Apr 24, 2019

AIRBOAT TOUR, EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK

To make it easier for planning purposes, I will break up this Everglades tour into two parts.

- Airboat tours
- Everglades National Park ( Ahinga trail, shark valley visitor centre etc. )

The two places are about an hour drive to each other. So you can plan as to how it would suit your itinerary. We did the airboat tours first and then stayed for the night at the Hampton Inn and Suites Miami South in Homestead. Hampton.

While there are crocodile zoos and farms for crocodile viewing, one cannot miss going to Everglades National Park without visiting and seeing Alligators in an Airboat! Driving from Keywest to Coopertown, we were short on time and it took a bit longer than our estimated time to reach our destination due to some construction that was being carried out. However we reached bang on time before the last tour went out at Coopertown Airboat tours for the day. 

There are a few authorized airboat tour operators. They can be found on the  National Park Services website.  These three are Coopertown Airboat tours, Everglades Safari Park and Gator Park.

We wanted to see alligators in their natural habitat so we decided to go with Coopertown Airboat tours. It was a difficult decision to make as to which one would be a good choice as all had reasonable amount of good ratings. We decided we did not want the safari park as we had not much time. So we settled just for the boat tour. Did we have any regrets to not go to a safari park? Well it was mixed if we have more time we may have given it a second thought but since it was a good 3 and a half hours from KeyWest we decided to keep it simple just in case we were delayed.

Keep in mind their last tour timing. After purchasing tickets, we were given a short talk about the importance of the marshlands that help protect the habitat and the abundant wildlife in their habitat.

Recommended to Read before your trip to Coopertown Tours:

- Go in the morning/afternoon. The alligators love the sun.. There is a higher chance of seeing more of them during this time.
- Check online coupons to save some cash.
- Parking is free.
- Last boat ride is at 5.15pm. Contact the tour company for latest information.
- If you have a National Park Pass, there may be an additional discount for the ticket.   
- You will get a chance to hold a young alligator at the end of the tour.
To families unsure if this would be right for your toddlers.. We travelled with our 2 year old and yes we found it safe. We definitely would recommend using the cotton / headphones for them too.
- The guides do their best to find alligators however there may be a chance that on some occasions they are are no sightings.


We had a professional and educational airboat guide who took us on a 9 mile tour and who went out of his way to find us a few alligators. We had the 24 seater boat to ourselves as we were probably the last visitors for the day. We were given cotton balls plus headphones to block the resounding noise the boat makes as it made its way through the marshland.


The best part of the evening was the sunset as we were I presume about 9 miles out on the marshes and the spectacular rain cloud in the other direction as it poured closeby. If there was one thing we would have changed about this trip, it would be to visit earlier in the day.


The boat waded through tall saw grass. No wonder Everglades is called the river of grass. We travelled through a Hardwood Hammock which was a small island of solid ground into the river of grass. Our guide showed us many alligator holes alas no alligators. I'm sure there would have been birds but we didn't see any closeby except for their chirping in the fading sunlight. He would switch off the large beast and made some kind of a sound to get the attention of the animals. Not sure if they really know them by name but he called a couple of them and it was real funny to see one medium sized alligator swim right up to us. So exciting!


It was a marvelous experience venturing out into the habitat and searching for the wildlife. At the end of our tour we got to hold a baby alligator. On the field talking to our guide was so much learning for my 4th grader who used his 4th Grade National Pass for the Everglades trip.

Our guide was truly passionate about his job and went out of his way to find some for us. There was no doubt that he knew the area extremely well as he maneuvered the airboat like it was his backyard!

VIDEOS:

Boat tour out to the marshlands:


 



There are other businesses where you can get to see alligators, snakes and crocodiles. We did not check these places out however am mentioning them below should you be interested. 

Everglades Alligator Farm
Naples Zoo
St. Augustine Alligator Farm
Myakka River State Park
Shark Valley
Big Cypress National Preserve

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and I have not been compensated for writing the same.

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