Everyone knows that you can’t visit Florida, without taking a trip to see the alligators in the Everglades. In fact, at least three different people suggested that it was the ‘one thing we needed to make sure we did’, when we mentioned that we would be visiting Miami.
And if you want to see the vast, open, grassy, watery expanse of the Everglades up close and personal, the only way to do it is on an airboat.
Eager to get going, we clambered on and sat in the back row, the highest up and closest to the big fan. We were offered ear defenders, but chose not to take them. A word of advice: when offered, take them! (We couldn’t hear properly for a good 10minutes or so when we got off!). We were welcomed by Alex our boat captain, who was a bit crazy, but funny and knowledgeable. With a cry of “Yee-Hoo” he started up the engine and we were off. Whizzing across the top of the water and sliding sideways with the wind in our hair through the tall grass.
After about 10 minutes or so of fast paced skimming, we stopped to cruise around and check out a few bushes, to see if there were any alligators in residence. Instead, we found some fish swimming in the clear waters (no muddy swamps here), and herons in the trees who took to flight at our approach. And with that, we were off again!
Buzzing down tree lined waterways at high speed, breathless and hair all over the place, was more what we had expected. Once we got there, Alex came into his own and it was time for some alligator spotting!
Alex was born and raised in/on the everglades, and talked about the alligators as though they were his friends or family. He wasn’t afraid to get in the water whilst they were around, and made strange noises in order to encourage them to come closer.
We began with visiting a mother and her four month old babies. They were so cute with their little legs flailing about! She was protective of the little gators but not so much that prevented them from swimming near the boat to “pose” for lots of pictures.
Next up were the youths; gators who were old enough to have fled the nest and look after themselves, but they were still quite little. They weren’t quite as interested in the boats and preferred to stay amongst the reeds.
Alex then announced that it was time to “find you a big one!”. We shot off down the water ways with eyes peeled, looking amongst the trees on the banks for sign of a male bull gator. D was convinced he saw one lazing on the banks, but when we whizzed back past it, it was gone.
Just when we thought it was going to be a disappointing end to the tour, Alex spotted one amongst the lillies. And it really was a big one! From nose to tail it must have been a good 10ft long and its head was the size of a small child. Despite Alex ensuring us it wouldn’t come on to the boat, it was still terrifying when it swam over and head-butted it. It was amazing to see a gator of this size in its natural habitat up so close, with the detail of the spikes on its back.
In total we were on the airboat for about an hour or so. We were in the Everglades but not actually within the national park, as airboats are not allowed there.
It was $50 per person, on a shared boat tour with about 6 other people, although private tours are available. The boats go at 12pm and 2pm but they do run special sunset tours which cost more.
Overall we had had an amazing trip; just the ride on the boat itself was exhilarating. Our guide was hilarious and seeing the gators was awesome. If you are in Florida and have the time, make sure you get yourself to the Everglades, on an airboat and see some awesome wildlife!
What’s your favourite Wildlife spotting experience? Have you been to the Everglades? Let us know in the comments below.