Tag Archives: Florida

Sunset Bike Ride in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Some experiences require more than words summed up in a photo to express the true impact of that place, that moment, or that memory.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

My bike ride on the Shark Valley loop is one of those experiences. I love documenting my travels, and I planned to document this adventure like any other. However, it turns out that I need to work on my shooting-while-bike-riding skills, so many of the photos (as you will see) have a hint of blur to them.

For the second half of this bike ride, I put my camera away and just let the moment consume me. I allowed myself to be fully present, and while I may not have photos to show for it, the beauty I witnessed that day will forever be etched in my mind.

So what is Shark Valley? 

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

Shark Valley is located in Everglades National Park in South Florida. The access point for this loop is where the Shark Valley visitor’s center is. Here, you can rent bicycles for the fifteen-mile paved path, or you can go on a leisurely tram tour that takes you through the Everglades. From mid-December to April, tram tours leave on the hour, every hour from 9am to 4pm, and from May to mid-December tram tours leave at 9:30 am, 11:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm.

My Shark Valley Experience

I had long lost cell service, when my fiancé and I arrived at the Shark Valley loop off of the Tamiami Trail. We arrived just after 6pm to find the gates to the main park closed, as expected. Outside of the gates, there is room for about four to six cars to comfortably park so bicyclists can bike in before or after the park hours.

We  went late because we didn’t want to contend with the tram tours on the path, and we looked forward to a sunset ride through the Everglades.

We brought our own bikes. I have a cruiser, which was perfectly fine for this ride because the path is paved, wide, and smooth.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

My fiancé and I have made it a life goal to visit each of the US National Parks together. This is the first one we crossed off the list!

Tip: If you are considering biking this path after park hours, I recommend doing this ride with a buddy. It is a long ride and there is no cell reception. Once you are seven miles out in the middle of the Everglades, you are out there with no safety net. Make sure you are prepared. 

To the Observation Tower

The Shark Valley trail is a fifteen-mile loop. Each mile is painted in the middle of the path, allowing you to know how far you have gone. Half-way through the loop, is the observation tower, and we were on our way.

The Road

Right out of the gates, we were greeted by one of the local residents.

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Yes, that black spot in the center of this picture is an alligator! It was about four to six feet long, and completely ambivalent to our presence. Just to be safe, we stayed as far left on the path as possible, and left it alone.

This was the closest that we got to an alligator the whole ride, but seeing this gator at the beginning of the journey was a stark reminder to always be aware of my surroundings. In Florida, it is always wise to assume that there is a gator in any type of fresh water, whether it is a retention pond, a canal, a lake, or of course, the Everglades.

We saw many more gators throughout the rest of the trip. We saw little baby gators and a some huge mamas and papas.

There are a few benches along the loop, but after seeing so many gators, I thought it best to keep the wheels of my bike moving until we got to higher ground.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride
Endless golden plains.
Life Persists
Life persists.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

There were dragonflies everywhere. The gentle zip of their wings hummed across the grasslands. The curious ones would fly parallel to my bike to check me out. Others rested with effortless balance atop their own stalk of grass, awaiting the sunset show.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

You can barely see it, but this is the first glimpse of the observation tower way off in the distance. At this point, we had been biking for almost an hour non-stop, so it was a welcome sight.

We saw a handful of wading birds during this whole trip which I found surprising because I expected to see a lot more. We did see a lot of large ravens, especially near the observation tower. They seemed out of place yet to belong.

Watch the above time-lapse video to see the first half of my bike ride on the Shark Valley Loop trail. This video covers about seven miles of trail, and ends atop the observation tower with a special surprise in store.

I filmed the video with my iPhone attached to a selfie stick wrapped to my bike with a hair tie, so while it may not be the best quality, it still captures the spirit of Shark Valley. Enjoy!

At the Observation Tower

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

This is the observation tower. It is forty-five feet high, and was designed by famed architect Edward M. Ghezzi. I think it looks like something you would find at Tomorrowland in Disney World. (Sorry for the awful picture, but you can’t write about the Shark Valley Loop without showing the observation tower!)

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Looking back at the bike path we just rode in on.

We reached the observation tower just before sunset, and the views of the watercolor sky over the Everglades are unforgettable.

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Much to my disappointment, these stairs go to nowhere.
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A beautiful storm off in the distance.

