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If teenagers and senior citizens could pay .25 an hour to cruise past capable man-eaters, so could I.
And now that I've shoved aside my fear, I find that these ominous, prehistoric-looking beasts couldn't care less.
You can see three kinds of turtles (longnecks, red bellies, and Peninsula cooters) mingling with native gar, largemouth bass, and mosquito fish, plus invading oscars and tilapia.
There are ibis, egrets, gallinules, anhinga, herons, and snakes.
And know that an open-mouthed hiss means Mommy is going to get you if you come any closer.
Velella says she's seen a mother alligator jump out of the water, trying to grab a great blue heron, which prey on the babies.
That doesn't generally happen in Shark Valley, though ambitious tourists who hike off the Gator Hole trail near the observation tower often find gators blocking their return, prompting cell-phone calls to the ranger station. "People are crazy," says Velella, who tells tales of tourists kicking gators to get them to move or putting their kids next to the beasts for a photo op. I came within 10 feet of one family - an amazing experience, but probably too close.
A great blue heron stretches Jurassic wings before lurching into an infinite South Florida sky.
In the bordering canal and hammocks, birds hunt, fish gather, and turtles watch their backs.
Gators aren't the only intimidating reptiles to keep an eye out for.
Burmese pythons are new to the Everglades, brought here by pet owners once they figure out that owning a snake that grows to 20 feet and 250 pounds is a bad idea.
They point out my rookie mistake: leaving a Snickers bar in a plastic bag tied to my bicycle basket.