Finally sat down and wrote the last day from our cruise last month. Well, knowing we had an afternoon flight and didn’t want to spend most of the day sitting in the Ft. Lauderdale airport, we took advantage and booked one of the debark tours to the Everglades. However, once we knew we were going to be at least two hours late arriving back in Florida, we began thinking they would cancel our tour and we would just take the transfer to the airport. This was an incorrect assumption.
We spoke with the Excursions desk and they said the tour would continue, just two hours behind schedule, still getting us to the airport two hours prior to our flight. I emphasize our flight as it is important for each person to confirm that delays will not interfere with allowing enough time for airport check in, security etc.
Due to the later tour time, the driver rushed us to the Everglades National Park. The bus was comfortable, and had “facilities”. Another passenger learned from the guide that typically cruise debark excursions occur at the Everglades before it opens to the public. But because we were running late, it was already open to the public, hence the long lines.
I will say that the “public” were very understanding and polite. I’m not sure what they were told as they stood there waiting in lines, watching us parade right past them, but I didn’t hear a single unkind word.
Back to the tour. When we arrived, we had a few moments to (attempt) to go into the little gift shop or use the facilities while our guide got our tickets and positions set for us to skip the line to board the air boats. When they were ready for us, it was made as an announcement over the loud speaker to go down the pier towards the boat. They then filled up each boat one by one until we were all onboard. Each boat left the dock once it was full.
We did learn, once onboard the air boat, that our boat ride was going to be reduced from the typical 60 minute tour, down to a 30 minute tour. This was the only way we were going to be able to experience both pieces of the park.
When you head out on the boat, they turn down a canal, pause, then they rev it up and “go fast” down the canal. The driver will give a little history of the Everglades, talk about the wildlife that can be seen etc. The boat ride goes down one canal, turns and goes down another canal and so on. You will see other boats along the way.
If you get lucky, you’ll see a gator. Our guide (from the bus) told us about a group that came all the way from Thailand to the Everglades and they didn’t see a single gator. We saw one, so I guess we were lucky to at least see the one. It was actually very cooperative and just swam back and forth. When our driver spotted it, another boat was already stopped, looking and taking pictures. We were able to pull up and our driver turned the boat side to side so everyone could see. Unfortunately we couldn’t watch it for too long as there was another boat coming up behind us so we had to move along.
The driver continually looked for different birds, gators, or iguanas to show us. Then it was another fast drive down a canal and back to the dock.
From there, we were led over to a fenced area. There is a man, a gator catcher – which means, if you live in Florida and have a gator in your pool, he’s one of the guys you can call to come remove it – he has some that were not able to be returned to the wild so he keeps them here and he gives you a lot of information about them.
Once this demo was done, it was time to get back on the bus and head to the airport. Overall, even though it was a shorter boat ride than it should have been, and more crowded than we might have normally expected, it was an interesting experience and we were glad to not have to spend that time sitting in an airport terminal!