I did manage to connect with a number of the reptiles I wanted to see in Florida one of which was hanging around in the shallows of the ponds of Fairchild Tropical Gardens. I saw a number cruising around before finally finding these two basking. These are florida softshell turtles, Apalone ferox.
This is one of the largest turtles in the States and is endemic to the south-eastern states notably Florida. The root of its name is fairly obvious - the big leathery carapace that the strangely distorted shot below shows well.
Though primitive looking these are perfectly evolved for their habitat and habits. Check out the forward facing eyes giving almost binocular vision as well as the tubular snout. As you should be able to tell from the dimples in the water surface its perfectly built for sitting in the shallows breathing and watching whilst otherwise submerged.
Amusingly, considering that slightly comic appearance, they can be very aggressive and bitey and around the world the softshells get bigger and eat an array of weird prey including birds. Darren has already written an excellent overview of softshells as a group. Such cool animals. Speaking of cool, primitive looking turtles I saw my first leatherback last friday. Unfortunately I just got views of a ridiculously big black head disappearing under the water from a ferry (prompting the question from a fellow passenger "was that a seal?"!) so no photos :(.