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5 Everglades Plants You Should Know About

There are several different habitats that make up the Florida Everglades, each with its own distinct plant life. The biodiversity of Everglades plants in these habitats promotes the equally diverse animal life that resides in them. The flora found in the Everglades ranges from beautiful, to strong, and in some cases dangerous. Here are 5 standout Everglades plant species you should know about before your visit!

Everglades Flowers

Spider Lily This Florida native is easily identified by its long, white, curving sepals and pedals, that are connected by a gossamer web. These fragrant Everglades Flowers are found growing in swamps, marshes, and hammocks year-round, and are very drought resistant.

Ghost Orchid There are several orchid species growing in the Florida Everglades, but the ghost orchid is considered a symbol of the lush variety of Everglades plants. It has long, delicate, white petals, and due to its complex shape, can only be pollinated by the sphinx month. Found in cypress swamps, these Everglades flowers use their massive, tangled roots to cling to palm, pond apple, and cypress trees.

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Spider Lily

Everglades Trees

Cypress Trees This is tree is the most flood-tolerant of Everglades trees. Found in swamps and in tree islands on marshes, cypress trees have large ”knees” that protrude as high as 6 feet above their roots. These knees allow for oxygen to reach the roots and support the trees in water-logged soil.

Mangrove This rooty plant is located toward the coastal areas of the Everglades. Mangroves act as a buffer between the saltwater of the coast and the freshwater marshes. Their strong roots help reduce soil erosion from ocean currents, block waves, and restore the soil through their cycles of growth.

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Cypress swamp

Poisonwood – The Tree to Avoid

The Everglades have many plants to behold, but also a few you should try to avoid. The poisonwood tree is best identified up close by their teardrop-shaped leaves outlined in yellow, which appear to droop from its branches, but watch out! The tree contains 100 times more poison in its bark, sap, and leaves than poison ivy, and touching them can cause skin inflammation and blisters.

It’s best to avoid hiking in the Everglades hammocks in the rain, because the sap from a poisonwood could drip on you. The safest way to view poisonwood trees is on an Everglades airboat tour from a safe distance, because any contact with them should be avoided.

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Poisonwood Tree

The various habitats in the Everglades promote a wide range of unique plant life here. The many Everglades plants growing here range from resilient, to pretty, and also hazardous. But by exploring the Everglades on a hike or private airboat tour can give you the chance to see several of them.


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Mosquitoes In The Everglades

Mosquitoes are easily the most disliked animal in the Florida Everglades. Their buzzing and biting makes them a nuisance to people, especially during the Everglades wet season. While taking an Everglades eco tour, you may be surprised to learn that even they play a part in maintaining their environment. But here is some information about these insects to help you understand them and prepare for them before your Everglades visit.

Some Information About Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are easily are most abundant during the Everglades wet season from May through summer. But their numbers drop significantly during the drier winter months. The wet summer months see peak mosquito activity because both their larvae and eggs can only thrive in water.

Male mosquitoes only feed on flower nectar.

Females bite animals for protein to develop their eggs.

A nuisance only to humans, the mosquito is a vital link in the Everglades food web. By laying their eggs in the water, their larvae are a food source for fish, turtles, frogs, wading birds, and other insects.

Mosquito Safety In the Everglades

Given the abundance of mosquitoes in the Everglades, you should take precautions to avoid their bites as best you can. When you take an Everglades eco tour or any other private airboat tour at Mack’s Fish Camp, we do provide bug repellent. But here are some tips to avoid mosquito bites when you visit the Everglades.

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  • Stay in the sun and avoid shaded areas. Those tiny vampires love shady spots.
  • Don’t breathe… heavily. Mosquitoes are attached to carbon dioxide, and the harder you breathe out, the easier it is for them to find you.
  • Wear light colored clothing. In addition to being a good fashion choice for the Florida sun, mosquitoes are less attracted to them. They are drawn to darker colored clothes like navy blue, black, or red.
  • Avoid dense vegetation and bodies of standing water. Mosquitoes are concentrated in these areas (vegetation) or are their breeding grounds (water).

The Everglades is Zika-Free

While they are known carriers of disease, there have been no reported cases of mosquitoes in Everglades carrying the Zika virus. In fact, after collecting over 400,000 mosquitoes in the Everglades, a team of Yale scientists found no Aedes egyptiispecies, the known carriers of Zika.

Though considered a pest to people, mosquitoes are a valued part of the Everglades ecosystem. If they prove too overwhelming when you visit the Mack’s Fish Camp, then maybe you should explore it on an Everglades eco tour. A mosquito may be able to fly 40 miles for a snack, but it sure can’t keep up with an airboat!


