Saturday, 25 April 2015

Exploring Miami Beach

This morning we took the metro into the centre of Miami.

It was very sunny and bright when we walked to catch the tour bus at the edge of the bay.  Impossible to see but the first boat that we saw was called 'Juliet'.

The first tour loop that we took was to Miami Beach.  We crossed the bridge onto jthe island and passed many very large celebrity homes, many with their own boats. We also passed PortMiami which is one of the world's largest cruise ship ports.  There were some huge ships in the port.

When we arrived at Miami Beach we walked along Ocean Drive to see the historic Art Deco homes and hotels, which are very colourful.

We then walked through a park of tall palm trees to the beach - just a short walk from the road.

The beach itself was huge and beautiful - the water was pretty warm..

After a brief paddle it was back to Ocean Drive to see some more of the Art Deco buildings..

The weather was hot and clear this morning but when we returned to the city centre the clouds started to gather and when we were waiting for the bus to do the city tour it was raining very hard..

We were glad to have seen the beach in the sunshine!

Friday, 24 April 2015

Everglades Boardwalk

This morning we set off to visit the Everglades National Park which covers a huge part of southern Florida.   It is the third largest of the U.S. National Parks.

We took a while to get out along US1 through the myriad traffic lights of the suburbs of Miami and into the countryside.  Then there was a large area of farmland - with tomatoes, vines and avocados growing.  This is fertile land which was originally part of the Everglades but was reclaimed and cleared for agriculture.  The National Park was created in 1947 to preserve as much as possible of the habitat, which is surprisingly varied.  April marks the end of the 'dry' Winter/Spring season.  The serious rains start in May.

After a look around the Everglades Visitor Centre we stopped at the Anhinga Boardwalk Trail which was said to be one of the best places to see the wildlife of this swamp area of the Everglades.  We were not disappointed..

There was an interesting sign at the parking area and some preventative measures..

When we were walking along a path towards the boardwalk there was another sign..

I still didn't really expect to see any alligators until we looked ahead and there was a large and rather cumbersome creature ambling across the path from the dense undergrowth on one side to the pool on the other.  By the time we reached him he was in the water - see photos above.  The people walking further along the path in each direction when he crossed between them were quite taken aback!

We then saw lots of alligators of varying sizes, including this one under the Boardwalk..

(Note sartorial elegance of the careful covering to protect me from 90 degree heat in fierce sun and bugs - National Park  mosquito rating for today 'terrible' - if not from alligators such as the one immediately underneath!)

Here are some other wildlife encounters on this trail..

Green-backed heron..

The Anhinga bird which gives the trail its name.  A fast underwater swimmer who then needs to dry his wings..

And then looks much more sleek..

The Great Blue Heron ..

The extraordinary but fast Soft Shelled Turtle (they need to be fast..):

Yes really!  David took the above picture but I have borrowed another from Wikipedia to show the full creature as this one disappeared at speed..

We also saw some other turtles ..

There were smaller creatures too..

This huge cricket type creature was about 3 inches long.  The lizard in the picture below was not too much bigger..

..but he had a neat party trick..

This was just part of our day exploring this extraordinary habitat but we felt privileged to enjoy seeing so many creatures and in their beautiful surroundings..

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Warm Showers in Miami!

As we flew into Miami this morning there were some very dark clouds gathering.  Thunderstorms were forecast.

(Do you like the grizzly bear on the winglet of the Frontier  Airlines plane?).

In breaks in the cloud we could see the Everglades below us.

We picked up a hire car and headed for our hotel along sunny streets lined with tropical trees.  It is very warm as well as very humid - no wonder everything looks so lush and green.

The view from our 11th floor room is interesting as the weather changes..

When it rains it really rains, like a warm shower.

One of the reasons for travelling to Miami today was that the Dale Chihuly exhibit in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is illuminated on Thursday night.    We purchased a larger umbrella and set off..

It is a beautiful tropical garden covering 83 acres - the glass exhibits are spread over a smaller area of 20 or so acres.  

We were in fact very lucky with the weather - no rain, just very hot and very, very humid.

The blown glass sculptures were beautiful in the garden setting.  Here are just a few pictures...

Some of the flowers and trees were also quite spectacular..

As night fell the glass sculptures were definitely the stars of the show..