Heather has been going on and on about taking an airboat ride. For years. No sooner had we seen the first swamp at the Texas/Louisiana border than Heather was researching the right place to finally take that airboat ride. The perfect airboat tour would be a balance of mortal danger from deadly swamp creatures and a watered-down experience that Disney might offer. Equal balance.
Some danger, but nobody LifeFlight’d to the hospital please.
The roof of the Everglades seemed like the perfect place to finally make that a reality. She did some research and then booked the 2 hour Spirit of the Swamp airboat tour.
We drove toward the swamp and parked near the dock. We walked down and saw the airboats. These are the sportscar versions – only six seats and powered by Corvette or Chevy big-block V8 engines.
Our boat came back with Captain Harold at the helm! We put on the headsets and microphones. These airboats are LOUD and without the headsets we wouldn’t be able to hear each other. In Sean’s case, that was a mixed blessing. Blah blah, blah blah blah….
We made our way down one of the man made channels that cover the area. The canals are lined with all sorts of construction debris including concrete cinderblocks, chunks of broken concrete, and pieces of asphalt slabs. This debris keeps the walls of the canals from eroding when rain floods the channels.
Along the banks we saw little pink globs that looked like bubble gum. We learned they were snail eggs.
I’m not sure why nothing eats the snail eggs, but nothing does. The eggs were everywhere.
The canal not 50 feet from the public dock was home to an alligator that was at least 12 feet long. Memo to everyone coming to Florida. Don’t swim in the freshwater canals.
As we cleared the canal and made our way into the swamp, we skimmed across acres and acres of lilypads. It was kind of strange to be in a boat going over what often looked like a grassy lawn.
Many of the little islands we saw are actually floating mats that slowly move around. Under the mats fish, snakes, and gators make their homes. We saw a water moccasin swimming furiously away from our boat. Captain Harold said he was way more concerned about those snakes than the ‘gators.
Speaking of gators, we saw some. Cap’n Harold was something of an authority on the local gators. This time of year female gators build a nest where they lay eggs. They stay with the nest to protect the eggs.
One of the mama gators was especially feisty. She was lurking near her nest and at one point snapped her jaws at our boat. Cap’n Harold wouldn’t turn off the engine around her. Since Cap’n Harold must come past her nest 3-4 times a day, I’m surprised she was so frisky. I thought she would be used to her role as a tour celebrity by now.
Cap’n Ron took us into the creek which is the headwater of the Everglades. It was beautiful! We drove up about a half mile and pulled over to the shore where Cap’n Harold tied up the boat to a cypress knee.
On our way back, we went past more lillypad “pastures” looking for wildlife. We saw all sorts of birds in the swamp as well as section that had a lot of little gators.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the airboat tour, but it was one of the most interesting and enjoyable experiences we have had on the trip! I’m glad Heather found a good company too. On the way out, we passed a 15-person gigantic airboat with no overhead canopy that we nicknamed the “sunburn special.” 2 hours on that boat would not have been fun vs. 2 hours on our boat that was a total pleasure!
I was surprised that there weren’t any mosquitoes. Lots of dragonflies but no mosquitoes. At least none that bit us.