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Everglades Snakes

The Florida Everglades can evoke images of many different animal species like alligators and egrets, but not snakes so much. Among the hundreds of species of Everglades wildlife that dwell here, there are 29 species of snakes, only 4 of which are venomous. They may not stand out like a roseate spoonbill or a bull alligator, but you could spot one lurking in the marshes and tree islands on an everglades airboat tour.

The Everglades offers the exciting opportunity for all visitors to see a unique environment and the animals that live there up close and in person. Like the other wildlife here, snakes play a vital role in the ecosystems of the Everglades. Whether you’re looking to visit the ‘glades, are just curious about Everglades snakes, and maybe wondering which ones to avoid, here’s some information about these reptiles.

Non-Venomous Everglades Snakes

Red rat snake these constrictors can climb trees and are found in hardwood hammocks. Their reddish-orange to brownish-yellow patterning outlined in black makes them easy to spot. But, they’re known to spend time underground mostly.

Eastern Garter Snake Averaging at 18-26 inches long, these snakes are recognized by the three yellow stripes that run down their bodies. They prefer moist areas like the sawgrass marshes to feed on small frogs, fish, and salamanders.

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Red Rat Snake

Scarlet King Snake This snake bears a strong resemblance to the highly venomous coral snake, but is distinguished by its red, pointy nose. It gets its royal name because it can eat venomous snakes without being affected by their venom.

Burmese Python This exotic invasive species has recently passed the American Alligator as the apex predator of the Everglades. With an average length of 10 – 18 feet, the Burmese python is the third largest living snake in the world! These snakes arrived in the Everglades as abandoned pets.

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Burmese Python

Venomous Everglades Snakes

As was mentioned earlier, there are only 4 species of venomous snakes that reside in the Everglades.

Coral Snake A pretty sight to behold, the coral snake is a bright and colorful blend of red, black, and yellow. Preferring to stay underground, they are rarely spotted and difficult to see. Though they account for less than 1% of all snake bites, the coral snake is highly venomous.

Pygmy Rattlesnake pygmy rattlesnakes have thick, greyish bodies with dark blotches on their backs, making them hard to spot. They are among the smaller species of rattlesnakes, averaging between 14-22 inches long. Pygmy rattlesnakes prefer swamps and sawgrass marshes, but can be found in other habitats.

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Coral Snake

Florida Cottonmouth Also known as the water moccasin, the Florida Cottonmouth is the only venomous water snake in North America. The Florida Cottonmouth can be identified by the dark bands that run down from each eye and their dark reddish to greyish, thick bodies. These strong swimmers are found in other habitats.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Reaching up to 7 – 8 feet long, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest venomous snake in North America. They are tan to greyish with a black diamond pattern on their backs, and their tails are tipped with a large rattle. Diamondback Rattlesnakes can be found in the drier habitats of the Everglades, like sandhills are hammocks.

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As menacing as they may look to some, snakes play their part in the Everglades food web. Everglades snakes regulate insect and rodent populations, and even other venomous snakes by eating them! Though they are often shy, you’re likely to see them among the many other varieties of wildlife on an Everglades airboat tour at Mack’s Fish camp.


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Invasive Species in The Everglades

Thousands of native plants and animals reside in The Florida Everglades and help its habitats to thrive. But as massive as the Everglades is, all 1.5 million acres, it is vulnerable to invasive species that can harm the ecosystem here. Here is some information on some of this non-native Everglades wildlife, but you’re probably wondering…

What is an Invasive Species?

An invasive species is a plant, animal, bacteria, or other living thing that is non-native to the place it inhabits. They can grow and multiply quickly, and are harmful to their non-native habitat, the health of humans, even the economy of the places they invade. Invasive species can interrupt their adopted environments severely, and can even cause Everglades plants and wildlife to go extinct.

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Invasive species have entered the Everglades by:

  • Being released by local pet owners that don’t want to care for the anymore
  • Being brought to Florida by or to sell on black markets
  • Hitching a ride with travelers or foreign ships arriving in our ports

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How Invasive Species Enter the Everglades

Invasive species can and have impacted the Everglades in several ways. The Burmese python has become well-known throughout America for feeding on native animals, including the American alligator, making them the dominant, or apex predator of the Everglades. Burmese pythons also pose a threat to people living near the Everglades, along with their pet dogs and cats. They often eat the young of native species, which shrinks the populations of their prey over time.

