In 1947, President Harry Truman declared the Everglades a national park dedicated to the protection of endangered species, birds and wildlife indigenous to the region.
Today it is home to 350 species of rare birds, including roseate spoonbills, ospreys, great white herons, bald eagles and anhinga. There are manatees, alligators, crocodiles, otters and green sea turtles—not to mention schools of snapper, redfish, bass, grouper and sea trout.
The dedication was decades in the making.
In 1905, the small rural town of Flamingo, FL made headlines when two poachers killed Guy Bradleg, the local warden and animal preservationist whose mission was to protect wildlife in the Everglades. He’d caught the men picking off some wild birds with shotguns, and when Bradleg drew his gun the shooters turned theirs on him. He was killed instantly.
The poachers fled to the Keys where they were eventually captured. But news of the shooting made the front page of The New York Times. Preservations from around the world picked up on the story, and within weeks launched a campaign to save wildlife of the Florida Everglades.
The Florida Bay also provides an ideal getaway for hiking, biking and boating, says Gary Sabbag, general manager of the Flamingo Lodge.
“You get three types of people coming to Flamingo,” he explains. “You’ve got the naturalists who want to observe all the wildlife; the ones that are recreational fishermen who bring their boats out here; and then you’ve got the folks that just want to get away from the city and be in a quiet, relaxing and natural atmosphere. It’s a great feeling to be inside a national park and at the same time be so far away from civilization.”
Just 50 miles south of Homestead, the 120-room resort offers a comfortable respite for travelers from Dec. 1 to April 30. “The folks who come to Flamingo know exactly what they’re getting from a week in this beautiful area,” said Sabbag.
- Back Country Cruise: Board the Pelican and explore the watery wilderness of Buttonwood Canal, Tarpon Creek, Coot Bay and Whitewater Bay. As your captain navigates throughout the maze of mangrove islands and waterways in the heart of Everglades National Park, learn from a trained naturalist about the intricate ecology of the area. Bring binoculars and a camera.
- Florida Bay Cruise: The Bald Eagle is your vessel for a 90-minute cruise on Florida Bay. During low tides watch for herons, terns and shore birds feeding on the mud flats. At high tide dolphins, osprey and bald eagles are visible arou d the mangrove islands and Florida Bay keys. Sunset and low tide cruises are highly recommended.
- Wilderness Tram Tour: Travels through dense forest dripping with vines, air plants and climbing cacti. Low tide trips are best for bird watching at Snake Bight on Florida Bay.
- Cape Sable Trip: Spend the day motor sailing to and from one of the few beaches in the park. There you can spend two hours on an unspoiled shell beach. Join the captain of the Nomad for a full day of cruising, shelling, picnicking and sightseeing. Do take the 90-minute sunset trip of Florida Bay.
- Windfall Sailing Tour: Relax and listen to the wind upon a schooner called Windfall that tours Flamingo by way of Florida Bay. The two-hour trip daytime or sunset trip is as educational as it is calming.