Earlier this month we rented a car and made a road trip to Naples, Florida to have lunch with a friend. On the way there, we made a couple of stops to take in some Everglades wildlife. We didn’t see the elusive Florida Panther, but we did see plenty of alligators.

Trip highlights from May 3rd and 4th follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

Total Wine

We picked up a rental car at the airport this afternoon and stopped by Total Wine on the way back home. The selection there is huge–it’s like a highly-specialized Home Depot.

Another great feature of Soverel Harbour Marina: a parking spot right in front of the boat.
Panther Crossing

On a road trip to Naples on the west coast of Florida we saw several signs like this one. The panther in reference is the Florida Panther, a subspecies of the North American cougar.
Panther Fence

High fences bordered both sides of the road, topped with barbed-wire oriented to keep something from entering the road. When we noticed the fences had gaps near the panther crossing signs, we realized they were designed to protect the panther and give them a safer place to cross the road. The Florida Panther is nearly extinct–barely 100 adults are still in the wild–and vehicle collisions are among their leading causes of death.

On the way to Naples, we made a couple of stops to take in some Everglades wildlife. Our first stop was at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park along US Route 41 to walk the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. Signs near the entrance warned of the most fearsome resident: alligators.
Baby Alligators

The track leading to the boardwalk ran alongside a small creek containing dozens of baby alligators. At barely a foot long, they were pretty cute.
Lubber Grasshopper

The Lubber Grasshopper is one of Florida’s many dramatic-looking insects. It grows to about 2-3 inches long with a bright color that warns predators of its poison.

This baby alligator sunning on a branch was perhaps two feet long.
Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk

Walking the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk through an old-growth cypress swamp forest. It reminded us a bit of tropical Daintree National Park near Cairns, Australia.
Strangler Fig

The Strangler Fig is the common name for a variety of tropical and subtropical plant species. We saw several in Barron Gorge National Park near Cairns, Australia. The tree often starts growing from a seed that has landed on the host tree. The sprouted seed sends roots down, frequently entwining and strangling the host. When the roots reach the ground, the tree changes from an epiphyte, or air plant, to a terrestrial plant. This fig has killed its host and now entwines a rotting stump.

The 2,300m boardwalk ends at a small and tranquil pond packed with life. The video at (2:11) shows footage from the pond, including it’s resident alligator.
White Ibis

Several groups of White Ibis were foraging at the shoreline of the pond. We also saw a number of Great Egret.

At the top of the pond’s food chain was this adult alligator at least ten feet in length. It circled the basin, trying without luck to catch one of the wading birds that kept a close eye on it. Alligators typically grow to about 14 feet long, a little smaller than the crocodiles we saw in Australia, that often grow to about 19 feet long. That missing few feet does not make them any less dangerous. The babies were kind of cute, but that is not the word that comes to mind when you see an adult.
Ten Thousand Islands

Our second stop was a short distance down Route 41 at the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, part of the largest expanse of mangrove forest in North America. The refuge only encompasses a portion of the Ten Thousand Islands chain–much of the rest is part of Everglades National Park to the southeast.

A short distance from the parking lot is an observation tower that provides a sweeping view across the everglades. The tower is barely two stories high, but the area is so flat you don’t need much height to see a long way. The footage starting at 1:44 in (2:11) shows the scene.
Great Egret

Great Egret wading in the swamp near the observation tower. Up in the tower we got a nice cooling breeze, but at ground level the air was still and the water surface mirror smooth.

A loud grunting noise caught our attention from up in the tower. We looked down and could see at least a half-dozen alligators looking for a meal.

Small birds occasionally approach the water through the grass. Several alligators were lined up along shore waiting for an easy snack.
Marco Island

We continued west to Marco Island where we were meeting an friend for lunch. We’d arrived a little early, so toured the neighbourhood a bit. The area is a myriad of canals flanked by mansions.

This house next to the previous had security shutters that could seal the place off. In the picutre, the front-door shutter is most of the way down.
Florida Cracker

The third-house in the cul-de-sac reflected the traditional Florida Cracker architecture, but looked more like four houses than one.
Your mansion here

A number of prime lots were empty. Presumably the taxes are lower if you don’t have a house on it and the owners were waiting for a good price on the land.
Janet Perna

We’d gone to Naples to have lunch at the Snook Inn with Janet Perna, who lives in Naples most of the year. James worked closely with Janet in the 1990s when he was lead architect on DB2 at the IBM Toronto software lab and Janet was General Manager responsible for IBM’s Information Management Software Business. We’ve kept in touch over the years, but James and Janet haven’t seen each other for nearly a decade and Jennifer and Janet probably closer to two decades. It was a real treat to get together and catch up after all those years.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at


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6 comments on “Naples
  1. Tim Kaine says:

    Those shutters are actually hurricane shutters. When a storm is approaching you just lower them down(electric or manual) and it protects your house. Those are some of the better ones. There are others however that make you feel safe but do not work well at all and end up allowing wind into your house when they fail. The good ones are pricey and you can still get the same results from good old fashion 2×4’s and plywood. That’s all I have ever used and we never had any problem even with direct hits from Charley and Wilma.

    Now there is a bad side to those shutters as some use them when no storms are present to help cool their homes and for security. Many forget that when a fire starts you will not have time to open them. A couple situations like that already in Ft.Myers where the occupants have died because they could not get out and firemen could not get in.

    If you use them, use them wisely.

  2. Frank Ch. Eigler says:

    That building with metal shutters reminds me of Brussels. A gobsmacking fraction of buildings throughout the the town are protected like that. That much visible security – plus the everpresent “watch for pickpocketers!” warnings – really sours the mood.

    • I noticed the same thing when I was in Brussels Frank. All the houses and apartment buildings seem to have steel shutters to close up at night. South Africa took it one step further where many if not most houses and appartment buildings are surrounded by electric fences. In at least these parts of Florida, there doesn’t seem to be much threat. I think the shutters are mostly just used to close down and seal up houses that are only in use for a few months each year.

  3. Stewart Kelly says:

    Looks like you both are having a great time James. Just be careful with the alligators. Seems vicious man-eating Nile crocs have taken hold in Florida.

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