Invasive Everglades Plants

There are also invasive plant species impacting the Everglades as well. The Old world climbing fern affects several Everglades habitats from cypress swamps to pineland forests. Climbing ferns grow in dense concentrations which can smother native plants and rob them of sunlight. They can also act as a ladder to fires and draw them up to the canopy of the forest, burning areas that would normally be spared. This invasive plant can even change the water flow of streams with its dense roots, which can significantly affect Everglades ecology.

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How you can help

  • DO research before buying an exotic pet. Understand its needs, lifespan, how big it can grow, and if it is safe to own.
  • DON’T release your pet into the wild if you no longer want it. This applies to fish and aquatic plants, too.
  • REPORT invasive species sightings by calling 1-888-IVE-GOT-1 or online at www.IveGot1.org

At Mack’s Fish Camp we enjoy having the privilege to share the beauty of the Everglades ecosystem with the world. We see the preservation of this environment and the Gladesmen Culture as one in the same. We also educate our visitors about Everglades ecology, including invasive species on our Everglades airboat tours.


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Birds You'll See on an Everglades Eco Tour

South Florida is known for its incredible biodiversity, and this is especially true regarding Everglades bird species. The famous naturalist John James Audubon, for whom the National Audubon Society is named, was in awe of Florida’s birds, saying how “The air was blackened by whistling wings.” There is a variety of types of birds to be found on an Everglades eco tour, such as wading birds, birds of prey, migrating birds, and land birds.

Everglades Wading Birds

Wading birds are named for how they wade in shallow water to stalk their prey, making the River of Grass an ideal habitat for them. During the Everglades dry season, which lasts from December to late May, they congregate in large groups to mate and nest. Wood storks, egrets, Great Blue Herons, ibises and roseate spoonbills fill both the sky and sawgrass marsh when the water levels are at their lowest.

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A juvenile ibis
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Anhinga

You may notice another long necked bird with a pointy beak swimming and diving in deeper water before emerging with fish in its mouth, the anhinga. Anhingas, nicknamed “snakebirds” for how they swim with their long, snake-like necks above the water, are actually water birds despite their similarity to wading birds.

Birds of Prey in the Everglades

Anhingas and herons do look cool while they hunt, but can pale in comparison to the swiftness and power of birds of prey that reside in the Everglades. These impressive raptors hatch during the dry season just like wading birds, but they’re off any hunting on their own by four months of age, as is the case of the red-shouldered hawk. Ospreys are another exciting bird of prey to watch, preferring to hunt fish by diving down with outstretched claws to snatch them up.

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Osprey

Migrating birds vacation here, too!

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Eastern Bluebird

Residents of South Florida playfully refer to tourists that visit here in the winter months as “snow birds”. Local birdwatchers see plenty of the feathered version in the Everglades around this time as well. The native beauty of purple gallinules and roseate spoonbills is complimented by migratory birds like cardinals and eastern bluebirds.

Regardless of season, you can see plenty of Everglades birds and wildlife near Miami at Mack’s Fish Camp. If you’d like to know more, please contact us online or call us toll-free at 786-536-7400. Or you can book an Everglades eco tour online.


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See the Everglades or the Beach: Why Not Both?

Many people travel from all over the world to South Florida and visit the beaches in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and some aren’t aware that the Everglades even exists! Other people who visit Florida are aware of the Glades and snub it entirely, preferring the sea and sand. Being such different places, both have their individual appeal, and we see the Everglades as the overlooked side of the same sunny coin that is Florida.

A Crowded Coast and an Open Wilderness

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Great Blue Heron

Spending a day at the beach, having the tides wash over your toes can be quite relaxing, but the crowding of the area can reduce that significantly. Out west, past the city and sprawling suburbs, lies 1.5 million acres of undeveloped wilderness that are home to 350 species of birds and 23 endangered and threatened species.

When you’re visiting the coast, the calm of the sea can be overtaken by the noise and clutter of the city, which can be as tiresome as it is charming. For what the Everglades lacks in creature comforts, it more than makes up for in a sprawling landscape waiting to be explored on a private airboat tour.

A Private Airboat Tour: Relaxation and Exploration

Several different habitats make up the vast ecosystem of the Everglades, making it a great place to explore and compliments the static calm of the beach. Camping, hiking and canoeing are all great ways to discover the ecology of Everglades wildlife. Taking a private airboat tour is an exciting way to see the best areas of the River of Grass up close!

Another great way to immerse yourself in the Everglades is to go on a guided fishing charter. You get all of the relaxation of fishing on a beach pier or jetty while venturing into a part of Florida seen by few people.

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Everglades Bass Fishing Charter

Much to do, and more to see!

The beach has some wildlife, but save for seagulls and pelicans the few animals there are most active at dawn before people start showing up. The Everglades is home to several species of birds, amphibians and reptiles, including the iconic American alligator.

