on October 25, 2009
I have always had a yearning to visit the Florida Everglades and travel on an airboat. However as my family and I are Theme Park addicts we never seemed to have been able to afford the time for the journey to the Everglades. However before our last trip I read a guidebook which said that Boggy Creek Airboats were as good an experience as the Everglades. I don't know if this is true but I can give you a review of our trip. There are quite a lot of Airboat companies operating around the Orlando area. I did some research before we travelled and I found the best recommendations, especially for safety, were for the Boggy Creek Company so that was where we headed. The Boggy Creek Airboat company have been in business since 1994 and now run at two sites in Orlando. There is one at the East Lake Fish Camp and then there is one at South Park Road. When we visited the Fish camp was closed for refurbishment so we had to travel about 20miles to the Southpark road site. However I have heard that this does tend to have better wildlife so is worth the extra drive. The place opened at 9 and we arrived early as we had heard that is when you can see the most wildlife (except for nighttime). When we arrived there was free parking and you had to go into the gift shop to buy the tickets. It was $25 for adults and children under 11 were $19 , we paid slightly less than this as we had vouchers that gave us a discount. (Voucher books can be picked up at any hotel or diner.) The staff were lovely and engaged my son in converstaion and showed him a joke bag of rattlesnake eggs which he thought was great fun. The rides run every half an hour, this time starts from when the first customers arrive so you should never have to wait longer than 30 minutes. We were shown to our airboat which can seat up to 17 passengers. They cannot take wheelchairs on board but if a person can transfer they will do their best to accomodate their needs. Every passenger is given ear protectors which you have to wear all the time the engine is running as the noise is INCREDIBLE! Children under 6 must wear lifejackets and everyone else is told where the lifejackets are. You really need to wear glasses to protect your eyes from insects and waterspray, there were some people on our boat that spent the whole journey with their eyes closed as things kept blowing into them! The airboat left the dock quite slowly and I was beginning to be disappointed but then the captain told us that there was a speed restriction near the lake shore. Once we got out into more open water the boat travels upto 45mph. The captain was very knowledgable. Every now and then he stopped the boat (so we could take off the ear-protectors and hear what he was saying!) and pointed out things to us. We saw a couple of alligators that I would never have spotted lurking amongst the grass. We also saw a Golden eagle which was very impressive and lots of water fowl. The lake is surrounded by cypress trees, it is a truely beautiful and incredible peaceful place (when the engines aren't running). Skimming quickly through the long grass was exhilarating. Unfortunately it began to rain on our trip which meant we couldn't see quite as much and the rain actually HURT when you were travelling fast! When we got off the boat we were sent out via a "photo opportunity" spot where they let you handle a baby alligator and you could buy a photo as a donation to their protection fund. I usually find these things really annoying but actually the handler was very informative and there was no hassle. Both of my children held the alligator (I declined!) and when I said I didn't want the photo there was no hard sell and we were pleasently wished a nice day in true US fashion. It is possible to go on Night rides but these have to be pre-booked. There are also 6 seater airboats which you can hire as a private excursion. It is wise to cover yourself in insect repellant before you go. We wore shorts which meant even though it rained we could just brush the water off and its much more comfortable than wet trousers! I felt that the whole operation was based on safety and although my son was scared to death at the start of going on an alligator he had such a good time he wants to do it again! I would certainly recommend this to anyone tarvelling to Orlando and my only regret is that I hadn't done it before!
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