Travel to the Everglades with a Small Dog and Taking an Airboat Tour Just Like on CSI Miami!
Travel to the Everglades with a small dog and taking an Airboat Tour sounded like a great idea! If you’ve never been to Florida, and you have never seen these particular everglades (and if you are/were a CSI Miami fan like” mom” was before they gave up cable…) then there is one thing you really want to do; an Airboat Everglades Tour. The Bipeds were faced with two problems. The first was how to sort out the tourist traps from the real thing. The second was finding one that would allow me to come on board. Funny enough, the two were equally difficult to resolve.
There are a lot of Everglade Airboat Tours along the road between Miami and Naples. In fact, the roadside is littered with them. Most will cram a dozen people onto an airboat, whip you about as fast as they can for an hour, not giving you nearly enough time to see anything other than the alligators that wait for the guides and get lured right up to the boat edge with food for a photo op. Not exactly “real wildlife” scenarios. This was not the experience the bipeds wanted.
They found a few of the real McCoy’s. But many an e-mail responses came back with “sorry we do not allow pets onboard for safety reasons”. Now granted we all understood those reasons. There are after all alligators involved and a very very loud fan at the back of the boat not to mention other passengers to contend with.
Then … a pleasant surprise from Airboat USA. “Absolutely not a problem, your little ‘gator bait is most welcome. Just please ensure you keep him away from the edge and leashed at all times and either in your arms, on your lap, seated between you or in a dog carrier bag”. This was looking good!
Now the price is not something to sneeze at. But the bonuses are great:
- You are the only ones on the air boat (no other annoying tourists to cater to on YOUR experience)
- The guide will take you to all sorts of “off the path” places and give you all the fun stories
- Dog allowed
- Your guide is a local that has been driving air boats since he was 13
- Aboriginal background made for some amazing story telling by our guide
The exchange that my bipeds had with Air Boat USA as the details got ironed out, had them laughing at the rough humour. I was less often amused with the many references to ‘gators and my being an “amuse bouche” size. But all was forgiven on the day of the tour.
As agreed we all met at the pit stop/gas station a few miles away from the launching area. Our launch spot was not some big touristy place with a dock, and cheesy souvenir store and cattle herding approach to tourism. This was quiet and respectful. We got to the air boat, the manager took the prerequisite photo of us with the boat and our guide with our camera … and off we went. The manager stayed on land to keep an eye on our vehicle since we had been worried because it had our entire luggage etc. – how nice is that?
The Tour: At first I was alarmed by the noise. But I quickly got very excited about the smells coming off the water. These everglades do not stink! Our guide explained that this particular everglade doesn’t smell because the water is moving through like a river and the ocean of grass is like a filter. We saw so many amazing birds – my bipeds pointing all the time. The engine would cut – and our guide would tell us what bird it was, and some trivia about it. We were told that at times there is even deer, boar and bear. Sure enough, we saw a black boar at the waters edge on the way to Key Largos (via Miami) that evening!
We stopped at some hunting lodge cabins. Now often used by the Boy Scouts as part of their “wilderness experience”. One of the lodges was where Roosevelt liked to go. We walked through the place that is now falling apart. Our guide said that they are doing all they can to try and preserve it until it is finally recognised as a historical site. I hope that is soon. The wildlife on the little island was abundant! And I met a distant cousin of Jiminy cricket while I was there and had a blast chasing after him after our guide put him back on the ground! But the bipeds had me on a tight leash to keep me safe and away from the waters edge. We saw an amazing avocado tree. Who knew?
I really liked the Purple Gallinules best. These particular birds are stunning. The guide would call out: “Where are my birds?” … “Where are my lovelies?” … and then …. Like magic … there they were running on the lily pad leaves. Amazing beauty and colours; I was fascinated, especially when one jumped into the boat to eat a cracker. It was nice to see more than just ‘gators up close and personal.
The guide took us to where he had taken “Horatio Caine” (David Caruso) for that opening shot for the CSI Miami intro; turns out that the actor is a real “ass” and wouldn’t do it. It’s a stand in. “Detective Frank Tripp” (Rex Linn) on the other hand was “real nice and down to earth – we had a lot of fun and shared a few beers”. Sounds like our kind of man! So – when we got to “the spot” he cut the engine and stopped the airboat. We had a moment of pure silence – spotting an Everglade Iris he let the boat drift to it then made sure we didn’t crush it; I got to get a nice close look. In the quiet majesty of it all, we listened to the sound of the wind in the grass. It smelled like fresh hay, it was absolute wonder. My nose was in heaven! Then our guide said “Hol’ on to the little man!” and FULL BLAST screaming the WHO song used for the CSI Miami soundtrack – we flew down the very same strip!
In review: Travel to the Everglades with a small dog and taking an Airboat Tour although pricey, an absolutely amazing adventure. Well worth the car ride out. Bring your camera – you’ll take more photos than you can possibly imagine. If you have a telephoto lens … bring it! Mom regrets not having had hers – the birds alone are worth it but often too far for the average built in zoom to get the “money shot”.