America,  Florida,  TDM,  Travel Journal,  USA

Everglades (USA): meeting alligators on an airboat

It is impossible to go to Miami without spending at least half a day in the Everglades. This is the must-see excursion in the area.

Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

I warn you, the place is very touristic and the organization is industrial. A car will pick us up around 9:30 am to take us to the center of Miami. We are transferred in a double-decker bus to go to one of the many places from where the boats called “air boats” leave, with two enormous propellers at the back.

We have been warned of the Floridian “ferocious mosquitoes”, which spare no one, and bite through clothing – so we come in “North Pole” mode (pants, long sleeves and I even brought socks just in case…). We were ready to buy the local mosquito repellent (because it’s more effective) but Florida loves us so much that no mosquitoes have been counted there (early August 2019). OUF.

Everglades National Park extends over Miami-Dade, Monroe and Collier counties. This national park contains the largest subtropical natural environment in the country.
The freshwater swamp is certainly the most common ecosystem of the Everglades National Park. Its drainage channels are characterized by shallow areas that flow very slowly.
The high density of fish, amphibians and young birds attracts many predators, such as alligators, freshwater turtles, water moccasins and rattlesnakes. As such, Everglades National Park is the only place in the world where crocodiles coexist naturally with alligators.

Source: Wikipedia

We are thus entitled to 1 hour of excursion within the park, aboard this rather comfortable boat. We are well distributed on the boat, so that everyone can see well what happens around and the load is well balanced so that the boat does not lean, that we do not fall and end up drowned/eaten by the alligators. On the other hand, the front window isn’t very clean, which reduces visibility quite a bit. Nobody sits in the middle, but always on the sides, and when there is something to look at, the guide turns the boat so that both sides can enjoy it in turn.

Frankly, when there are no animals to observe, it was a bit boring 😀 the landscapes all look alike. But the guide tries as well as he can to entertain us by talking about the size of the area, the animals that we can see etc. but I already forgot everything.

these trees are particularly loved by alligators

The animals

We saw some birds, many vultures… a heron from far away . But I’m not a bird so I didn’t listen too much to the explanations sorry.

The excitement rises when we start to see our first alligator, I don’t know if you see the little eyes sticking out. They are so used to tourist boats now that they don’t react anymore.

There are a lot of leaves of this type, when you pass over them with the boat, they aren’t destroyed, they get up again after the boat passes over. The guide tells us to locate the leaves with holes, there are often worms. And that if ever we are lost here without food, we can use them ahahah

These birds are particularly fond of these worms, and they walk on the leaves to fetch their worms. They are super cute! The one you see on the picture is about 2 months old <3

We will see 3 other alligators, and by passing very close to them, we can see their whole body and their little legs … In the excitement, I took some pictures… of the sky so I couldn’t show you their whole body. Here are the rare successful pictures and the video of a particularly jovial alligator following our boat.

The show

After the boat tour, we are offered a free alligator “show”. The alligators we see here got lost and were found in private homes. They couldn’t be released in the nature because a few months later, they came back to the garden where they were found. Instead of releasing them and re-trapping them, they are kept here.

There are about ten of them. If you see an alligator in your garden in Florida, just call the police and a trapper will be sent to remove it, free of charge. The money obtained from the sale of the skin, the meat… of the alligator will be enough to cover the costs. JB finds it rather embarrassing to see a dozen of alligators clumped together in a very small pond with only a few centimeters of water while we are in a nature reserve.

The guy in the show is very funny but I think most of the audience doesn’t understand English. In Florida, a lot of people only speak Spanish. In fact, on the bus that brings us here, the driver explained to the Spanish speakers in Spanish that everything was only in English and not translated into Spanish.

At first he asked if there were any questions, and I was very surprised to see the little Americans raising their hands and asking lots of questions. Very pertinent questions too.

Anyway, I summarize here what he said in case you go to the same show and don’t understand what he’s saying. Basically, the guy explains to us that if we came here to see him attacked by alligators, well, we might be disappointed. It is a cold-blooded animal, which cannot be sporty for long periods of time. If he moves intensely for 15 minutes, he will need 1 hour of rest to recover from his efforts. So they are so used to his presence and know that he will not do anything to them that they do not move at all.

The alligator’s brain is as big as an inch, and it is the animal with the smallest brain to body ratio in the world. On earth, you are taller than the alligator so it will be more likely to run away than attack, but if you are ever chased, run straight, not zig-zag 😀 The alligator’s jaw is extremely powerful, and can break bones easily, so the first thing the trapper must do is to immobilize the alligator’s jaw. During the show, the guy didn’t put his head in the alligator’s mouth, but almost…. and he put his hands in front of the open mouth of the alligator… arrrgghhh

At the end of the show, you can leave a few dollars to contribute to the conservation of these alligators and the operation of the “SPA” for alligators.

About 20 minutes later, the bus comes to pick us up at 2:10 pm and we are dropped in front of our house, around 4 pm, just when the rain starts to fall.

Part 2: Practical Tips

We paid 35$/person for this tour, including pick-up, drop-off at Miami Beach, transportation, boat and show. The rates are already reduced (49$ for others) because we went through Sobe Miami Tours, which we already recommended for the Bahamas tour.

To get the same rates as us (we don’t get any commission), tell the seller, Chedi – a French-Tunisian polyglot, that you come from “dieu anh”.

If we had gone there ourselves by car, we would have paid 33$/person for the boat.

If you absolutely want to come with your own car, buy the airboat tickets on Groupon instead of buying on site, it will only cost 17$/person.

There are so many companies in the Everglades that the choice is really up to you.

  • Everglades Holiday park: this is the place where we went with the agency. Very “tourist factory”.
  • near Coopertown : this is where JB went in 2015 with another agency, the boats are smaller than ours, not covered. So the visibility is better and the feeling of speed is more important. Three companies are located side by side: Gator Park, Coopertown The Original Airboat Tour, Everglades Safari Park (we went there too, see this travel diary). If you can go there, I think it will be more authentic

For more info, all our articles on the United States are here

Gator Park – 24050 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33194

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