Shallow Waters & Mangroves – The Land of Crocodiles & Alligators
In 2005, for the first time, I had a chance to see crocodiles and alligators swimming together in the shallow waters of Everglades. This swampy land is situated in Florida in the United States. Everglades hosts over 350 bird and over 1,000 plant and tree species. A place swarmed with reptiles, is an experience which excites and frightens you at the same time.
So now the question begins from what is the difference between an alligator and crocodile? Alligators are in fresh water and crocodiles are in salt water. Did you know that? I didn’t! However in Florida, in the zone where the salt water meets the fresh water, both can be found. Another distinct feature is that the alligator has a wide U shaped snout and the crocodile has a pointed V shaped snout. So now we are clear about the difference, right? Lets move on to the Everglades swamps and my experience.
Standing on a bridge over looking the thick mangroves and a sea of these reptiles was an inexplicable sight! Overlooking this flimsy bridge was a tributary of Kissimme River with innumerable crocodiles and alligators swimming, lazing and hiding the the eerie mangroves. Since they seemed undisturbed by the presence of a few people watching and fishing at the same time, we got a good view of them. There is this one alligator that intrigued me…he lay like a rock on the bank very close to a guy fishing. And then suddenly slid into the grassy river scaring me! That moment, I was sure that the fisherman was its lunch! I should say that these men who find fish in these dodgy areas are certainly brave!
Another very interesting feature of this place were the eerie, dense and mysterious mangroves. I noticed that they were twined thickly into each other and penetrated into the murky water where the fresh and salt water mixed. It seemed that it was almost like a playground or a recreational place for birds and insects. Despite the eeriness, it was strangely lively. I was told that in the dry months birds and smaller animals congregate here to feed and nest since the larger animals cannot break in through. They also protect during the common storm surge of hurricanes. Apart from that, I didn’t know if there were different species of mangroves or just one. It looked like it had a few other colours mixed in them, colours like red, light brown, black and white. I asked the guide and he said that there were two types. The red mangroves identified by their stilt-like roots, and the black and white mangroves which thrive in tidal waters, where freshwater mixes with saltwater.
A tourist attraction which actually lost value in my eyes were alligator farms. I wondered what they did with alligators since their leather was banned in the country. I was curious and wanted to find out more. So, basically, these farms are simple an exhibition of Florida reptiles and has became a quintessential Florida attraction. It simply functions as a modern zoo serving the public and the scientific community with educational shows, research and exhibits. The eggs produced by these animals are exchanged or sold to other farms to increase the number of alligators on their property! The concept of alligator farming didn’t please me but certainly educated me.
The stories of the Everglades kept pouring in until we left Florida. What amused me were stories of alligator trespassing and crossing highways. People told us stories like an alligator was found swimming in their swimming pools. Alligators chilling in their backyards. There is special team of people who catch this wild reptile and release it in their natural habitat. Also, all the way through this swampy land, on roads, are signs of alligator crossing. I found the whole caution signs hilarious yet perilous.
This world of reptiles is some experience. It is a sea of knowledge about these creatures who have a tag of being dangerous and a menace to the society. As a rule, you should exercise caution around any of these reptiles. But quite unlike the impression, these creatures if unprovoked are well-behaved and laze, swim and hunt what is available in the marsh.