Big Cypress National Preserve
Back in 2012 I visited the Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve in southern Florida with my grandfather, my aunt, and her fiance. Gramps and I drove from Chicago, Illinois to Port Charlotte, Florida to meet up with my Aunt. From there we hopped in my aunt's massive RV and headed down to Gator Country. Our first stop was on the Tamiami Trail at the Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center. I thought we were going to get out and wander around the center and the alligator viewing deck. I thought we were going to be part of the normal viewing party. And for a quick second we were just normal tourists looking at gators, butterflies, and birds from a deck above the creek.
But my aunt's fiance, Eric, is crazy. He decided that we should hike the Florida trail. I was not prepared for swamp hiking whatsoever. My Aunt seemed into it though so I manned the fuck up and decided to run with it while my Gramps stayed back with the RV and watched after my Aunt's dogs. The first half mile wasn't bad. It was all above water. Then the trail sunk off into chest deep water for bits and pieces at a time. Full gear in tow I put my tripod above my head and carried it through the swamp as we trekked on. At some point my aunt and I decided to call it quits because we had lost Eric. I was to blame because I stop a lot to take photos and because I'm nowhere near as in shape as those two are physically. I got some shots of the trail, but if I'm being honest I was concerned about snakes, spiders, and lizards bigger than me.
We stayed the night in Midway Campground. If you're in an RV this is the place to stay while in Big Cypress. We settled in and started drinking. Eric had been talking about some drink called 'Fireball' since we met up with them in Port Charlotte. He said it was whiskey that tasted like Big Red chewing gum. That's in my wheelhouse of fuck yeah, let's drink that then. We got ripped that night. I've never seen my grandfather so drunk in my life. And despite all the drinking we had accomplished I managed to get some decent shots of the night sky.
Anything larger than 100mm should be brought to the swamp. Alligators need distance and so do all the birds. The swamp is home to a wide variety of wildlife so a long range lens is a valuable commodity to bring with when traveling into Gator Country.
Wide Angle Lenses:
If you're more like me than you'll want to bring a wide-angled lens anywhere you go. The swamp is huge, and there are plenty of foreground objects to include in your landscape photography. It's just you never know what lives in that foreground object when you're shooting in the swamp.
(Make sure your gear is waterproof)
This should be self-explanatory, but in case it's not... insects love hot and humid locations with tons of water. Bring insect repellent.
Bring water shoes and light pants if you plan on hiking any of the trails. I was unprepared and hiked in gym shoes and jeans.
The next morning we decided to bike down the Loop Road in Big Cypress National Preserve. I was hungover like no tomorrow riding a bike down a gravel road in the hot southern Florida sun. I think I biked around 2 miles into the swamp before giving up completely. Eric wanted to ride down some really sketchy underwater trail and I was way too hungover to physically balance on a bike and ride through water. I have to say it was an experience I'll never forget.