How can you visit Orlando and not do something with alligators. You can see them in a theme park environment, on a golf course resting next to your golf ball (a two stroke penalty if you scream and run away), in one of the local lakes or wetland areas, at a theme park dedicated to gators, or on an alligator spotting tour. Since I had already lost several golf balls in the lake and I swore a saw a couple eyeballs just waiting for me to try and retrieve it, we opted to spot gators in their natural environment and signed up with Boggy Creek Airboat Rides in Kissimmee. From our perspective, an Orlando airboat ride is the best way to view the alligators and other wildlife in their natural environment.
Boggy Creek offers:
Airboats are propelled by giant fans (the propeller is the same shape and size of an airplanes propeller) mounted on the back of the boat. The bottom of the boat is flat, allowing it to easily careen through swamps and tall grasses with remarkable agility. We were on the 18 passenger airboat that was powered by a huge 502 big block Chevy engine and could push the boat thru 12 inches of water up to 50 miles an hour. The driver sits high on a platform to improve his visibility and to permit spotting floating obstacles and wildlife.
After doning our headsets to drown out the engine noise we headed down a natural canal and into Lake Tohopekaliga and the surrounding swamp areas. It was amazing how maneuverable these boats are and how easily Chad, our guide and driver, could spin donuts and do fishtails, dash through the bottle brush in swamp, and slip and slide and twist and turn through the shallow water..
Within five minutes after getting on the water we were flying by a variety of birds - egrets, herons, ducks, coots, and buzzards. One bird allowed us to get within 5 feet of where she was nesting and keeping her baby eggs warm. Not many birds can flap those wings fast enough to fly 45 miles an hour and there were a couple times when I was sure that we were going to face to tail collision with some of the birds as they tried to scatter out of our path or try to out fly us. Chad was able slow down, speed up, or twist out of the way making it look easy to avoid the collision - or were the birds on the payroll and paid to entertain us with their flights of fancy - remember, we were at the Disney and make believe capital of the world.
As we were slowly cruising by a small wetlands island, Ted, our guide's 11 year old son, who was perched in the co-pilots seat, yelled "there's one" and the boat stopped so all of us google eyed tourists could see if we could spot the 8' alligator next to the boat! Talk about natural camouflage jobs, these guys are good. But as each of us finally found it, you would hear a "wow." And for the next 25 minutes as we slowly cruised around this island Ted pointed out a litter of baby 12" alligators , three gators swimming away from the boat, a slew of turtles, a couple snakes, and more. Each time we saw one, Chad or Ted would give us some interesting gator, everglades, or other wildlife information - which made the trip very interesting and informative.
All too soon we were gliding through the water on our way back to the ramp. This was a fun and unique trip that everyone on our boat, including us, really enjoyed - this is the real deal, nothing pretend or mechanical or plastic. If you are planning to book a trip with them, check the Boggy Creek website for some specials to save you some money.
This airboat adventure with Boggy Creek Airboats was part of a fun filled 7 days in Orlando where we played golf on nine different courses, went sky diving, drove an Indy race car, flew a WWII fighter trainer, swam with the manatees, saw gators on an airboat ride, and more. Click on this link to read our Vacation in Orlando article to learn more about this fantastic trip.