Ask anyone what they know about Miami and I'm sure they'll mention South Beach, partying, and CSI. With it's pulsating clubs and beautiful beaches, Miami is definitely a top tourist destination in Florida. While I’m never completely opposed to lying on the beach (with plenty of sun block), and dancing the night away, I’d say that #WheninMiami, you shouldn’t miss out on South Florida’s more natural attractions. I’m talking about the Everglades. As one of the largest wetlands in the world and spanning across 1.5 million acres of the state of Florida, the Everglades is home to a multitude of creatures, and is most famous for its alligators. Now, as a South African, I grew up going on safaris in game reserves for school holidays, something I have sorely missed since moving to the States. So when Field-Trip Lifestyle invited me along to Coopertown, just 15 minutes outside of Miami, to experience an airboat exploration of the Everglades and it’s wildlife, I could not resist!
So mentally swapping out my 4x4 for an airboat and my crocodiles for alligators, I headed out to the Everglades early one Sunday morning. Coopertown is located a short drive from the center of Miami, and is the original airboat experience. I’ve seen these things skate across the water in a multitude of movies and I was incredibly excited to be doing this myself! Seated next to the Captain, I was in for a private tour of the Everglades with Field-Trip Lifestyle.
The airboat tour was absolutely incredible. The tour heads off down a thin waterway where you see dozens and dozens of alligators. If you want gator-time, this is the place to go. The Captain explained that we were seeing so many gators as result of the unusual drought season we were having in South Florida. The water levels were a bit low for this time of year (June), so our gator-viewing opportunities were at it’s peak. On our return to the dock; I counted over 40 gators on only one side of the boat. I’m still in awe of just the sheer number of them in a relatively small area of the Everglades. It is estimated that there are over 200,000 alligators in the Everglades, and yet they apparently only start counting them once they reach 5 feet. So there’s definitely a lot more out there to be seen.
Our tour continued down a side stream and into a grassy open, marshland area. Apart from the alligators, I think this was my favorite part of the trip. The Everglades stretches out in every direction in front of you, and is teeming with bird life. As the boat glides across the water, we saw birds flying up into the sky in front of us. This part of the trip was also exciting as the boat turns and changes directions. I think it must be a lot of fun to be the Captain, that’s for sure. Upon our return to the dock, we saw more and more gators, some of them swimming out in front of us. We were also lucky to see one of the rarer birds eating a turtle’s egg too.
I have to admit, I was pretty sad when our tour came to an end, it was a lot of fun. