The Everglades is a large, vast ecosystem filled with unique traits and qualities. To me, one of the most interesting things about the Everglades is that the ecosystem has more than just the beautiful swaying sawgrass and cypress swamps that many travelers find themselves overlooking. One of these that is often overlooked are the Ten Thousand Islands of Everglades National Park. Located just off the coast of Everglades City and Chokoloskee, the Ten Thousand Islands consist of flourishing mangrove islands with powder white and shelly sand. Here you can find animals other than the typical alligator (though you can also see them here as well) such as dolphins, racoons, sharks, manatees, stingrays, pelicans, and many more. The history behind these islands is just as immense as it is fascinating; it can be traced far back in time to the period when the Calusa Natives inhabited them, up to the modern days of Everglades legends such as Totch Brown. For this article, I want to share the blissful experience I had the other day in the Ten Thousand Islands.
It was a slightly chilly afternoon in the glades and my parents and I agreed that we all wanted to go on the boat to watch the sunset. We bundled up in warm clothing and headed towards the dock. As we idled in the Barron River, I glanced to my left and saw one of our sweet neighbors sitting on her dock reading the Coastal Breeze News. The sunlight kissed the trees and plants in her yard perfectly to create a soft yellow glow around her. After an exchange of smiles and waves to one another I thought to myself: this simple life that we have here on our island is one that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Once we got out on the river and away from the no-wake zone, my dad pushed the boat throttle forward and we were off on our sunset adventure. The brackish water was slick and calm, and the cool wind briskly whispered against my face. It felt as though we were gliding across a sea of glass the way the sky reflected off the smooth water. Just as we saw the island we were heading towards come in sight, I spotted several dolphins splashing and playing in the distance. As we approached them my dad pulled back a bit on the boat throttle. I quickly ran to the back of the boat giddy and camera ready, anticipating what was about to happen. Soon enough they began to emerge from the waves our boat was creating behind us. Happily jumping out of the water, the dolphins smiled at us as they swam side-by-side. As our waves and their bodies danced together in harmony, the sun slowly began to descend. We bid our new friends farewell and approached the island. My mom noticed a large group of white pelicans perched on the end of the island with a few seagulls and sandpipers among them. They looked snug and warm as they sat close together basking in the sun as it slowly told them goodnight. My dad parked us farther down so we wouldn’t scare them away, and while he fished from the back of the boat, my mom and I jumped off and began walking along the shoreline. I came across a large stingray sitting on the sandy floor beneath the water, minding its own business. It looked so peaceful as the gentle waves rolled over its head before they crashed onto the shore. Mom and I walked farther down towards the mangrove trees so we could get a better view of the sunset. After a short trek, we reached an open space where the bright red sun lit up the uprooted trees around us. Above, the glowing moon watched along with us as the sun said its sincerest goodnight to our side of Earth. Our dolphin friends joined in the fun as they swam off into the distance, chasing the last bit of daylight left. Once the sun set, we embraced each other. We were so thankful and blessed to be able to experience the natural beauty the Earth selflessly gave us. Upon reaching the boat dad, still cheerful as ever, let us know he didn’t catch anything while we were gone. One of the many things I love about him is his patience and ability to laugh at himself. With only the moon and the burning orange haze left over from the sunset, we bundled up with towels and started home.
Every experience that I have in the Ten Thousand Islands is both different and memorable, and this is by far one of my top favorites. If you haven’t visited the Ten Thousand Islands, I highly recommend that you do! Trust me when I say it will be a memory you will cherish and look back on forever.