Continue reading Sunset Bike Ride in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

Happy Mother’s Day from The Beach Review!

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the human and animal moms out there! To celebrate, I have assembled a collection of images from my last trip to Wakodahatchee Wetlands. As it is springtime, I was fortunate to capture many nests full of infant and juvenile birds, as well as a baby alligator!

Check out the gallery below, and be sure to share with your mom or your own baby bird!

I think it is incredible to witness the relationships between the mother birds and their babies. Maternal love and protection comes in many different forms!

Great Blue Heron vs. Snake

A few days ago, I took my camera to one of my favorite nature and bird hotspots in South Florida, Wakodahatchee Wetlands in West Delray Beach, Florida.

The Wakodahatchee Wetlands teemed with freshly-hatched and adult herons, egrets, common moorhens, gators, and more of the usual suspects.

It was a magical photo journey, and one of the highlights of this trip was an amazing fight between a Great Blue Heron and a snake. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

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This Great Blue Heron walks through the grass. Unbeknownst to me, it was on the hunt.
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Snipe! Quicker than a blink of an eye, this heron snagged a snake right out of the grass!
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At this point, the snake is still alive. The heron walks towards the water’s edge.
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Dunk! The heron begins dunking the snake underwater.
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The heron pulls the snake from the water. It is still alive.
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If you look closely, the snake’s mouth is wide open. It is not happy.
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The heron completely submerges the snake again.
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Is the snake still alive?
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The snake is still alive and is not going to be eaten without a fight! The snake begins to wrap itself around the heron’s beak.
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The snake is wrapped around the heron’s beak!
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The heron had to completely submerge its beak in order to get the snake to release its grip. Now, the snake is limp.
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The heron begins to gulp the snake down the hatch.
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A piece of the tale hangs from the heron’s beak.
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Almost gone!

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The snake lost its battle, and the heron was fed. This was a circle of life moment of nature unfiltered, and I was lucky to be there to capture this epic fight at Wakodahatchee Wetlands!

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! Earth day is a great holiday that everyone should celebrate. Whether you are inspired to pick up some trash at your favorite park or beach, or make a donation to a conservation organization, no action is too small.

We are all here together on this planet, and Earth Day helps us remember that.

Just as you should not only be nice to your mother on Mother’s Day, or only be thankful on Thanksgiving, each day we should respect our earth and strive to take care of our home planet and all of our fellow species.

Whether the citizen is a microscopic phytoplankton, a cat, a dog, a person, or a blue whale, everyone and everything deserves a safe, clean, and beautiful home!

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Images clockwise: John D. MacArthur Beach State Park  in North Palm Beach, Florida; An alligator relaxing at Green Cay Wetlands in Boynton Beach; An Ibis wading in Wakodahatchee Wetlands; An orange butterfly suckling nectar at Winding Waters Natural Area in West Palm; A crazy Heron; A mother wood stork with two baby wood storks in Wakodahatchee Wetlands; An anole photographed at Morikami Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach; and a beautiful pelican photographed on the Jupiter Inlet Pier. 

 

Wakodahatchee Wetlands: A Birdwatcher’s Delight

In suburban West Delray, there is a hidden oasis that will truly delight any bird- or nature-lover. Wakodahatchee Wetlands is a tranquil, man-made wetland that has naturally become a sanctuary for over 140 species of birds, as well as a variety of amphibious and reptilian species.

The first time I arrived at Wakodahatchee Wetlands, I was awe-struck by the cacophony of bird calls, and the diversity of birds all in one location. I have never been to any other natural setting where there were so many different types of birds that I could easily observe in their natural environment. There were birds nesting, floating, and soaring in every direction! It was a cinematic moment.

Using over 50 acres of utilities land, the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Southern Regional Water Reclamation pumps nearly two million gallons of highly treated wastewater into the Wakodahatchee Wetlands. Instead of this land just being a nasty wastewater pond, or the wastewater instead being harmfully pumped into the ocean or injected into the ground, Palm Beach County (PBC) has found a way to harmonize with the natural environment. Instead of causing greater destruction, PBC has instead enhanced the lives of many birds who have lost their homes to the suburbs and development of the area.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands is a great example of how modern society can coexist with the natural world, and I think it is a place that other municipalities throughout the state of Florida and the US should tour to see how this man-made ecosystem is thriving.

