First of all, there is no BAD way to see the Florida Everglades!
1] You can travel by car thru the Everglades on the “Alligator Alley” . 2] You can take a plane ride over the Everglades. 3] You can rent a small boat and tour the back waters thru the Everglades yourself. 4] You can take a hot air balloon ride over the Everglades…….or:
For me the best way to see the “Glades”……as the locals call it is by…..AIRBOAT!
It gives you the great thrills of an adventure ride at about 35 – 50 mph…..the enjoyment of being on the water…..a narrated tour about the wild life…..a chance to get deep into the mangroves….and to be close enough to live alligators that you would ever want to be!!
I can’t tell you about all of the tours and all of the available places around the Glades to hitch an air boat ride but I can tell you about one of the best.
Take highway 41 south from Naples Florida to state road 29 and turn right. I suggest this route since the drive is worthwhile, thru the Big Cypress Preserve and the 10,000 islands. This is the route to follow to Everglades City Florida. Just before the big take a right turn onto a gravel road…….you have just stepped back into history! This long gravel road is home to crabber’s and their square wire nets, and fisherman for hundreds of years. On the left you will find the “Totch’s Island Airboat tours”. Totch’s has been around forever and offers some of the best scenic tours of all!
This last trip will make my personal 3rd one, but I have referred clients to Totch’s for years. The best part of their tours are the drivers and this part of the Glades. The drivers are colorful and adhere to the good-ole-boy style of talk like the old Floridians. Most are sober, the ones that aren’t are usually late for their tours………just kidding. They offer 2 tours…….a 1 hr and a 1.5 hour. My personal best is the 1.5 hr tour.
In this full throttle, thrill a minute adventure, the operator will turn 360’s at breakneck speeds and put the bow almost underwater with the rear standing almost straight up……..I kid you not! Then its on to the canopy cover of the trees and mangroves part of the 10,000 island chain. These narrow canals have been formed by tree overgrowth and mangroves from centuries of never having a human hand on them with a saw. Once into the back water parts of the tour you will see Gators swimming along. They are not aggressive as long as you keep your hands in the boat. One my last ride we saw a wild racoon up close in a tree. Exotic birds abound everywhere along with the pelican’s.
After the ride, you can hold a live 3 ft Gator in your arms for that photo opportunity. Visit www.airboateverglades.com. or call 866-626-2833. Reservations required….its a popular place.
Next stop is to get back on SR 29 and continue west on into Everglades City to the old railroad station. It’s now been converted into a favorite local restaurant. The food is great….portions large…..service is dead on. It will be on your left and you can’t miss it, it’s the parking lot that is full.
I think for me the best part is seeing the gators up close in their natural environment. They show no fear of the boat or us at all. They seemed to us to be everywhere on this trip. If you looking for the best of a days adventure, put this trip on the list!.