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Everglades Education

By ridmat, 10/19/2011 - 00:54

There is an unwritten rule that Gay men must visit certain places at least once in their lifetime. San Francisco check , Berlin check, Sydney check, London check - now where next? I'm feeling in the mood for a party, but I want to be somewhere with guaranteed sunshine and a beach. I want to shop till I drop, immerse myself in the culture and maybe get close to nature. Miami seems to tick all the boxes, so flight booked, bag packed watch out South Beach here I come!

Before I left the UK I had looked into doing a trip to the ecotourism hotspot that is the Everglades National Park . I wanted to do an Airboat ride and see a real life alligator. I am also a responsible traveller, so I wanted to make sure I picked a tour that would let me see the Everglades without having a negative impact on the environment. I debated whether visiting would just be adding to the problems the Everglades face, or if I tried to be ethical that I could justify my presence.

Unfortunately the information I could find on the internet was very limited as there didn't appear to be many companies that listed their ethical stance. There were lots of companies offering Airboat rides, but they didn't say what their impact on the environment was. Obviously these companies are vying for business and are not going to publicise the fact that their tours may be doing more harm than good.

I did find one company that seemed to be very ethical and eco friendly. The website prices were expensive, but it included experiences that the standard companies couldn't offer, so I e-mailed them to book. A very prompt response informed me that the area was going through a drought and they were currently not offering tours. I was disappointed, but impressed that the company was so honest.

The day had finally arrived to depart for Miami and as Will Smith famously sang I was ready to "party in the city where the heat is on. All night on the beach til the break of dawn". Rocking up at immigration I went to the desk with my husband. The friendly and welcoming officer says "we don't recognise same sex marriage in Florida, so next time don't come up to the desk together". Wow, Welcome to Miami a gay friendly city, still it wasn't going to ruin my holiday. The immigration man was probably just jealous that I looked so good after a 9 hour flight! .

I had a fabulous time enjoying all Miami had to offer from the art deco buildings to the stunning beach. The nightlife was amazing and cafes even serve breakfast until two in the afternoon, shows what a party city Miami is. I had put the Everglades out of my mind due to the drought, but as my stay was nearing it's end a cab driver asked me if I had been. He managed to convince me that it was worth a trip even though there was a drought. I was so caught up in the moment that I ended up booking with the hotel concierge. I was booked on a standard package with an Airboat ride and I was a little dubious as I knew nothing about the company I was going with.

The day of the trip was an early start, not because the Everglades is that far from Miami, but we were unlucky enough to be the first pick up in what seemed like a never ending morning of driving round Miami collecting more tourists. Upon arrival we were whisked off to our Airboat ride. I was excited as I have always wanted to be on an Airboat after seeing them in so many movies and TV programmes. The ride was actually really good and the boats stay in designated boating channels, maintain posted speeds and keep an appropriate distance from wildlife.

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