What are the Everglades you ask? They are one of Florida’s many unique features; 1.5 million acres of picturesque wetlands which are home to many endangered species.
Whats is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Florida Everglades? For me, it is GATORS, lots of GATORS!!! Yes, that is one piece, but definitely one piece we wanted to witness and be a “part of”.
We accomplished our wants and desires by shacking up at one of Billy Swamp Safari’s chickees; a traditional, native-style, thatched-roof-dwelling in their Everglades Village. How cool was it, UHM,…. VERY FREAKING COOL! Well, not technically cool, because it is very rustic “camping”, and thus there is no electricity (no A/C) and no running water in your quarters [there are excellent facilities a few steps away however].
So the chickees are built right on the wetlands and some have a deck facing these grass marshes and mangrove forests… where you can spot gator and wildlife alike. I will say, may not be for the faint of heart… there were some [animal] noises in the middle of the night, which I did not care to explore any further. In retrospect, I should have sat outside and taken in the vast prairies and lightning-bright stars I see peeking through the curtains.
PERSONAL ADVICE: Experience this during the cooler Florida months; November thru early March
Another super fun experience at Billy Swamp Safari was the airboat ride.. to think, we have lived in Florida for almost 30 years and we have never done this – highly recommend. I think our guide (Andrew) may have made it a tad bit better 😉 (btw, he has his own non-profit animal sanctuary: www.mountainhighanimalsanctuary.org, we still have to visit that).
The whole ride was a little over 30 minutes with a stop halfway to view basking gators in their natural habitat. Expect to get splashed (or soaked} with a little whip of the airboat (it’s fun). We “hovered” over marshes, slowly waked through pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks winding through a plethora of animal habitats.
And of course, I HAD to have a SELFIE moment in the captain’s seat 🙂
But the fun did not stop there… Billy’s grounds are METICULOUS (and I do NOT throw that word around lightly). They have animal encounters, animal shows, a petting zoo, animal enclosures, a delish restaurant (with local delicacies) and even an alligator feeding opportunity. The petting zoo feeding bags are $3 and the alligator feeding bags are $5 (may change pricing tho)…
It took us about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Venice, Fl.. a great day trip, and worth to go again (even if we don’t sleep mover). Basically as close from Sarasota and a hop skip away from Ft. Myers, Naples and the Miami area. Go check it out and leave a message here on your experience.. or if you have been already.
And… buy a GROUPON to go visit TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!