Friday, February 6, 2009

(Wednesday) Biking through the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

We really wanted to get out and explore a bit more around Naples so I contacted Naples Bicycle Tours. Marcie and Gary came to get us in the morning and take us to "the Fak". Their business is top notch, they provided transportation, comfy bikes and even binoculars. They both have lived here for years and I was so impressed with their knowledge of, and respect for, the local history, land, flora and fauna. Oh, and eyesight! They could pick out an alligator head peaking out of the swamp as we cycled by... I don't think I would have seen anything, and certainly not known what I was seeing, had we not been with them. We had such a great time!

A bit about the park - the Fakahatchee Park is a forested swamp. It's home to more native orchids species than any other place on the continent, as well as panthers and of course, alligators... I haven't read the book, but I understand that The Orchid Thief is based on this park. Apparently, people still come to the park to steal the plants, and as a result of the theft, and previous over-harvesting, many of the orchids and ferns in the park are now endangered. We saw many orchids, though none in bloom (bummer!) including a rare variegated bromeliad and a leaf-less orchid (you just see the roots, making it a difficult plant to find when it's not in bloom...) There are cypress and indigenous Royal palms. We saw a gorgeous hawk (in the swamp), several alligators, a turtle, many zebra butterfly and funky wood storks. My beloved cormorants from back home have cousins here and there are also Anhingas which look similar to cormorants and do the pterodactyl wing drying posing. Apparently the Anhingas have pointy beaks and they spear their fish and then flip them up in the air and swallow them head first, too cool. I hope I get to see that soon!

It turned out to be a good day for the tour even though it was really windy because we were sheltered under the canopy. It was great to get out, exercise, learn about the local area and see some of the natural beauty here. I've posted pics of the park in the pic of the day album. The pictures are nice but they can't capture just how beautiful it was there, especially in the swamp. There's almost too much to look at!

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