The Shore-t Story

Who it is good for: The whole family

Cost: Free

Time to visit: 30 minutes+

Parking: Limited spaces, free parking, guarded parking

Activities: Walking, bird-watching, nature-watching, photography

Hours: 7am-7pm

Directions: The Wakodahatchee Wetlands are located on the east side of Jog Road between Woolbright Road and Atlantic Avenue (Exit Route 95 onto Atlantic Avenue West; continue to Jog Road; turn right; park is on the right) The site is on the southeast side of Palm Beach County Water Utility Department’s Southern Region Operations Center at 13026 Jog Road, Delray Beach.

*Tip*Go early in the morning when the birds are waking up and becoming active, and before the sun gets too hot. There are covered pavilions with sitting areas along the 3/4 mile boardwalk just in case.

What to bring: Bring a hat, sunscreen if you have sensitive skin, and definitely a bottle of water in a reusable container. There are covered seating areas if you need a respite from the sun on the walk, but most of the boardwalk is exposed. There is not really a place for picnicking, and it is best to bring as little with you as possible to reduce litter in this beautiful habitat.

The Experience

Wakodahatchee Wetlands Birdwatching Delray Beach Florida The Beach Review Travel Blog
The Wakodahatchee Wetlands welcoming committee.
Wakodahatchee Wetlands Birdwatching Delray Beach Florida The Beach Review Travel Blog
Looking out at the Wakodahatchee.
Wakodahatchee Wetlands Birdwatching Delray Beach Florida The Beach Review Travel Blog
Follow a raised boardwalk for most of the journey through the wetlands.

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IMG_6407 Continue reading Wakodahatchee Wetlands: A Birdwatcher’s Delight

Video: Slow Motion Sea Hawk with Fresh Catch

This awesome video was recorded on my iPhone 6s with the slow motion capabilities. While visiting the beautiful Blowing Rocks Preserve in Hobe Sound, Florida, I captured this magnificent sight- a sea hawk carrying a large, freshly caught fish!

Let me know what you think! Enjoy the video.

Resolution #2 Action Plan

Resolution 2: Donate time, money, or skills to raise awareness and help the environment

Action Plan: Donating your time to a cause you care about is one of the greatest gifts you can give to both yourself and the world. Spending time cleaning up a beach or volunteering at a local nature center will allow you to spread your passion and inspire others.

There are many different ways to help the ocean and environment, even if you are busy with a job or with a family.

If you are financially able to donate, there are many great organizations that would welcome your financial support. Most environmental organizations are non-profits, and the success of their programs relies heavily on fundraising.

Sometimes potential donors are apprehensive about donating to organizations and not knowing how the money will be spent. It’s always important to do your research, and there are websites like Charity Navigator that rate charities and provide in-depth reports as to how the funds are allocated so you can make sure your money is going to a reputable organization.

You can also search Amazon wish lists to see if your favorite organization has one. Organizations compile lists of items they are in need of, and you can purchase the item and have it sent directly to the organization of your choosing. (Check out Save-the-Manatee Club’s Amazon Wish List or the Whitney Lab’s Sea Turtle Hospital’s Amazon Wish List.)

Donating your skills is a great way give back while also building your portfolio. Maybe you are a fresh-out-of-college web designer or social media manager. A lot of smaller non-profits don’t have the time or the resources to keep their websites updated. Volunteer your services! You can help an organization, while getting a great piece for your portfolio. If you have a skill, volunteer it.

There are many different ways to make this resolution a reality in 2016. What will you do?

The Beach Review’s 2016 Resolutions

Can you believe 2015 is almost over? Me either! The end of the year is a time for reflection. It is also a time to set goals for the new year.

Here are The Beach Review’s five major resolutions for 2016. Sharing resolutions and goals out loud promotes accountability.

Below are TBR’s resolutions for 2016.

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Over the next week, I will be breaking down each of these resolutions and providing examples that will help put these goals in to action!

I also hope that you might join me by adding one or two of these resolutions to your own list. If you do, let me know in the comment section!

Also let me know if you have any other great eco-friendly, travel, or environment-oriented resolutions you are putting on your own list! I would love to hear them.

 

In Memory of the 295 Florida Black Bears

Let’s have a moment of silence for the 295 bears that were killed in less than 48 hours this past weekend.

