Florida, Itineraries, North America
My experiences with Everglades airboat tours in Florida – not what I’d envisioned
Everyone knows that Everglades airboat tours are the best way to explore the Everglades in Florida. But which companies offer the best tours? Read my experiences with Everglades airboat tours right here, including great tips what else you can do in the Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park
The United States are known for their beautiful national parks. Everglades National Park is one of the largest nature reserves in the county. But there are many more.
Best time to explore these National parks is spring and autumn. If you would like to explore more parks then, check out these beautiful National Parks to visit in March.
Everglades National Park is located in the state of Florida and is approximately 1 hour’s drive from Miami. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unique ecosystem consisting of mangroves and swamps and is best known for its alligators and airboats.
Airboats are small open-air boats with a flat bottom and are propelled by a kind of large propeller. They are perfect for sailing in shallow waters such as swamps. This is the ideal means of transportation to explore the area around the Everglades National Park and to spot wildlife. There are no airboat tours within the Everglades National Park. You can find these outside the borders of the official national park.
One of the experiences of my first Florida trip that I remembered the most is an Everglades airboat tour. I can still vividly remember how great an activity I found this. Full enthusiasm, I convinced Jan to come along and experience the Everglades together for the first time.
Everglades airboat tours
Book an Everglades airboat tour
We left Miami early in the morning and hadn’t made plans yet where to book an Everglades airboat tour. From downtown Miami where we stayed it was about an hour drive to the Everglades National Park. From experience I knew that we could just drive towards the park and that we could find various airboat tours companies on the way there.
A few years ago I did an Everglades airboat tour with Buffalo Tigers Everglades Airboat tours. And I enjoyed it very much. I still remember that these tours mainly went through the swamp and grassy environments. I was able to spot a lot of wildlife and I had an enthusiastic and helpful guide who was very happy to share his knowledge with the visitors.
Of course I wanted a different experience and Jan wanted an airboat tour through the mangrove. After a short google session on the internet, we found an airboat company that offered mangrove tours.
Jungle Erv’s airboats
Arriving at Jungle Erv’s airboats I was a bit disappointed. This company is located in the centre of Everglades City. There are various airboat tours companies next to each other. I thought it didn’t look very authentic and especially very touristy. But since Jan was super enthusiastic because of the trip was through the mangrove, I decided to give it a chance.
We paid 42 USD per person for an 1 hour airboat tour through mangrove. We also had access to the boardwalk and the alligator show.
Through the Mangroves
Together with a Swedish family and our fairly silent guide, we boarded the airboat. From the moment we turned into the mangroves we were amazed by this unique maze of lush, overgrown waterways. Our guide turned a gear up and we bursted through the narrow, winding mangroves. A real adrenaline rush!
On the trip we could spot little wildlife. We saw 1 alligator and a raccoon. The guide tried to lure the raccoon closer with vitamin water. I personally thought this was not ok.
Besides being a good airboat captain, I can hardly tell anything more about our guide. He mainly drove the boat and didn’t give much explanation.
You should definitely not book this trip to spot wildlife, but it is highly recommended if you want to speed through the mangroves.
Boardwalk and Alligator show
After that, we made a pleasant walk along the boardwalk of Jungle Erv’s airboats through the beautiful nature and along the water.
Once we arrived at the alligator show I found it hard to hide my aversion. Various alligators were held here and exhibited to visitors. The keeper explained that these were alligators who wouldn’t survive in the wild and were very happy here. But when they were taken out one by one, got a band tied around the mouth and were touched by the visitors, I didn’t think they looked really happy. I refused to touch an alligator and I absolutely didn’t want to take any pictures of it.
If you really want to spot alligators in the Everglades, then look for an airboat tour that focuses primarily on spotting wildlife and not so much on spectacle.
What else can you do in Everglades National Park?
Of course you can do much more activities in the Everglades National Park than just airboat tours.
There are various entrances to Everglades National park: Flamingo, Shark valley, Gulf coast visitor center and Chekika. There is an entrance fee.
At the main entrance and Flamingo you pass the Ernest F. Coe visitor center and the Flamingo visitor Center where you can find more information about the Everglades National Park, but also buy mosquito repellent for example. A little further away is the Royal Palm visitor centre from which the most beautiful hiking trails Anhinga Trail and Gumbo Limbo Trail depart.