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Roseate Spoonbill

Wading birds like the Great Blue Heron, wood stork, and roseate spoonbill nest here in droves in the winter and raise their young into late spring. Once the wet season begins in June, alligators, frogs and turtles become more visible.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in South Florida there is plenty of it all around. Some of it is hiding in plain sight, just as easy to miss as it is rewarding to find. When you take a private airboat tour atMack’s Fish Camp, you’ll discover a hidden treasure more valuable than gold: adventure!


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Bizarre Foods In the Everglades

Residing in the vast wilderness of the Florida Everglades, for five generations the Gladesmen Culture has endured by living off of the land. The many different habitats here have provided us with a great bounty of food from both the land water. A few years ago, TV host Andrew Zimmern cam to Mack’s Fish Camp to sample some Gladesmen cuisine as part of his Travel Channel program, “Bizarre Foods”.

The Other Florida

In the episode “The Other Florida”, Andrew spent the afternoon with Keith and Marshall Jones, who were happy to share a glimpse of Gladesmen Culture with the world (You can watch it here). They took an airboat ride into the Everglades to show Andrew the land they call home. They also grabbed a few resources from it that they call supper in the Glades, some Bracken fern fiddleheads to have as a side dish. For an entrée, Marshall made fried and grilled frog legs from the haul he and Keith had caught frog gigging the night before.

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It’s Not TV, It’s Gladesmen Culture

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All in all, Andrew had a great time visiting and exploring our “Other Florida”, and found our distinct cuisine to be as delicious as it was bizarre. Anyone who comes to the Everglades and dines on the wild plants and game animals here usually finds them to be a real treat! But the Gladesmen living here have thrived on those foods, with marshes, sloughs, and hammocks acting as their grocery store.

Florida gets its name for being full of flowers, and there are plenty of flowers and plants growing in the Glades, many of them good for eating! Amaranth, dollarweed, and Bracken ferns can make for great salad greens. A few wild Florida plants can be used to make tea also, such as blackberry leaves, roots and bark from sassafras, or young pine needles.

Try this at home, VERY carefully

When preparing wild plants, it’s important to how to make and consume them safely in some cases. For the fiddlehead (Bracken) ferns we cooked for Andrew Zimmern, we made sure to blanch them in salt water then shock them in ice water. Doing this greatly reduces certain chemicals in them that while not poisonous or toxic, can be harmful if eaten over time or too frequently.

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Bracken fern "fiddlehead"

When life hands you gators…

One food staple of the Gladesmen Culture that can’t be overlooked is alligator meat. With the Everglades having so many of them, you could say, “When life hands you gators, make Gatorade.” While probably not the best ingredient for a sports drink, American alligator meat tastes great no matter how it’s cooked. It’s also packed with protein, having nearly 30 grams in a 3.5 ounce serving.

With so many resources available in the South Florida Everglades to live on, it truly does feel like living in paradise!


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Why Your Child Should See the Everglades

For many kids, they might see Florida as the bottom right corner of America, or more likely as the place they went to that fun theme park. Even kids living in Florida might know as much, along with maybe who Ponce Deleon is or how to spell “Okeechobee”. No matter where they’re from, any child can learn a lot on an Everglades airboat tour and have a blast at the same time!

Dinosaurs live in the Everglades

The Everglades is home to an animal descended from the mighty dinosaurs, the American alligator. They’re so abundant here that you and your child may lose count of how many you spot on an Everglades airboat tour. Though far from cuddly, they’re mostly calm and docile creatures, but are still wild animals and should be regarded as such.

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350 Species of birds live here, too!

Ergret, Miami Everglades Wildlife

Gators aren’t the only Everglades wildlife you’ll see during your visit. There are over 300 bird species here, the most interesting being wading birds and birds of prey, and you’ll hear and see many of them. Most wading birds like the Great Egret and Great Blue Heron stalk the shallow marshes for fish, quickly using their pointed beaks and long necks to catch them.

In areas with deeper water, anhingas can be see diving while swimming and emerging with fish. If you keep an eye on the tree tops, you’ll spot birds of prey like red-shouldered hawks, ospreys, and even peregrine falcons, if you don’t see them in flight.

Explore several different habitats

Along with the diverse wildlife, you child will see the unique habitats that make up the Everglades. An airboat eco tour can take you to hardwood hammock forests, alligator-filled sawgrass marshes, and islands of cypress trees. With knowledgeable, fifth-generation Gladesmen guiding you tour, you’ll learn about the ecology of this unique environment while enjoying the fast paced thrill of an airboat ride.

