In Florida last month, I reluctantly agreed to the Gator Tour. Please don't tell anyone. It really wasn't my idea. Just ask Tracy; I was tricked into this trip. But OK, I'll admit that I love the name of Miami Nice Tours, which take you to the Everglades.
"Don't you want to see it before it's gone?" my mom pleaded.
In the bus ride from the chain of downtown hotels in that construction zone called Miami, it was obvious how urban sprawl is eating up the Everglades. White fences low to the ground abut swampy waterways. That didn't stop some hungry alligator from getting in the yard of one homeowner last year, who unintentionally fed himself to the reptile (so the bus driver said).
The tour of a corner of the endangered Everglades is done by air boat, a noisy thing with a giant fan in back. Earplugs are included. Everyone in the boat stands up, gawks, and snaps shots when the guide calls out . I wished we had the grizzled guide behind us, whose voice sounded like a buzzsaw. But our guide was friendly enough. He talked a bit about conservation, regaled us with the wonders of the 3,000 teeth (I bought a pack of 12--but these as well as gator meat and leather come only from our farmed friends) an alligator may grow over its lifetime, and wondered if we had any questions. There was barely a peep back, so I made a peep.
"Can't they run these things with diesel engines, and run them on biofuel, so they don't pollute the ecosystem?"
That would make the boats too heavy, he said.
"Um, really? I doubt it."
"How many tours are there on average?" I continued.
Some 50 each day.
I imagined alligators and egrets gulping the rainbow swirls of gasoline left by the busy air boats. But I hope I didn't offend the tour guide. The other boat passengers studiously avoided me, or maybe I'm imagining that.
Update: Admit it, I may be the foolish-looking one for doubting the boat would be too heavy for a bigger engine, now that an air boat overturned last week and dumped tourists into the Everglades. But no reptile snacks became of them.