It's hot in the summertime, in case you haven't noticed, and the astounding variety of wildlife on the Everglades' 1.5 million acres includes more than 800 species of native plants, more than 350 species of birds and, yes, 43 species of mosquitoes.
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Last week's heavy rain was an additional obstacle for Greg Allard, owner and operator of Southwest Florida EcoTours in Naples. He was dodging one of the cloudbursts as he explained to me in a phone interview that the weather hasn't been the only issue lately.
Even though the oil from the Deep Horizon spill hasn't affected the Southwest Florida coast, the ripple effect has been felt by tourist-related businesses there. Business is down 20 percent this summer, according to statistics from the Lee County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
To entice visitors, Allard is offering specialized tours this month to catch a glimpse of rare Ghost Orchid blooms at Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, northeast of Naples. Ghost orchids, so named because blooms appear to float in the air, are a protected species native to Southwest Florida and Cuba. A typical tour of the sanctuary's 2.25-mile raised boardwalk takes about three hours.
Southwest Florida EcoTours will provide transportation from Naples in an air-conditioned van, a guided tour of the area by University of Florida certified master naturalists, free bottled water and a souvenir guidebook to Corkscrew Swamp.
Tours depart at 8:15 a.m. and return at roughly 12:30 p.m. Cost is $90 adult, $80 age 11 and under. Private and VIP Tours are available. For details, visit southwestfloridaecotours.com or call 239-776-9050.
Orchid season typically runs from April through August, with the heaviest blooms visible in late summer, Allard says. Naturalists recently spotted eight to 10 Ghost Orchid buds. "Usually, the bloom will last no longer than a couple of weeks," Allard says.
So don't delay.