You can scarcely hear the roaring sound of the engine through the bulky, sound muffling earmuffs that you had donned at the beginning of your Florida Everglades airboat tours. Skimming across the water’s surface, the airboat glides back and forth through the saw grass expanse, darting in and out of the reed beds like a graceful figure skater. Your experienced guide navigate the seemingly untamed wilderness during your Airboat rides Everglades, watching carefully for wildlife and the much sought after yet elusive alligator in these amazing Miami Everglades.
Propelled at high speed by the large fan at the back of the airboat, the wind whips past your cheeks. With it comes occasional bits of reeds and plant matter and droplets of water. You feel like you are flying even though your eyes tell you that you are still close to the ground. Continuing your exploration of this boundless wilderness, you speed up occasionally to quickly leap across large patches of open water. Suddenly the airboat slows, tucking into a bank of reeds to seek out wildlife and to listen the sounds of the birds and the wind.
The Miami Everglades are an expansive tropical wetland area located over much of the southern third of Florida. The Everglades wilderness can be easily accessed from both Miami and Orlando. These are two of the most popular vacation destinations in Florida. This makes Florida Everglades airboat tours an easy addition to your next Florida holiday.
The waters of the Florida Everglades flow southward from the Kissimmee River south of Orlando. Traveling into the wide yet shallow Lake Okeechobee, they continue flowing over a 60 mile wide limestone shelf southwards. The water ends up in the Florida Bay at the south tip of the state in the area called the Ten Thousand Islands.
There are a number of other ways to experience the abundant wildlife of the 1.5 million acres of Miami Everglades wilderness. There are many short, accessible hiking trails where you can easily see a wide variety of birds and wildlife without going too far. For those looking to venture further, the Florida Everglades offers multi day hikes that will take you into the heart of this vast wilderness space. You can also explore the Florida Everglades by kayak, canoe or boat. Perhaps the best way to explore this untamed wilderness is by taking Airboat rides Everglades.
Everglades airboat tours are an ideal way to explore this vast, unique ecosystem. Your choices for tour operators offering up Airboat rides Everglades are nearly endless. You will find them in big cities and in small towns all across the southern half of Florida. Airboat rides Everglades will take you deep into the saw grass swamps of this vast wilderness area. You may feel alone in this primal wilderness even though you are within close proximity to the popular Miami beaches and other central Florida tourist attractions.
The Florida Everglades and Miami Everglades
The history of the Miami Everglades is as colorful and varied as the wide variety of plant and animal life that call it home. The human part of the Miami Everglades story started approximately 15,000 years ago. The ancient history of the Miami Everglades includes habitation by indigenous peoples including the Calusa and Tequesta Tribes who lived there until the area was colonized by the Spanish around the 1500’s. Populations of these tribes declined over the next two hundred years.
It was around this time that the Seminole tribe formed as the Creek people who had been at war moved south assimilating parts of other tribes as they went. They created a new culture and tribal identity and made the Florida Everglades their home. The Seminole Tribe was able to use their intimate connection to this unique ecosystem and familiarity with its difficult terrain to fight a guerilla war in the swamps, which they eventually lost.
The modern history of the Florida Everglades continues with an influx of settlers at the turn of the 20th century. These newcomers wanted to transform the valuable land of the Everglades into viable farmland to support their growing populations. They started an irreversible process of draining the vast swampland of the Florida Everglades by creating drainage channels. Some of these settlers turned into bootleggers during prohibition. These unique characters used the swampy, imposing depths of the Everglades to hide from the authorities.
The cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale were born during this process and some of the water that was being drained from the Miami Everglades was channelled so that it could be used to support the growth of these new, urban centers.
The draining of the water significantly lowered water levels in the Everglades. This negatively impacted the plant and animal species that called its diverse ecosystems home. The delicate balance between, degrading the natural environment of the Miami Everglades. This man made degradation continued for approximately 50 years, irreversibly changing the delicate ecosystems of the Florida Everglades.
Before this man made process, the Florida Everglades covered approximately 11,000 square miles. Today, approximately half of this area has been lost to environmental degradation and/or converted to farmland.
