I am whipping through the Florida Everglades by airboat. Up until now my closest experience with an airboat and an alligator was in the movies, as in me watching them race by on Miami Vice, or in the movies. Or me laughing or scoffing at TV shows like The Gator Boys.
In all honesty, this is a tiny bit of why I decided to do this today. My kids are massive fans of the show The Gator Boys. I know they will be impressed with this adventure and I have never been in an airboat, so this feels like it will be an exciting way to spend a Fall day. Also, why not?
Despite half a dozen trips to Florida this year, and a couple of family trips to Orlando area over the years, I have never seen the Everglades. At least not until now, up close and personal inside an airboat which is at once both bigger, and strangely more fragile looking, than I ever pictured. There really isn’t that much to this thing they’ve dubbed a state of the art boat. I am the tiniest bit nervous at the start of this adventure because the boat seems so light and open and honestly I know nothing of alligator behaviour. Aren’t they man-eating monstrosities?
Earlier in the morning I joined a group of travel bloggers from around the world who descended on Fort Lauderdale this weekend to do excursions and meet with travel brands at a conference called TBEX (Travel Bloggers Expo). Together we took a bus trip from Broward County Convention Centre to Everglades Holiday Park. We take a quick group picture and capture a few individual shots and selfies and then line up ready to board the boat.
There are signs all over comically reminding people not to feed, or molest, the alligators. I had to take a picture near one of the signs, of course for Instagram. It boggles the mind sometimes when these things are not obvious. Since then, I have also recently spotted a sign reminding people not to stick their hands in a shark tank. Seems like that’s a no brainer, right? Wrong.
I am a little relieved when the boat starts slow and we glide across the water. There is a bit of a roof over the boat and it’s raining slightly so the roof makes a difference, just as it would if it were a super sunny day. Our driver is dressed like Crocodile Dundee and he’s sporting a Gator Tooth on his light khaki clothing. He starts with a strenuous reminder about keeping all body parts inside the boat at all times and paints a bit of a picture of alligators potentially lurching into the boat. I am nearest the side of the boat and I begin to wonder if that was a wise choice, but I am hoping to snap some decent pictures and I know this is the location for that. I’m sitting next to Sandi Allen from Canadian Blog House, based out of Ottawa. Beside me, she periscopes the tour, but the motor of the boat is extremely loud and it’s challenging to talk over the whirring sound.
Our first alligator sighting is exciting. The boat slows to a crawl and the alligator gets up close within five feet of the boat. We circle him and he circles us back. Eyeing us up for dinner, I think. The captain of this particular boat fuels the fire of my overactive imagination spinning stories about alligators. Another blogger reaches over the side to adjust her GoPro. I envision it falling into the water and being consumed by a gator. But she seems unconcerned, adjusting it several times.
When my kids both got wind of this Everglades Holiday Park excursion they almost tried to stowaway in my suitcase. They love the Animal Planet show, also available on Youtube, called Gator Boys. They know every type of gator behaviour. My kids both can identify when the gators are spinning into a death roll. But oddly there isn’t much authentic to find about the Gator Boys inside this natural preserve. For that one reason my kids would have been disappointed with this excursion. The tour is educational, entertaining and fun on its own. But The Gator Boys are really nowhere to be found despite promise of a show after the one hour tour.
Gators really aren’t that interested in humans according to several people at Everglades Holiday Park. Not really the man eating monstrosities I anticipated. Mostly gators would like to keep to themselves. But occasionally people do foolish things like jumping into water at feeding time ( dusk ) when gators are known to live nearby. Or feeding gators occasionally. When you feed a gator they come to expect it and will return to that area looking for food. If they don’t find food then you or your small pets and children could be in trouble. Common sense, people.
The Everglades in Florida is a sprawling area of open wetlands, with over 1.5 million acres of land that is home to many interesting species of birds and marine life. Alligators, manatees, dolphins and crocodiles can be spotted in the Everglades. At Everglades Holiday Park we spy at least one dozen American alligators and several species of unique plants and birds too. It’s educational and a tour worth doing. My only disappointment was the Gator Boys Animal Rescue show after the airboat tour.
There are no Gator Boys here. This is the alligator rescue facility where nuisance alligators are brought and cared for. So alligators found in someone’s backyard where they should not be, might have been rescued and brought here. They are not forced to perform and seemed to be quite content to rest in the sun which is nice to see. There are more gators here than I would have imagined. This alligator Gator Boys inspired show is informational mostly, which is great, but I anticipated seeing the Gator Boys and even getting autographs. That was not the case. This is a volunteer who helps out at the rescue area show above. She was totally brave and fierce to step into a space with 18 or so live alligators, many of which were huge!! There will be some time to pose with a baby alligator and get a picture after for $5.
So Everglades Holiday Park tour was educational and enjoyable and worth it so you can say you have done the Everglades and that you rode in an airboat. But the show part after might not be what you expected if you are hoping to see Gator Boys.
I was a guest of Everglades Holiday Park while visiting south Florida, Fort Lauderdale area. This is my honest opinion.