An airboat ride through a swamp or marshland is one of those quintessential Florida experiences. Most people equate this experience with the Everglades in southern Florida, but would you believe me if I said you could set out on an airboat and be almost guaranteed to see wildlife (including gators) in central Florida, almost absurdly close to all of the tourist spots?
We recently visited Boggy Creek Airboat Rides and, despite the disclaimer you see above, we did indeed see some Florida gators. Alligators, in fact, are so common in Florida that many residents of the Sunshine State have become immune to them. They’re almost like squirrels. (Well, not quite…but almost.) For those of us who don’t live in Florida, though, it’s still an exciting sight.
Boggy Creek actually runs out of two different locations. We visited the Southport location in the afternoon (the chance of seeing wildlife is much greater in the morning), but we still saw a lot and had a great time.
We set out on one of their 17-passenger airboats across the southern tip of Lake Tohopekaliga. The tour lasted a little more than half an hour, and in that time we saw, among other things….
The cow gives you some idea of how shallow the water is. You could easily stand up in most places. The reason airboats, despite their noise, don’t create a major disturbance to underwater wildlife is because there’s no propeller or motor underwater. The sound doesn’t get amplified directly into the water.
And you can ride right through all of the vegetation without chopping it up or disturbing it (too much).
Every passenger is given a life jacket and ear protection. Believe me, you’ll want it.
Following the tour, you’ll have a chance to get up close with a real alligator. The gator is presented in partnership with a local charity dedicated to wildlife conservation, and you’ll also have an opportunity to have your picture taken holding the gator (for an additional fee).
If you’re in the central Florida area and have about half a day to spare, I’d really recommend this. It’s a great experience and a fantastic way to escape the “manufactured” thrills of Orlando for a small taste of natural Florida.
Kids will get a kick out of the boat itself and will also have a great time looking for animals in their natural habitat. No matter what time of day you go, you’re bound to see a host of different birds…and chances are pretty good you’ll see a few gators.
And you might even see a cow!
Boggy Creek runs a variety of tours year-round from each of their locations, so check their website for tour options and prices. And have fun!