Part of the Florida For Grown Ups Guide.
If one of the things you want to do on your Florida holiday is go gator-spotting, (and why wouldn’t it be?), taking an airboat ride is the way to do it in style.
There are lots of companies (and independents) that offer 30 minute, 1 hour and twilight rides – and over the years, we have probably tried almost all within the Orlando area.
Prices vary, but you’re generally looking at $28 for 30 minutes and $48 for an hour. Twilight cruises and private tours won’t come cheap.
Undoubtedly, the very best time of day to go on an airboat is first thing in the morning – so get yourself booked on the first boat (you can do this online as well as on site). The temperatures are cooler in the morning so the alligators are more likely to come to the surface. Seeing one is never guaranteed – in fact, you’re probably more likely to spot cows, birds of prey and waterlilies – however, we have always been quite lucky by going in the morning.
Looking at the list of favourites above, each has its own unique draw. For example, Boggy Creek will offer avid historians the opportunity to meet a Native American Indian, Wild Willies will let you hold a baby gator and take your photo doing so – and if you want to learn more about alligator behaviour from someone who keeps around ten at her own house (no lie), then Captain Fred’s is the place to go. This is an independent tour, hence the more in-depth visitor experience – oh and you can handle much bigger gators here too!
Whizzing across the swamps in an airboat is the best fun! But what if you pay all that money and it doesn’t deliver the goods? As I say, gator-spotting is not guaranteed.
You can of course guarantee to see these huge lizards in huge numbers at dedicated parks. Gatorland, for example, is a long-standing, family-run park just outside of Orlando. That said, the question of whether keeping hundreds of gators in one place is ethical, is debatable. Best avoid.
If you want to spot an alligator naturally, without paying the airboat fee, you may just be in luck! There is an estimated 1 alligator per 15 people across the state of Florida! There’s also 6.7 million acres of habitable areas for them!
Gators like fresh water lakes and slow moving rivers so in reality, they can pop up anywhere. They have also been known to like sidewalks and swimming pools – not that I can vouch for that – thankfully. But there is one place that I can almost guarantee you will see one in their natural habitat (I’m talking 8 times out of 10) – and that’s at Celebration. They love the lakes there and live happily amongst the residents. Only in America, eh!
Have fun – and don’t forget, be careful! You don’t mess with something that has that many teeth and a whiplash tail!