I have always wanted to do a tour of the Florida Everglades and I found a brochure in our hotel in Fort Lauderdale about Sawgrass Recreation Park. I talked my friend into coming with me because it is something I always wanted to do in life. Being from Wisconsin, the only time you see an alligator is when you go to a zoo. So I wanted to see them up close. It was definitely a fun and unique experience for both of us and if I had the opportunity to do it again, I would in a heartbeat.
When we arrived I was unsure if we were in the right place or not. It is a large gravel parking lot surrounded with a few worn down buildings located at 1006 N U.S. Highway 27. It was a little creepy thinking what we just got ourselves in to. But we proceeded anyway because I really wanted to experience the tour.
We went in to the little store that had a sign saying tour tickets sold here. The tickets were $20 per person, but if you are military you get in free, which I thought was really nice for our troops. After you pay, you get a wristband and ear plugs.
When the airboat came to pick us up, I was surprised it fit so many people. I believe that it sat up to 20 people per ride. There were 4 bench seating rows, with the large air fan motor located on the back. We sat in the first row to get the best seats, but really they are all good seats.
The Captain of our boat tour was Charles and he was entertaining, fun and informative. We learned a lot about the history of the Everglades, environmental issues, what wildlife lived there, and much more. Along the way the Captain will stop to explain different areas and also let you have a chance to take pictures. So make sure that you have your camera with you. You will have the opportunity to take some amazing photos.
We even had the chance to see 3 fairly large alligators along the way. One even came right up next to the boat. A few people were nervous about that, but Captain Charles said that it was completely safe as long as we keep hands and feet inside the boat. I am happy we saw alligators because at the beginning of the tour they told us that alligators are not necessarily seen on every tour. We also saw snakes, fish jumping, frogs, lizards, turtles and lots of birds.
The boat went only about 35 mph so you had a chance to look around at everything. Everyone was on the look out for anything cool that they spotted and pointed it out to the rest of the people on the boat.
For the ear plugs, I did not use them because it really was not that loud on the boat. I would recommend bringing a sweatshirt or a hoodie with you on the boat. Even though you are in the hot Florida sun, it gets a little windy and cool while you are on the boat depending on what time of day you take the tour.
At the end of the airboat tour, it is suggested that you give the Captain a tip, since they work off of tips. So make sure that you bring some money with you for that. Then also they sell pictures or a key chain picture of you on the boat. They were $15, so a little expensive for just a picture, but it is a nice souvenir.
After the boat tour, we went over to the Exhibit, which is included in with the fee for the airboat tour. The exhibit is located near the parking lot area. In here there are a lot of cool things to experience. We also watched one of the workers feed a large alligator that was said to weigh over 1000 pounds and measured 13 feet long. He was pretty close to the giant creature and I thought there is no way that I would want that job!
Besides alligators the exhibit also includes snakes, armadillos, wolves, turtles, panthers, leopards, and more. Make sure that you check out the Swamp yard. This is where you are able to interact with animals like pot bellied pigs, ducks, bunnies, Iguanas, and peacocks. I absolutely loved feeding Lefty the pig; he was very sweet and gentle.
At the gift shop they have cute little trinkets, postcards, drinks and snacks, and shirts that you can buy for a reasonable price. I bought a few souvenirs for my niece and nephew.
Overall I would highly recommend this tour for people of all ages. There were kids as young as 3 years old on the tour we were on. It is fun, safe and educational. It is well worth $20. After the 30 minute airboat tour, you can spend about 45 minutes to an hour in the exhibit. So it is a fun hour and a half for the whole family. If you are in the area of Fort Lauderdale, make sure you stop by Sawgrass Recreation Park to have an awesome Everglades experience.