What do you do when you only have 24 hours to see a place you have longed dreamed of? This is the quandary we found ourselves in recently after attending TBEX in Fort Lauderdale, FL. We really did not want to leave the Ft. Lauderdale area once again without seeing the Everglades, but knew we had to find a way to do so in 24 hours. After doing some research, we decided to book a tour through Viator with a company that offers small group day tours with hotel pickup.
The tour operator we took the tour with is called Eco-Adventures and the official tour name is “Everglades Day Tour”. The tour covers a wide area of the Everglades along Hwy 41 and allows one to see a variety of ecosystems quickly. Our guide, Alex, picked us up from our hotel in downtown Ft. Lauderdale in a 13 passenger van. There were several last minute cancellations, so there were only two others on the tour with us which worked out great. As a guide, Alex, was much more than your average tour guide. He is a wildlife naturalist and kept us engaged during our hour drive to our first stop in Davie, FL by describing the significant landscape changes, the Indian tribes that live in the area, the native and invasive plants and the animals that we are most likely to see.
Our first stop of the day was at Pond Apple Swamp to take an airboat ride through the Sawgrass Prairie. This was an entertaining and educational 40 minute ride in the Pond Apple Swamp where we saw alligators, birds, turtles, flowers and vegetation. The boat went slow enough to allow discussion about the animals and to allow people to take photos. We also learned what looked like intentional defined paths across the prairie, are actually formed by repeated use of airboats in the same areas.
At the conclusion of the boat ride, our tour mates told Alex, our guide, they wished to see more alligators. He was more than happy to accommodate their request by driving us to a boardwalk area where he had recently seen a few hanging out. We viewed wildlife and relaxed there for 15 minutes before continuing on along Hwy 41 to our next official stop at Kirby Skorter Roadside Park.
The Kirby Skorter Roadside Park, named after one of the area’s pioneering families, is a great place to see Cypress trees and offers many possibilities for wildlife sightings. Most importantly, it allows people to stay dry while doing so. Our guide told us the best time to do this is in October – March. We took a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk, which is a 1 mile round trip, while Alex described everything that we were looking at to us. This was a fun activity appropriate for all ages and activity levels.
Following our walk, we were taken to the Oyster House Restaurant in Everglades, FL for lunch. We were all really hungry at this point in the day and were ready to eat. Thankfully Alex had called in our order earlier in the day, so we did not have to wait long for our food and drinks to arrive. The cost of lunch was included in the tour price, so that meant the food selection was somewhat limited, but good. As part of our lunch, we were given fried alligator bites to try as an appetizer.
After lunch we got ready for our last activity of the day. We went on a 90 minute boat ride to Ten Thousand Islands cruise with the Everglades National Park Boat Tours. On this boat ride, we explored the saltwater gulf and the Mangrove forests. Our boat captain did a great job of spotting wildlife, slowing down for us to get a good glimpse and mentioned that we were a super lucky group because we saw a plethora of wildlife. We saw several dolphins playing, a bald eagle, a few manatees, flamingos and various other birds. When the ride was over, our group did not want it to end because we all had such a great time. However, it was time for us to head back to Ft. Lauderdale so we could go to dinner and our guide could watch his football game!
We had an amazing day in the everglades and cannot wait until our next trip there. Have you been? If so, what did you see that we didn’t?