This post was most recently updated on July 9th, 2019
Have you ever seen a movie set in the Everglades with an airboat speeding through the alligator-infested marshes? Exciting, huh? Well that’s what I imagined when I showed up for an airboat ride at Boggy Creek.
What to expect on an airboat ride
My husband and I were in Orlando visiting family, and we had time to do a little exploring. The airboart ride appealed to me because it was a chance to see Florida’s nature close up and personal…at high speed! And we didn’t have to go as far as the Everglades in southern Florida, because the headwaters of the Everglades actually start near Orlando. At Boggy Creek at East Lake Tohopekaliga (23 miles from International Drive in Orlando), we found Boggy Creek Airboat Rides on Big Bass Road. There’s a store and restaurant there, as well as a small campground/resort. (This is technically in Kissimmee, a bedroom community of Orlando.)
Boggy Creek has a few airboat tours to choose from, and we chose the 30-minute scenic nature tour. Chris was our tour guide/captain and as we headed out of the little marina, he gave us an idea of what we might see: wetlands, cypress trees, various birds, turtles, and maybe a lurking alligator. He also warned us to secure our belongings. We didn’t want hats, scarves, or sunglasses to go flying off! We were given headphones for noise protection. The engine of the airboat is quite noisy, and these are absolutely necessary. Fortunately, Chris stopped often to tell us what was around us, and then we could take off the headphones and listen.
What you might see
Chris knew exactly where to take us. The first thing we saw was a limpkin perched in the upper branches of a tree. Apparently, they’re rare, but they like this area. They’re called limpkins because they look like they’re limping when they walk. We learned they really like to eat something called an apple snail. They have evolved especially long bills as an adaptation to feeding on snails. Limpkins are also called ‘crying birds’ because of their loud wail with a rattling quality. Interesting note: the limpkin’s cry is used for the hippogriff in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
After showing off the abilities of the airboat (speeding, turning sharply, and spraying water everywhere!), Chris took us to one inlet after another, in search of an elusive gator. But nothing. Well, not nothing. We saw LOTS of other birds–
The lake and marshland was beautiful, too — in the heat of a Florida day, this is the best way to explore. When the boat was speeding along with tall grasses on either side, it was very comfortable.
Finally, Chris pulled into an inlet with very shallow water and some muddy banks. “Look!” someone called out. Sure enough, Chris had found an alligator for us!
This was a young alligator, less than three feet long. It seemed content to just sit there and be the star while we all took photos, and then it turned and slithered away and hid in the foliage.
An alligator grows roughly a foot every year, so this alligator was less than three years old. The average alligator grows to be thirteen feet long!
Just in case you don’t get to see an alligator in its natural habitat, Boggy Creek Airboat Rides has a little “meet and greet” with a juvenile alligator after the tour.
At one point on the tour, Chris stopped the boat for a photo op. Many took group photos or selfies, and Chris took our photo for us:
We asked Chris if he had any exciting stories to share with us. He told us about the one time an airboat got grounded. It happened when someone’s baseball cap flew off their head and hit the kill switch on the engine, just as the airboat was turning. It drifted into a shallow area and got stuck. This is not a place you want to get out and wade around to push a boat! So, of course, they got help and everything ended well.
We really enjoyed our scenic nature tour on an airboat. It was a fun way to see and learn about Florida’s natural surroundings and animal life. I would recommend this tour for families, couples, or singles traveling in the Orlando area. I think it will be a highlight of your trip, as it was mine.
- Use sunscreen and stow away all loose items: scarves, caps, etc.
- Wear comfortable shoes/clothing — there’s no need to dress up for this!
- The best seat is in the front row.
- I was a little worried about bringing a camera on board a boat. While you do feel a little bit of water spray if you are close to the edge of the boat, my camera never got wet.
- Make reservations if you want to be sure there’ll be room for you on a specific tour. There are sunset and nighttime tours as well. Those sell out quickly.
- Our tour was supposed to be 30 minutes long but actually was 40 minutes. You will definitely get your money’s worth! ($28 adults, $22 kids 3-10, 2 and under free)
- At the dock, you can buy fish food for 50 cents and throw it to the blue gill right there. I think young children would love seeing the water thrashing with fish trying to get the food!
- For $5.00, you can get your photo taken holding the juvenile alligator after the tour.
- There are fun souvenirs and all things alligator in the RV resort store across from the Marina. Restrooms, too! This is also where you park free for the airboat rides.
Thank you so much, Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, for hosting my nature tour airboat ride!