Fortunately, a slow turnaround has been happening for the Miami Everglades. Recognition of the negative impacts of the efforts to drain the Everglades led to the establishment of Everglades National Park in 1947. A monumental effort was undertaken to undo the damage done to the Everglades. This effort continues strongly today. The Everglades is considered a national treasure. In recognition of its unique nature, it was designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1979.
The Florida Everglades contain a wide range of unique ecosystems, including mangrove forests, cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks and the diverse underwater ecosystem in the Florida Bay. An airboat ride Everglades is the ideal way to experience these unique ecosystems up close. The Miami Everglades are a haven for many hundreds of mammals, birds and amphibians, many of them endangered.
The Everglades are one of the country’s top spots for birdwatching. Spotting birds is a top goal for many people who go on airboat rides Everglades. There are over 350 bird species that have been sighted in the park. Some of the more well known of the avian species in the Everglades include many types of Cranes, Herons and the Roseate Spoonbill. These long legged waders are easy to spot standing in the shallow water or gracefully taking off for flight with their long legs trailing behind them.
Crocodiles and alligators are a top draw for wildlife watchers who visit the everglades on Everglades airboat tours. These giants can grow to lengths of ten feet or more! While unlikely to happen on land, both these cumbersome reptiles can move at fast speeds of up to 30 miles per hour for short bursts. Because of the way that the salt water from the Gulf of Mexico mixes with fresh water from the Kissimmee River within Everglades National Park, both species of reptiles can live in close proximity to each other. This is because while alligators only live in freshwater, crocodiles can live in either fresh or salt water. The discovery of one of these enormous reptiles is sure to be on the highlight list of many Everglades airboat tours.
The park is also home to 27 different varieties of snakes. Some of them are native to the park, and some have been more recently introduced. Unfortunately, non native Anacondas and pythons are spreading in the Everglades, taking over and choking out the native species. These giant predators are sometimes large enough to take down an alligator! These invasive predators are being released into the delicate everglades ecosystem by ignorant humans who kept them as pets but could no longer care for them as they grew larger. This is only one of many non native species that threaten the delicate balance of the Everglades ecosystems.
The Everglades is home to a number of species of turtles, some of them endangered. These include the Green Turtle, the Ridley Turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle and the Leatherback Turtle. Other large marine life that can be spotted on an Airboat rides Everglades include dolphins and manatees.
Last to mention are one the Everglades’ mammal species. The Everglades are home to the last of the Earth’s endangered Florida Panthers. In the 1970’s there were less than 70 Florida Panthers left in the wild. Thankfully today because of careful conservation efforts, this number has rebounded to as many as 230.
The most abundant season for wildlife sightings in the Everglades is in the winter. Between the months of December to April, water levels within the park decrease. This concentrates the animals into more central areas as they look for water. The opposite is true for Alligator sightings. While you can see alligators all year long, alligators are more abundantly spotted in the wetter months from June through October.
Having an experienced guide for your Everglades airboat tours can hep you to find wildlife that you would not have found on your own and maximize your Airboat rides Everglades experience.
Everglades Airboat Rides
While wildlife is never guaranteed, hiring an experienced guide who is an expert in Everglades airboat tours can help to give you the best chance of spotting wildlife. On your own, seeing wildlife in the Everglades would be like finding a needle in a haystack. When choosing a guide for Airboat rides Everglades, there are a number of factors that you will want to consider.
An airboat is a flat bottomed, shallow boat with a large fan on the back. The first airboat was constructed in Canada in 1905. Construction of this marvel of engineering was led by Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. By the 1930’s homemade airboats were in common use in the Everglades.
The airboat is steered by manipulating a vertical rudder behind the fan which redirects the flow of air thereby turning the boat. As the airboat goes faster, the boat is carried on a thin layer of air which gives you as a passenger the feeling that you are flying (because essentially, you are).
Because of its unique design and the fact that there are no propellers to get tangled underwater in the shallow reeds, an airboat is able to get to places in the unique Everglades environment that a regular boat would not. This design also allows the airboat to cover large expanses of open water quickly yet still have the maneuverability to get up close to wildlife. These many unique features make an Everglades airboat tours the best way to experience this boundless natural wilderness.
