In the heart of the Everglades, the sawgrass sways for endless miles. Water from the north slowly winds through Shark Valley Slough, where it eventually drains into Florida Bay. Visitors from all around the world convene to catch a glimpse of the Everglades’ most famous keystone species: the American alligator.

At Shark Valley, one of five visitor centers in Everglades National Park, there are two fun ways to travel along a 15-mile loop: by bike or tram. Friends of the Everglades Multimedia Producer Leah Voss recently chose the more challenging option — a bicycle ride that brought her up close and personal with different habitats and wildlife encounters.

For Leah, the quest was a spiritual, quiet journey that taught her just how vast this unique wilderness is. She found other bikers to be few and far between and described how time seemed to stand still, only making itself known hours into the trip when the sun grew hotter as afternoon approached.

Eventually, she saw a 70-foot high observation tower emerge from the flat landscape — a beacon of opportunity that offers the highest panoramic views of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness in all of the Everglades.

The landscape is more diverse than you might imagine, with tree islands rising above the horizon like miniature mountains and aquatic animals swimming beneath water lilies. The views were reenergizing and gave Leah the motivation she needed to bike the 7 miles back to the visitor center, with a smile on her face the whole time and a permanent memory etched into her soul.

Any day spent exploring the Greater Everglades is a good experience and there are so many activities to choose from. No matter your preferred method of exploration, there’s something for everyone. Check out our Guide to Visiting Everglades National Park to plan your next visit!

Before you go, take a look at Leah’s photos or check out the video of her trip we shared to Instagram to see what you might find.