Each bear was taken by surprise, a victim in an unfair fight. We want to tell ourselves that we were relieved of these nuisance bears, that a threat to the fragile human species has been curbed for now.

But I think that we, humans, are the real threat. The answer is not bullets or arrows in the name of “conservation”, the answer is coexistence. But in true human form, the powers that be decided on what they would probably call a “quick fix” to the increased sightings of bears in neighborhoods. This bear hunt is setting an unsettling precedent that we will resort to extermination and further destruction instead of developing and building with the long term in mind for all species involved.  Continue reading In Memory of the 295 Florida Black Bears

8 Ways to Prepare for a Hurricane

Right now, South Florida is waiting in suspense to see what Tropical Storm Erika is going to do. While it is still too early to say exactly where she will go, it is never too early to begin preparing for a potential storm.

As someone who experienced the intense hurricane season of 2004, I know it is better to be safe than sorry. Strong storms, like most of nature, are unpredictable. Most people will wait until the last minute to get supplies, and in situations such as this, waiting until just before the storm comes is often too late. Stores will run out of water and gas stations will run out of gas, and deliveries to areas that are either under evacuation or faced with a major storm threat will be suspended.

So beat the rush and make sure your family and home are ready just in case!

What To Do As Soon as Possible

Check to see what supplies you already have

Gather any flashlights, candles, and batteries you have in case the power goes out. Check the pantry to see what non-perishable food items you already have, such as canned food, chips, nuts, or fruit. Also see if you have bottles of water or other drinks that will be ok to drink unrefrigerated. Make sure you have a first-aid kit, and if you are taking medication, make sure you have a full supply or refill just in case you can’t get to the pharmacy for a week or longer. Don’t forget about your pets; make sure they have enough food and water to last too!

Shop for what you don’t have

Whenever you are in the “cone of concern,” it is a good idea to head to your local store ASAP and get what you need. It is unbelievable how fast places can sell out of important things such as water, and the place you want to be is in one of these stores when everyone else who waited is fighting over the last pack of batteries.

Fill up your car with gas

Filling up your car with gas is absolutely imperative. If the power is out, there is no gas. If an area is under storm warning, gas tankers will suspend their normal routes. If you have a gas grill, it is also a good idea to refill your propane tank if needed, so you will have a way to cook or boil water if the power goes out.

Board Up

If you have a lot of windows, sliding glass doors, etc. and strong winds are predicted, purchase plywood from your local home improvement store and board up any windows. Do this whether you are staying in your home, or seeking shelter elsewhere. Don’t wait until the very last minute to do this, because it can take more time than you might think to do it right. If you are lucky enough to have storm shutters, put those babies down and batten down the hatches! Not only will boarding up protect you during the storm, it will also protect you after the storm, when unfortunately sometimes looting can become an issue.

Just Before the Storm

Charge your electronics

Make sure phones, computers, and tablets are charged. Though cell towers and WiFi may be impacted during the storm, charging them just before the storm hits is a good idea. At least throughout the storm you may have music and games available, and there’s always a chance the cell towers may be working so you can let loved ones know you’re ok.

Bring in anything that is not bolted down

Wind is a powerful force, and something that should not be tempted. Bring in any patio furniture, grills, garden gnomes, or anything else that can become a projectile object in tropical storm or hurricane force winds. Don’t take any chances!

Fill up your tub with water

Sometimes before a storm, a city will turn off the electricity or water systems for safety reasons. Before this happens, or before the storm takes these services out, fill up your tub or tubs with water. This will come in handy for bathing or washing things if necessary.

Prepare a “Hurricane Party” Room

For the brunt of the storm it is best to go in the center of your home that is on the first floor and has no windows. A laundry room or closet usually works best. Before the storm happens, make it comfy! Bring in a spare mattress or some bean bag chairs, put candles, flashlights, and water in there. Make yourself as comfy as possible to ride out the storm!

Final Thoughts

Preparing for the storm is key to maximize the safety of both you and your family. If you are ordered to evacuate, evacuate. If you live in a flood zone, maybe go to a shelter or to a hotel. Whatever you do, don’t take any chances, and don’t panic either! Also, don’t try and drive during a tropical storm or hurricane. Prepare a bag in case you need to leave suddenly, and put any prized possessions in a sealed plastic container or waterproof safe to protect them.

Be safe and smart!

For more information on storm prep, check out Ready.gov.