Everglades Tour Experience

Approximately 35 miles from downtown Miami lie the fascinating Everglades, a slow-moving “River of Grass,” that flows for over 100 miles southwest from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay and into the Gulf of Mexico. Formed by the runoff from heavy rainfall, the Everglades are the largest remaining subtropical wetland in North America. The region of varied ecology covers over 5,000 square miles across a flat limestone basin, where the water is seldom more than three feet deep. In some areas, the dense, almost impenetrable sawgrass rises to a height of 10 feet, well above the swamps that are alive with fish, reptiles, birds, and numerous other varieties of wildlife. Lush with tropical vegetation and wildflowers, the mangrove forest is the natural habitat of the American crocodile, as well as a breeding place for various fish such as the sea trout, snapper, and spiny lobster. Interspersed among the cypress, palm, and pines, are hardwood hammocks or small islets where more abundant wildlife can be found. The Everglades have been inhabited for thousands of years and in the 19th century they were a perfect hiding place for the Seminole Indians, who were trying to escape the U.S. government’s attempts at moving them from their native home. Today, the Seminoles and the Miccosukee are the primary residents of the northern Everglades where farming of fruit and vegetables is the chief economic activity.

Visitors to Miami can experience the Everglades, the “River of Grass,” through tours offered by several different companies. These tours are primarily airboat excursions, although one company offers something different in a canoeing trip. The Everglades Hostel Tour Group, located less than an hour’s drive from Miami, has tours from November — March, and canoe rentals for $30/day or $25/several days. Their guided canoeing tours for groups of one to eight people begin at 9:30 a.m. and last until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. The tour is priced at $95.00 and includes two to five hours of canoeing, an experienced guide, lunch, Everglades park admission, and an optional walk on the cypress hammocks, boardwalks, and trails. A shorter tour in the afternoon, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., is also available, with canoe and guide furnished, as well as overnight and longer tour options, for groups of one to four people, from $200 to over $600.

AirBoatUSA offers private tours into the Everglades from Miami for a half-day or a full day. One-hour airboat ride for two people – $350; two hours or 40 miles into the wilderness – $450. Another option for visitors wanting to experience the Everglades is a tour with Miami Nice Tours, which includes entrance to the Everglades Outpost Wildlife Refuge, the Alligator Farm, and an airboat ride. Tours last approximately six hours on Wednesday and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. — 3:00 p.m. Telephone: 305-949-9180 (reservations daily from 8:00 a.m. — 7:00 p.m.) . Tour prices: $49.00 (Free with the go Miami card). Hotel pickup available

One of the most popular airboat tours to take is with Everglades Safaris, which is actually a part of Everglades Safari Park, one of the major tourist attractions in Miami, located at 26700 SW 8th Street (Tamiami Trail). The standard tour includes a 30 to 40-minute airboat ride, a wildlife show, and optional observation platform viewing time. Prices: Adults – $20.00, children – $10.00.
If you’re looking for a more extensive tour, Everglades Safaris also offer a private 2 1/2 hour airboat tour that cruises to small uninhabited Indian campsites, where you can explore for ancient artifacts, while your guide explains the amazing ecosystem, legends, and history of the Everglades. A truly unique opportunity to experience the romantic aura of mystery and magic in the Everglades is a tour at sunset, when the shadows are beginning to lengthen across the murky waters of the River of Grass and the wildlife is preparing for nightfall.

All Everglades Safari tour prices include Gator Island, the Alligator Wildlife Show, and the Jungle Trail, where you can observe and photograph from an elevated observation platform over the alligator farm and Safari Park.

Hours: 9:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m. 365 days a year. Phone: 305-226-6923 (for prices & reservations). Restaurant, gift shop on premises, Internet discount coupons available at: evsafaripark.com

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