Here, a quick tour of our whirlwind visit:
• Airboat Ride On Myakka Lake
We would ordinarily run in the opposite direction when confronted with an airboat, but these big boats (billed as the largest airboats in the world) are amazingly quiet. We biked from our campsite to the dock to board the Gator Gal for the early morning cruise, and found we were the only adults (other than chaperones) in a group of several dozen school children. “It’s your lucky day,” the crowd wrangler said. “The kids aren’t allowed to sit up front, so you’ve got the best seats in the house.”
We saw plenty of alligators, sandhill cranes, various herons and ibis, and even wild pigs as we cruised around Myakka Lake. The commentary by the 30-year veteran boat captain was interesting and informative—although we weren’t entirely convinced of the accuracy of all of his alligator facts. “An alligator has a brain the size of a lima bean, and it doesn’t have the capacity to think—it acts by instinct only.” Yep, we’ve heard that before. “Alligators regrow teeth, generally going through 2,000 teeth in a lifetime.” Wow, didn’t know that! “Alligators only feed at night.” Hmm. How about that alligator we saw while biking in Shark Valley that snapped up a turtle right in front of us? “You don’t have to worry about alligators attacking you during the day, just make sure that you don’t go swimming at night.” You first.
• Safari Tram Tour
We wouldn’t necessarily have taken this tour, but if you bought your tram ticket right after the airboat ride, it was half-price. There were only a handful of people on the tram, and we relaxed for an interesting journey through the backcountry of the park, with the driver encouraging us to imagine ourselves as early settlers. Mostly I thought about how I would never have survived without air conditioning and bug-proof window screens. (The tram tour only runs mid-December through May. That’s because the bugs will eat you alive in the summertime.) We did learn an intriguing fact: The abundance of colorful tree lichens in the park is an indication of clean air. That’s encouraging.
• The Canopy Walk
A canopy walk is the highlight of the park’s nature trails; a swinging walkway 25 feet above the ground traverses the live oak/palm hammock, while a 74-foot climb up the wooden tower puts you far above, with sweeping views of the treetops and wetlands. There was a strong breeze blowing, enough to cause the tower to sway and make me hope that the volunteers who helped build the tower had some engineering skills.
• The Birdwalk
The boardwalk to Upper Myakka Lake (called the birdwalk) is a beautiful place at sunset to watch the sandhill cranes flying in for the night, announcing their arrival with gentle haunting cries.
We enjoyed our brief, but fun time at Myakka State Park—and we also enjoyed the opportunity to meet up with our friend Barbara, who joined us for a morning visit at the Celery Fields, an Audubon refuge near Sarasota. We were searching for the elusive limpkin, an endangered bird that is certain to be seen in this particular spot. The limpkin continues to elude us, but we had a lovely visit with Barbara.[portfolio_slideshow]