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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I thought the fun would be speed, but the magic is the still.
An elegant, snow-white egret takes flight.
And seriously, when would you otherwise get the chance to see new alligator hatchlings?? (Look to the right and left of the yellow leaf.)
On the next stretch of highway were gators galore. Tourist traffic was stopped all along.
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.
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.
The true treat was seeing dolphins. And not just dolphins…
Are you into birds? There were the Osprey…
and white pelicans, too.
We didn’t see manatee that day, and were told it wasn’t surprising, but it was fun just knowing they were around.
Eight hours later, Norman knew our limit. We headed back.
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.
[Everglades Tour: Know Before You Go
- Guide, Transportation, Logistics, Vendors: Excellent
- Duration: All day (9 hours)
- As described in advertisement: Yes
- Booked through: www.reserve123.com — an online booking website specializing in sightseeing and tourist activities in 85 countries.
- 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
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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.