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Alligators, Dolphins and Airboats, Oh My!

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Florida Everglades Tour: Alligators

Getting up close and personal with an alligator. ~Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Tours can help you make the best use of your vacation time (and home exchange savings) . Check out what we saw from Fort Lauderdale –in one day!– on this tour of The Florida Everglades.

What to do in Fort Lauderdale?

Do you have an extra day before your cruise? Or maybe, like me, you couldn’t resist a home exchange in sunny Florida?

Now the question is, what’s to see? Sure, there are all the city sights. But what does Florida have that you can’t see anywhere else?

The Florida Everglades. But they’re huge and I didn’t want to blow a bunch of vacation days driving in the middle of nowhere by myself.

An All-Day Florida Everglades Tour

Everglades National Park Florida Tours

The Florida Everglades as seen from an Airboat Tour

I found this All-Day Everglades Day Safari from Fort Lauderdale on www.reserve123.com. It covered my must-see list and more.

The highlights? Check out the photos: alligators and dolphins!

Want the short story? I recommend doing this tour. It’s an easy way to jam-pack a day with uniquely Florida experiences. And without a guide, this would be a prime example of driving along and not knowing what you’re seeing–or missing. Tour Tips and Details are at the bottom of the post.

A Guide?

Oh yeah. 8 solid hours of tidbits, trivia, history and opinion about the Everglades. From the minute our driver, Norman, picked us up he shared his passion for the area. He knew his stuff.

Another bonus was that the tour company divided its 31 customers into small, manageable groups of 8-10.

An Airboat Tour

Ft Lauderdale Attractions Airboat Tour

An Airboat Tour took us into The Everglades. ~Fort Lauderdale, Florida

First stop: Airboats! It wasn’t billed as an adrenalin-packed day but I was expecting more speed and wild turns. In the end it wasn’t an adventure ride and it was easy to appreciate why.

Everglades Airboat Tour

The airboat heads into the grasslands of the Florida Everglades.

The area’s protected by law. It’s not an amusement park. It’s home to wild, not captive, animals. You’re on their turf and strict federal guidelines govern tour operation.

We glide atop the water until the engine shuts off.

Silence.

Then the guide calls, “Three foot gator baby on the left.”

Everyone shoots to their feet, scanning the grasses. And there he is. Long, dark, and mellow as can be, he stops and stares back.

Fort Lauderdale Baby Alligator

“Three foot baby alligator, on your left” ~Airboat Tour, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Someone spots a soft-shelled turtle about 15” across, poking around doing his turtle thing.

We move to where a mama gator’s held her ground for years. During a drought a few years ago, the guide watched her survive in nothing more than a mud puddle until the rains came again.

We spot her and her yearling. Unlike a zoo, they’re not here because we are.

Alligator Tours Florida Everglades

An alligator sighting on an airboat tour. ~The Florida Everglades

I thought the fun would be speed, but the magic is the still.

An elegant, snow-white egret takes flight.

Everglades Safari Airboat Tour (Egret takes flight)

A Great White Egret takes flight. ~Florida Everglades

And seriously, when would you otherwise get the chance to see new alligator hatchlings?? (Look to the right and left of the yellow leaf.)

Baby Alligators Florida Everglades Day Safari

Four alligator hatchlings atop their nest. ~Florida Everglades Day Safari

Gators Galore

On the next stretch of highway were gators galore. Tourist traffic was stopped all along.

Alligator Alley in The Florida Everglades

Tourists stop to see Alligators along Alligator Alley. ~Florida Everglades

Don’t underestimate the viewing we’d just had out in the Everglades, though. The airboat provided a real appreciation for what the Everglades –and the alligators’ natural domain– are like.

Everglade Artist

Just before lunch we made another stop. I’ve done tours before that annoy me with their apparently requisite kickback-tacky-tourist stop.

Kudos to this tour for finding a gallery belonging to a man who does exquisite black-and-white Everglades photography. It was an absolute pleasure to see his art and glimpse the beauty of the ‘glades through his lens.

What Tops Alligators? Dolphins!

Where the fresh water of the everglades meets the salt waters of the Gulf of Mexico, we did a 90 minute boat tour through the Ten Thousand Islands.

Boat Tour in the Ten Thousand Islands Florida

Heading into The Ten Thousand Islands on a boat tour. ~Florida

The true treat was seeing dolphins.  And not just dolphins…

Florida Dolphin Tours

Dolphins playing alongside our tour boat ~ Gulf Coast, Florida

…but babies!!!

Fort Lauderdale Everglades Tour Dolphins

A baby dolphin with two adults. ~Ten Thousand Islands, Florida

Are you into birds? There were the Osprey…

Fort Lauderdale Everglade Tours: Osprey

An Osprey sits with fish in its talons. ~Ten Thousand Islands, Florida

and white pelicans, too.

White Pelicans ~Ten Thousand Islands, Florida

A flock of White Pelicans on a sandbar. ~Ten Thousand Islands, Florida

We didn’t see manatee that day, and were told it wasn’t surprising, but it was fun just knowing they were around.

Manatee Area on a Florida Boat Tour

We’re in Manatee Territory, just none to be seen. ~Ten Thousand Islands, Florida

Eight hours later, Norman knew our limit. We headed back.

My Take

This tour is an efficient way to see a lot of highlights unique to Florida. I went home knowing I’d seen some major sights and had the unique experiences I’d hoped for, but didn’t have to give up days of Rest & Relaxation to do it.

This was an excellent and easy introduction to the Everglades. I’d recommend it if you’re wondering what to do in Fort Lauderale.

[Everglades Tour: Know Before You Go

Click here for Tour Tips and Details]

Tour Details

  • Guide, Transportation, Logistics, Vendors: Excellent
  • Duration: All day (9 hours)
  • As described in advertisement: Yes
  • Booked throughwww.reserve123.com — an online booking website specializing in sightseeing and tourist activities in 85 countries.

Tour Tips

  • I did this in January which seemed ideal. Several people I talked to recommended against summer because of the heat, humidity and less wildlife viewing.
  • Budget and be prepared to tip the vendors (tour guide, airboat captain, lunch servers, boat tour captain).
  • Tours are usually non-refundable.
  • They pickup from a list of hotels. If you’re not staying at one of them, you can taxi or drive to the hotel and park.
  • If you’re parking, check the cost of parking on the hotel pickup list. You might want to drive to a different one if parking is less expensive.
  • It might be worth booking your pickup from the first hotel on their route (ask them which that would be). You’re more likely to get your choice of seats in the van.
  • Kids? This is a long day with a lot of driving. I think a half day with an airboat ride or an alligator park might be better.

Kudos to www.reserve123.com. Here’s why: I made a note about our pickup when I submitted my online booking form. Before processing it, www.reserve123.com called me at home to clarify. They could have simply put through my booking and had the sale but instead called first. I think that’s impressive service.

Posted in: [Everglades Tour: Know Before You Go

Your Take

Have you done a fantastic tour? What made it fantastic?

This trip was sponsored by www.reserve123.com and operated by one of their tour partners. I don’t accept sponsorship in exchange for positive reviews. Sponsors understand that and agree in advance to my policy, which you can read here.

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Author: Nola

Nola is passionate about travel and a home exchange diva. She shares how you can travel in comfort, save money while you do it, and splurge on travel treats with the savings. She is a travel writer, speaker and trainer.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: A Day in the Glades - |

  2. Great post. Reminds me of the airboats near New Orleans. I love the photo with all the gators at Alligator Alley. Thanks!

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