Checked one off the bucket list this weekend. We took airboat tour around one of the nearby lakes. A quick Goole search shows the clear winner around here in the airboat tour business is a small company called Airboat Wildlife Adventures. They don’t have much of a website, and the pick up and drop off spot is in a seedy looking RV park/bar/fishing dock, but as the many, many positive online reviews stated, regardless of what it looks like when you first pull up, this is one excellent tour.
Much of the credit goes to the owner/operator, Captain John. He may be a little rough around the edges, but he sure knows how to give a great airboat tour.
We started the tour on Arbuckle Creek. As the boat picked up speed we whizzed past colorful trees dripping with Spanish moss.
FYI – did you know that so called “Spanish Moss” is not actually a moss at all? Instead it’s a type of flowering plant that belongs to the Bromeliad family (which means it’s related to the Pineapple). It has no roots, tiny little flowers that you can barely see, and can grow 20 feet long. Crazy right?
Out onto Lake Istokpoga we went, gliding smoothly over a marshy area clogged with water plants. Captain John informed us the entire lake (all 27,000 acres) only has an average depth of four feet, making it a popular lake for fishing…and not much else.
Unlike a regular boat with a motor that dangles into the water, an airboat, with its onboard fan, can easily skim over water thick with plants. And can even glide over small areas of land, as Captain John demonstrated during what he called the “spring break” portion of the tour.
We circled around the edge of the lake, scanning the shore for alligators. There was one big guy lounging in the weeds, but he quickly slithered into the water as soon as he heard us coming. I suppose that’s the downside to an airboat. It’s really, really loud. So loud that we were given ear protection to muffle the sound. As disturbing as the noise is to us humans, it’s even more disturbing to animals. Which means the chances of sneaking up on an alligator for a good picture is slim to none.
The lake was gorgeous, but given that is was a weekend and lots of boats were out fishing, the alligators were pretty scarce.
So back to the creek we went. Past the mossy (or I guess not so mossy) trees, and around a series of gentle turns.
Finally we spotted some wildlife. Oh, wait…those are cows. Funny cows who stared at us as we zipped by.
We had a few more fleeting alligator sightings, but it wasn’t until we spotted this mama gator on the bank that I was able to get a good picture.
We knew she was a mama because her babies were hanging out right next to her. Look at those cute little tiny gators!
The hour and half flew by and soon it was time to head back. Captain John seemed disappointed that he was only able to show us five gators (more if you count the babies), but we were more than pleased with our tour. In addition to the alligators we saw several turtles, along with lots of birds that I was not nearly quick enough to photograph.
More than anything we were just happy for a chance to get out on the water while enjoying some gorgeous Florida sunshine. Thanks for the ride Captain John!