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Children are effortlessly prone to distraction. Getting and keeping the attention of a child is an act most parents would call a superpower. Kids can’t help but have a sharp sense of novelty and adventure because everything is new to them! But, do you remember the first time you saw the ocean, or even a full moon rise?

It’s moments like these that make memories for a child that last a lifetime. The fun and excitement of introducing them to the Florida Everglades on an airboat ride could be one of those moments.


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Swamp Squatch: Legend of the Skunk Ape

It’s said that a mysterious creature dwells deep within the Florida Everglades, a large ape that walks upright and stands over seven feet tall. When sightings of it throughout Florida were at their peak in the 1960’s, it was dubbed the “Skunk Ape”. Why call it Skunk Ape and not just Florida Bigfoot? Well, nearly all reported encounters with it mention it smelling like anything from moldy garbage to rotten eggs, or even a skunk.

Sightings in the Everglades and Beyond

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While not as frequent as they were in the 1960’s and 1970’s, sightings of the Skunk Ape are reported in Florida every year, some outside of the Everglades. One of the most noteworthy encounters occurred in the fall of 2000, referred to as the “Myakka Skunk Ape”. The Sarasota Sheriff’s Department received two photographs depicting a large, upright ape along with an anonymous letter from the alleged photograph.

In the letter, which was apparently written by an elderly woman, she snapped photos of the animal she believed had been taking apples she had left in her backyard. The encounter has been picked apart by debunkers and cryptid fans alike. But while the story and creature are scrutinized, the pictures have been confirmed as real and not doctored.

Skunk Ape – Florida Hide and Seek Champion

Apart from being stinky, the Skunk Ape can definitely be described as elusive. Despite a steady flow of video footage from alleged encounters and molds made from footprints, the National Park Service denies the existence of the creature. They cite their many wildlife life trail cameras showing no such animal, or having never discovered any trace of bones in the Everglades.

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But some of the believers would be quick to tell you that with the Florida Everglades covering 1.5 million acres, and much of it rarely visited by humans, a reclusive animal could thrive there unnoticed without a trace.

A Symbol of a Mysterious Swamp

The Everglades is truly a vast place, full of Florida wildlife capable of deceiving the eyes of the casual visitor. When taking a private airboat tour, you might notice an alligator that you assumed was a floating log, or a diving anhinga that you thought was a water snake. The Skunk Ape isn’t just a campfire tale, but a symbol of the mystery of the Florida wilderness.

Still, don’t hold your breath hoping to see it. But if you do, hold your nose.


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Alligators and Crocodiles in the Everglades

The American alligator, in addition to being the state reptile of Florida, is recognized as a symbol of the Everglades. While on an airboat tour in Miami, you’ll likely see so many alligators that you’d lose count! But even if you were keeping score, you might be counting some crocodiles by accident.

The American Crocodile

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The American alligator and the American Crocodile belong to a reptile group named crocodilians, which are the largest living reptiles in the world! The Florida Everglades is the only place on earth where both species coexist. It is the extreme southern range American alligator and the extreme northern range for crocodiles. At a glance it can be difficult to tell them apart, but there are distinct differences between the two if you take a closer look.

Crocodiles have pointy, longer snouts, while alligators have more rounded, shorter ones. You can still see all of a crocodile’s bottom teeth when its mouth is shut, but gators only show some of their upper teeth. Crocodiles are usually lighter in color, having grey to green backs and white to yellow undersides; alligators are a darker grey or black.

Despite their subtle differences, Alligators and Crocodiles are both listed as “Federally Threatened by Similarity of Appearance”

Other Differences from Alligators

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  • Alligators and crocodiles both have spots by their mouths called “dermal pressure receptors” that sense tiny pressure changes in water caused by movement, but crocodiles have them all over their bodies!
  • Crocodiles have stronger salt glands than alligators do, which makes them more adaptive to saltwater and are often seen near saltwater areas of the Everglades like Florida Bay. Alligators prefer freshwater habitats.

  • Alligators have an average lifespan of between 30-50 years, but crocodiles live twice as long as them, with an average lifespan between 70-100 years.
  • Crocodiles have adapted to be almost unseen when in the water. While on a private airboat tour, you may only catch sight of their nostrils and eyes poking above the water.
  • American crocodiles are typically as calm and aloof as alligators, but are known to be aggressive and can attack anything in the water near them.

These amazing creatures are a valued part of the Everglades. They might appear calm, but they’re still wild animals, and are most safely seen on a guided airboat tour. Being able to observe alligators, crocodiles, and the many different species of Everglades wildlife here at Mack’s Fish Camp on an airboat tour offers an experience like no other!