Everglades Airboat Ride Excursion
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Highlight: See some alligators and wildlife in natural habitat of the everglades. Exploring the ecosystem for a bit can be a nice way to end a trip to Florida and the Caribbean during this Everglades Airboat Ride Excursion.
What’s Missing: The actual airboat tour is only 30 minutes, and the “speed bursts” from the airboats were not as thrilling as expected.
Main Takeaway: You should checkout the everglades when you are in Ft. Lauderdale. This tour operator, Everglades Holiday Park, was well organized and you get to experience wildlife up close and personal-especially the alligators. The Everglades Airboat Ride Excursion excursion is a good way to kill time before a late day flight following a cruise.
Post-Cruise Shore Excursion in Fort Lauderdale?
We have spent many of afternoons in Ft. Lauderdale but have never done anything besides hanging around the Harbor Shops or the restaurants and bars near 17th Avenue. I am sure there are many things to do and see in Ft. Lauderdale, but we just have had no reason to find any structured activity, besides relaxing in the warm weather prior to setting sail on a cruise.
For our trip on the Independence of the Seas (IOS) in January 2014, we were saddled with a late afternoon departure. Instead of getting to the airport and just sitting around for hours, which we ended up doing to some extent anyway, we thought a post-cruise excursion might be a nice addition. RCI happened to offer the Everglades Airboat Ride Excursion which caught our attention, so we decided to book while onboard our cruise.
Getting to the Everglades
After 8 days of cruise fun, an early morning, and the pier madness, we, along with many of our fellow passengers, wandered among the confusion to find our tour bus. Eventually locating the bus and boarding, we got to admire the IOS in front of us one last time knowing that the crew was busy cleaning and getting ready for the next 3500+ passengers that would be coming aboard in only a few short hours.
With everyone now on the bus, a quick head count and the bus was off for the 40 minute ride. During the ride to the park, the driver gave some intermittent facts about Fort Lauderdale and the sites we were passing.
Arriving at Everglades Holiday Park
Upon arrival at the park, we were dropped off near the airboats, and the bus driver informed us of our meeting location at the rear of the building following the excursion.
Judging by the number of buses at the location, I would assume many cruise lines offer this Everglades Airboat Ride Excursion. The park was rather busy with many post-cruisers as well as other individuals who were here for their own weekend fun.
Off the bus, we were told to use the restroom then get in line to board an airboat. A bathroom stop for the Princess and I would be complicated by a broken men’s room. This left one functioning toilet which meant the line for us boys was just as long as the girls.
Seeing the crowds of people surrounding the air boats, we made our way down to the dock. Of course, before boarding the airboat they take your picture (which is sold to you after the tour) -we did our best to provide a good pose! After the photo-op, we were put on an airboat with a bunch of folks that I did not recognize.
A River of Grass
Once on the airboat, the captain introduced himself, though his name escapes me. He was a lively and comical guide. His descriptions of the wildlife were informative, but he had a very distinct approach that was hysterical. I think I enjoyed his narration as much as seeing the wildlife!
During most of the Everglades Airboat Ride Excursion, he narrated through a loudspeaker which was sometimes difficult to hear over the roar of the engine. Other times, he let the boat idle to come down from the bridge to point out the scenery or provide more in-depth encounters with the flora and fauna of the everglades.
During the tour, you navigate three “highways” which include the “speed bursts”. Given that we are thrill seekers, we were expecting these “speed bursts” to be a bit more of an intense experience. It was still fun to be in the airboat, but definitely not a true high speed thrill.
The airboats are very loud, so if you are sensitive to sound, you might want some earplugs. The ride is relatively smooth as you skip over the water so you won’t need any Bonine or Dramamine for this trip!
The Wildlife in the Everglades
On our first stop, we came to a few trees covered with black vultures. The boat did not get too close to the flock but we were able to see them perched and flying around the trees. A few decent photos later, the boat was ready to move on to the next stop.
Maneuvering through the everglades, the tour guide made it to our next location. This time, he came down from the bridge to give us details about the different types of grass found in the everglades. He cut a piece of sawgrass and explained how it had small teeth, like a saw, that were very sharp if you moved your hands up the grass in a particular way. He then passed around the sample for us to experience firsthand.
Next, the boat floated down the everglades to a spot in which a few birds, later identified as Purple Gallinule, were sitting in the grass. It is obvious that the tour guides regularly stop at this location as the birds remained still until the boat stopped then jumped onto the airboat near the captain. He began to feed them Smartfood popcorn, even putting a piece of popcorn in his mouth at one point for the bird to grab it out almost on command. Popcorn was handed out to the fellow passengers who wanted a firsthand encounter with the birds as well. The Princess and I took some pictures but were not interested in feeding them. Although, after 8 days on a cruise ship, I was actually hungry for some of the popcorn myself! Don’t worry— I left it all for the birds.
After learning a bit about the plant and animal life, we were on to the second “highway” and another “speed burst” leading us to the area that everyone was waiting for— it was time for the alligators! In all, we probably saw about four alligators, and they all got pretty close to the airboat allowing for some good photo opportunities. Although, there were times that another airboat coasting in would cause them to retreat a bit. It was definitely a great experience to see the alligators that up close and personal in their natural habitat. At times, I almost thought they were going to jump right in the boat. None of them did, on our trip, anyway!
After the rendezvous with the alligators, it was time for the third and final speed burst, bringing us back to the main loading dock. We would disembark (two disembarkations in one day is very disappointing!) and head over to the alligator show.
Before doing so, I was sure to give our captain a well-deserved gratuity for his humorous yet informative tour. The Princess, on the other hand, convinced me to buy our photo which was taken before boarding the airboat. The price was not too outrageous so the Holiday Park was able to squeeze a few more bucks out of me! Great, now I have two pictures of us in front of an airboat and a key chain, a great way to commemorate the Everglades Airboat Ride Excursion!
Gator Boys Show
After the 30 minute or so tour on the airboat, we were back on land and made our way to the Gator Boys show.
I have heard of these guys but have never really seen the television show. One of the alligator handlers talked a bit about their rescue work and performed various feats with some of the rescued alligators for a total of 10 minutes or so. The tricks included grabbing an alligator from behind and dragging him to the front and putting his chin on the top of a wide-open alligator mouth, which apparently has something like 3500 psi of pressure when its jaw closes shut! He also put his head essentially into the alligator’s mouth and did some additional “gator wrestling moves” including having the alligator stand up.
While I would never put my head in an alligator’s mouth, watching someone else do so was fun. After the show, you could talk with some of the Gator Boys or hold a baby alligator.
We decided we had had enough alligator experiences for the day so headed back towards the gift shop, which yielded no additional costs for me—Yes! A few more photo-ops and a diet Pepsi later, we decided to head back to the bus early.
We were one of the first people on the bus. Relaxing there for a bit, we reviewed some of the photos we had just taken as well as our cruise photos while other folks began to board.
Heading Back Home
The bus ride to the airport was smooth, and before long we were at the Southwest terminal. The only problem—we could not check our bags until 1:30pm! We sat in the check-in area for at least an hour until Southwest allowed us to check the bags. Once all bags were checked, we made our way down to the security line which was relatively quick. We would be back to reality and snow in just a few short hours!
Have you visited done the Everglades Airboat Ride Excursion in Ft. Lauderdale? What other activities do you enjoy pre-cruise or post cruise in Ft. Lauderdale? Drop us an anchor below to let us know.