The number of people on an airboat tour and the size of the boat being used will influence how intimate of an experience you will have during your airboat rides Everglades and how close you will be able to get to some of the birds and other wildlife. If viewing wildlife up close is an important factor in evaluating the best Everglades airboat tours, these should be important factors when choosing a tour operator offering Airboat rides Everglades.
Some Florida Everglades airboat tours put a higher emphasis on viewing nature while some spend more time speeding around on the water. Some airboat rides Everglades offer a good mixture of both. Airboats are amazing machines that will give you a visceral lesson in the laws of physics. Skimming briskly across the surface of the shallow water is an experience that you can only have on an airboat. It is up to you to book a tour that meets your balance for speed versus intimate moments of wildlife viewing.
Travelling by Airboat rides Everglades is the most effective way to traverse the extremely shallow waters that are typical in the Sawgrass marshes of the Everglades. Sometime the water is only inches deep. Learning a little bit about how an airboat works may give you a deeper appreciation and understanding of your Florida Everglades airboat tours.
The Florida Everglades has two main seasons. The dry season spans the months between November and March. This is when the majority of people visit the park, drawn by the pleasant weather and the wide variety of migrating birds that can be seen in the park during this time. This time span also coincides with winter in the northern hemisphere of the United States, making a visit during this time a pleasant escape from frigid weather.
The wet season covers the other half of the year between April to October. This time of year in the Everglades brings significantly more rain and with it more bugs. Many tours and park service programs are not offered during this time. The plus side of all of this is less crowds and the chance for more solitude during your visit.
The Miami Everglades Park & Shark Valley
Shark Valley is a special area of the Miami Everglades Wilderness located along US Highway 41. It is a short 45 minute drive west of Miami. The area is called Shark Valley because it forms the beginning of the Shark River. This short river empties into the Gulf of Mexico in the Ten Thousand Islands area of Everglades National Park.
A tram ride in the Miami Everglades Shark Valley is an easy way to experience the best that the Miami Everglades has to offer. Your tour will be accompanied by a naturalist who will help you to experience and appreciate the wide variety of wildlife that you will likely see on your tour. Halfway through your two hour tour you will make a stop at a 45 foot high observation tower. From the top of the tower you will be able to soak in spectacular 360 degree views of the Miami Everglades. On a clear day your views can extend for 20 miles in all directions.
During the busiest part of the year between the months of December and April, tram tours tend to fill up. Book as early as you know you will be visiting to make sure you have a spot.
Some might prefer a more self directed wildlife experience in Shark Valley. Biking the 15 mile tram trail through Shark Valley is a nice, quiet way to experience the wildlife and unique ecosystems of the Miami Everglades close up.
Bicycles can be rented from Shark Valley Tram Tours. The trail is 15 miles round trip and takes 2-3 hours to complete. It is shared by bikers, walkers and the tram. If you go, make sure to take plenty of water as there is no water available along the trail. Late afternoon thundershowers are common in South Florida, so it is best to start early in the day to avoid any unexpected storms which often bring heavy rains and lightening. The parking lot closes at 6:00pm, so you will want to make sure that you can make it back by this time.
Explore the Miami Everglades
The Miami Everglades is a one of a kind subtropical wilderness area. Taking one of the many Florida Everglades airboat tours offered throughout central Florida will give you an up close and personal view of the wildlife and ecosystems of the Everglades. Airboat rides Everglades are a unique vehicle that will allow you to see parts of the Florida Everglades wilderness that are inaccessible by any other means. Everglades airboat tours are a bucket list adventure that you need to add to your Florida holiday!
There are many great ways to continue your Florida adventures in the Miami area beyond the Miami Everglades. This handy guide of the top things to do in Miami will give you more great ideas for expanding your trip.
Florida is very close to the tropical island paradise of the Bahamas. A Bahamas Day Trip or Bahamas island hopping tour is an easy addition to your Florida vacation. Your tour will depart conveniently from Miami and can take you to places in the Bahamas that are rarely seen by the average tourist. Options include day trips as well as multi day expeditions. Your Bahamas island hopping tour can take you to hidden beaches and sights of historical interest. You will likely see a variety of wildlife including turtles, stingrays and the famous Bahamas swimming pigs! If will surely be an unforgettable experience to top off your Miami Everglades airboat tours adventure!