still considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also one of the most important ecosystems in the world. Placing the term “western” in front of Everglades helps to demark its direction-west.
Everglades National Park, Gulf Coast
There are a multitude of ways to visit the Western Everglades during your visit, but today, we will talk about one of the more popular options: Everglades National Park, Gulf Coast.
Everglades National Park, Gulf Coast is located off of Oyster Bay Road in Everglades City, in the direction of Chokoloskee Island. This location might seem kind of urban for the first time visitor, which might make you feel that your ability to visit Everglades National Park is intimidating.
However, when you first drive into this sector of Everglades National Park, you will realize that it is primarily a welcome center/visitor’s center to the park, which is the 10,000 Islands. This is because the majority of this park is accessible only via boat.
You can explore the park and it is worthwhile because you will see an aspect of the Everglades ecosystem that is rarely thought about outside of Southwest Florida. However, in order to properly explore this part of Everglades National Park, there are a few things you will need to know in order to properly plan your visit.
Seasonal Ranger Programs
First, you need to decide whether you want to visit the park on your own, with one of the ranger interpretive programs or with a guided tour company unaffiliated with Everglades National Park.
How you choose to do so will vary according to how experienced you are in backcountry exploration, whether or not you are traveling on a specific budget, what time of year that you come to the park, and what kind of experience or method of seeing the park that you feel works best for you and those traveling with you.
Please note that the ranger programs are very seasonal; some are held all year round while others are not. They even state on their website that if you want more choices of ranger led programs through the park, you need to consider visiting between November to May.
Even though these programs tend to be cheaper, if you want to make sure you get to take the tour you want, you need to either call Everglades National Park Gulf Coast before you leave for Naples or book your trip sometime between November to May of that year.
If you can’t, or if you would prefer a unique backcountry experience through Everglades National Park, book a guided kayaking tour or motorboat tour with a local, private guided tour agency. There are quite a few of them located in Everglades City and Chokoloskee that go through Everglades National Park and the 10,000 Islands, so all you need to do is shop around and pick which one will best suit your needs and budget.
Note that these tend to be a little bit more expensive than the ranger guided tours, but tend to be worth the money because you get a private tour with a local that is still educational yet geared towards the outdoor enthusiast.
If you choose to tour the park on your own, you might need to apply for a backcountry permit and get a proper map from the visitor’s center at Everglades National Park. You will have to bring your own kayak, canoe or rent one, in addition to other supplies or gear that you will need during your visit to the park.
Second, once you decide how you want to explore the park, you will need to make reservations, get together the gear and supplies you need and plan in advance what time you need to arrive to take your tour. Most unaffiliated guided tour companies require a reservation in advance, as do some of the ranger guided tours.
Ranger Lead Tours
The ranger guided tours leave early in the morning, while the unaffiliated guided tours will leave when you wish. As a result, be sure to arrive early and at the designated meeting spot before your tour begins.
Travel Time to Everglades National Park
Depending upon traffic, it will take you a while to get to Everglades City from Naples. For example, if you are leaving from East Naples, it will take you 45 minutes to arrive to Everglades City. If you are leaving from North Naples or Bonita Springs, it will take you an hour. Please keep this in mind when you travel to make your appointment on time, and in particular, to arrive at least ten minutes before your departure. If you go with an unaffiliated guided tour company, they will most likely give you a designated time to arrive.
Third, make sure that you have some supplies to make your trip to Everglades National Park comfortable. Recommended supplies include insect repellent, sun screen, bottled water, a good map of the park, and a healthy, non-perishable snack.
Note that if you go with an unaffiliated guided tour company, they will provide most of these things for you as part of the price for your tour package. The ranger guided tours however, will not. Even if you choose to explore the park without a guide, you will want these supplies as the park can be very buggy, very hot, sunny and humid, and isolated to where you will want to where you will need and want most of these items.
If you are traveling without a guide, make sure that you have everything you need to alert the Coast Guard or ranger office in the case of an emergency. It is traditionally advised that you explore the park alone only if you have experience traveling in backcountry areas, especially for extended periods of time. Please remember to dispose of any trash you might have properly, instead of littering.
Know the Ecosystems
Fourth, it might help for you to know some basics about the park before you arrive. These basics include the different seasons that the park has, the different ecosystems that exist within the park, some of the animals that are present, some of the plants you will see, and any precautions you might need to take.
Knowing these things will not only allow you to have a better trip through Everglades National Park, because you will know what you are looking at while you are visiting the park, and try to look for certain ecosystems, plants and animals while you are in the park.
However, knowing about the seasons, the different ecosystems and some about the different animals and plants might help keep you safe in the park. The wet season in the park, which occurs from May to October, tends to be a precarious time to visit the park, more so than the dry season, which occurs from November to April.
Know the Animals
There are also animals and plants and animals that are downright dangerous if you don’t use caution or care during your visit to the park. Therefore, knowing this might help you be more cautious and smarter than if you didn’t visit the park without this prior knowledge.
Hopefully this will help you plan a fulfilling, amazing trip to Everglades National Park! Planning a trip out to Everglades National Park might be intimidating at first, however, once you know what you expect from your visit and learn who you need to contact you to help you with your plans, you’ll find planning a visit to Everglades National Park not so hard at all.
Once you plan your trip to Everglades National Park, it’ll make it far easier to visit and enjoy the natural splendor here. After all, you’ll see why once you see the 10,000 Islands, see your first alligator, or catch sight a manatee.