From the Shark valley visitor centre you can take a shark valley tram tour through the swamp to the observation tower where you have a beautiful view over the Everglades National Park. You can also rent a bike there and ride this road by bike.
The Gulf coast area consists mainly of mangroves. Here you can rent canoes and kayaks to explore the densely grown mangroves in an adventurous way.
Chekika is primarily a known place to spot beautiful birds.
Where to eat near Everglades National Park?
Looking for a place to have lunch, we came across Joanie’s blue crab café. This is with one of the most exceptional places we have eaten on our road trip through the Deep South. It is also a place that we would definitely recommend to anyone. Here you can actually soak in that typical local atmosphere
It’s absolutely not a star restaurant, but you must go there for the experience. For dessert I would advice the Key Lime Pie, a typical regional dish with a refreshing Lime flavor.
Where to spend the night near Everglades National Park?
If you can’t get enough of the Everglades National Park and you want to spend several days. Then take a look at these unique accommodations.
Port of the Islands Everglades Adventure Resort
River Wilderness Waterfront Villas
Everglades City, Coastal Get-Away
Even though this airboat tour was a bit disappointing for me. Nevertheless, I recommend that you definitely do one during your stay in the Everglades. But plan your trip in advance and search for a good Airboat tour organization that will take you to see and experience the beautiful fauna and flora of the Everglades.
Are you traveling to Florida in the United States soon? Then don’t forget to read following blog posts:
- The highlights of Miami in 1 day
- The perfect family trip to Ginnie Springs
- Experience the Deep South in B&B The Herlong Mansion
- The 5 best beaches around Sanibel Island
Did you ever take an Everglades airboat tour, let me know in the comments.
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56 thoughts on “My experiences with Everglades airboat tours in Florida – not what I’d envisioned”
I’ve worked at two different environmental recreation organizations, one being amazing and the other being hell and similar to this. Their practices and ethics are inappropriate. Clearly, a profit driven organization rather than love of the environment. Good article though!
Thank you. I feel so bad not being able to offer a good alternative. But I was only there for one day. The least I could do was inform others about what I experienced and how I felt about it.
I wasn’t aware of this National Park. It seems a really interesting place. Although, I would Laos feel very bad for the alligators as well. I don’t like when any animal is captivated.
The Everglades National Park is amazing, but indeed you have to be careful where to book an airboat tour.
I’ve visited the Everglades with Buffalo Tigers too! This post reminded me so much nice meme of! The Everglades are a special place!
Oh, really I think I it’s already 7 years ago that I did the tour with Buffalo tigers. Are they still that good as I remember?
The tour I did this summer wasn’t as pleasant.
I’ve always wanted to one of these air boat tours. Very cool! The mangroves look similar to the New Orleans bayou.
Yes, but look carefully to find an ethical one. And the mangrove does look a bit like the New Oreans Bayou. But I found the swamps in Louisana more impressive than this short trip throught the mangroves.
The Everglades are definitely on my bucket list. I’m sorry you didn’t have a better experience, but I appreciate you sharing this important info! 🙂
The Everglades is such a stunning place and I definitely recommend visiting it and do al the activities to discover the gorgeous fauna and flora. But indeed some airboat companies are not the most ethical ones. So be careful picking one 😉
I’ve been to Florida so many times but never done an Everglades tour, definitely making sure I do this next time I’m back!
Yes, and I hope you find a good one that shows you around the beauty of the fauna and flora.
We did one of these many years ago before we had kids, not my thing either but, great article!
Thank you. yes I think you have to find the right company that really is invested in the ecosystem of the Everglades.
This would be such a cool thing to experience. It’s what I’ve always seen on movies and would love to try it myself. I have no doubt I’ll get to Florida one day and really get to experience this and the rest the state has to offer
I love traveling to the States and Florida really is one of my favorite parts. I hope you’ll get to do this some day.
Oh, the boardwalk seems inviting. Thanks for this article!
Yes, that was really fun to make a little walk through the mangroves.
Thanks for sharing your experience! We really loved the Everglades, that’s where we fell in love 🙂
Oh really, didn’t know that! A magical place to fall in love!
I’ve always wanted to do an airboat tour of the Everglades! The Buffalo Tigers Everglades Airboat tour looks really great and I’d love to give them a try!
