Swamp Things: Seeing – and Saving – the Florida Everglades

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For the birds: Sunset in the Everglades.

Swamp Things

Florida’s Everglades is one of the most diverse – and endangered – ecosystems on earth.

Pink flamingoes and (below) floating aquatics.

Story by Susan Hanson
Originally appeared in the February/March 2016 issue of Virtuoso Traveler.

On Earth Day 2015, President Obama chose the Everglades as the backdrop for his speech on the impacts of climate change. The setting was apropos, given that these 1.5 million acres comprise not only the largest protected subtropical wetlands in the U.S., but also one of the most diverse habitats on the planet. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Everglades National Park hosts some 1,300 species of flora – including cacti, bromeliads, and nearly 40 types of orchids – and is the most significant breeding ground for wading birds in North America. What’s more, one in three Floridians count on the Everglades for their water supply.
“Being surrounded by such a vast area filled with wildlife and vegetation is unparalleled,” says Lynne Adams, a Virtuoso travel advisor based in Bonita Springs, Florida. Yet this fragile ecosystem is as threatened as the many endangered species – including the leatherback turtle, manatee, and Florida panther – that find sanctuary there. Visiting the Everglades, Adams adds, is vital to appreciating its importance, and thus to saving it. Luckily, the park lies within an hour’s drive of Naples, which, she points out, offers “world-class golfing and boating, excellent restaurants and shopping, and some of the best beaches in Florida.”
3 Ways to Explore the Everglades …
Private guided pole boat and airboat tours, along with a sunset Champagne excursion to a bird rookery, top an eight-day, custom-crafted exploration of the Everglades and South Florida with Virtuoso’s on-site tour provider.
Pedal through the Everglades’ pine savanna and venture into a swampy cypress dome on Backroads’ six-day multisport adventure. Other highlights include kayaking in the Florida Keys and strolling Key West.
The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, a 450-room resort overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, offers guided Everglades excursions that include a visit to historic Everglades City.
… and 3 Ways to Help Preserve It.
Everglades Foundation – Conducts and sponsors scientific research to help understand, restore, and protect the Everglades’ unique ecosystem.
Friends of the Everglades – Founded by famed journalist and staunch environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas to encourage governmental protection for the wetlands.
National Wildlife Federation – Works to ensure that state and federal Everglades protection and restoration acts are properly funded and enforced.

Find a Virtuoso travel advisor here.