I hope you can and that one was the best airboat tour I ever did. 🙂
My husband has always wanted to go on an airboat tour through the everglades. Are there any companies that will allow you to do some fishing while out on the water? This would be a dream come true for him. I will have to share this article with him, and see if he finally wants to make the trip.
Thank you for your comment. I wouldn’t know if you can fish on those tours because they go pretty quick. I saw some fishermen along the road. ButI really don’t know if that’s a save thing to do because of all the aligators. Maybe you should contact the tour and ask them if they organise tours especially for fishing? I am so sorry that I can’t help you with this question. But I’m sure if your reach out to some companies they will be able to help you further.
nola-bowfishing I run a bowfishing charter in New Orleans and we use airboats and mud boats. Bit i would love to visit the everglades it looks beautiful. there is something peaceful being out in the water with all the wildlife. http://www.nola-bowfishing.com
Wish we knew that sooner. We were in New Oreleans too. We had so much fun there.
I never fished in my life, so I would like to try it some day.
Only ever seen the everglades on TV..I may be slightly terrified of being eaten by a croc or something but it sure seems cool haha!
Haha, it’s pretty safe though. 🙂
Even though I’ve been to Florida a lot, I’ve never spent time on the Everglades. Now I can see that was a mistake! It looks amazing and so much fun! I hope to be back in southern Florida soon…and will go this time!
It’s great but be careful where you book an airboat tour 😉
This looks like an awesome experience. Good advice on how to see alligators, I agree it’s better to see them in the wild.
It’s an awesome experience but indeed be careful where you book a tour.
I love your honesty! If there is one thing I hope this pandemic will teach people is to be kind to nature and to stop the spectacle of using helpless animals for entertainment. I hope to visit family in Florida next year and will use your tips!
Oh yes, I hope that as well. Thank you for your comment 🙂
I think I did this when I was very young. I have very faint memories of the place, great fun as a child.
It’s indeed so much fun, but you have to be careful where to book a tour. They aren’t all that great.
Oh no! Reading this has made me so uncomfortable and I feel so sorry for those poor alligators. Thank you for writing this honest post and raising awareness about it. Thanks to you, I know what not to book now.
Yes, I’m sad I can’t give good advice on where to book the perfect tour. I can only share my experiences which weren’t that great on this tour.
I lived in Florida for years and never saw a single alligator ? that’s a huge bummer that this experience wasn’t quite what you expected. Still something I’d love to do someday, maybe just with a different company. Thanks for sharing!
Haha, yes please do try another company and let me know how it was. Would love to know some good companies 🙂
I’ve done this experience before too and also found it really sad how the alligators were treated! 🙁 Thanks for sharing these thoughts, more people should know before they go!
Yes, it’s really sad that you don’t know it before you enter. Otherwise I wouldn’t have booked this trip. I hope more people start sharing their experiences so everyone knows what happens in some of these companies.
I’ve never been to the Everglades! Bummer that it wasn’t the experience you were hoping for, but glad you shared this so that I know what to be on the lookout for when choosing a tour company down there.
Thank you Olivia. If you ever go and find a good company, please do let me know.
Loved this post. I have been to Miami thrice but never had a chance to visit Everglades.. would love to experience it!
I hope you do and I hope you find a great company to take you an airboat tour.
I’ve always wanted to visit the Everglades! Pinned this so I can look back when I plan my trip! 🙂
Thank you Maddie! Hope you get to go!
That boardwalk looked beautiful! When I did an airboat tour, we only saw a few in the Everglades. When we went to New Orleans, we saw a lot!
Thank you Laurel. We also saw way more on our swamp tour in New Orleans.
It is really cool that you got to see an alligator (and that cute raccoon) in the wild…but I have to admit, the alligator show sounds pretty awful. 🙁
At least Key Lime Pie made it better. 😀
Hi Josy, indeed lucky for that Key Lime pie 🙂
This is what I most want to do in Florida!!! But thank you for the heads up on the amount of wildlife to actually expect on this tour!
Yes, it was kind of sad. But maybe it depends from the season and the weather as well 🙂
You have to hit Down South Airboat tours!! It is by far the best ride in the glades. It is the only ride that takes you north of Everglades city and there is lots of sights and wildlife from birds to alligators. Worth every penny!!!
Thanks for the tip Jason. Will try that one next time I’m in Florida. For now still stuck in Belgium 😉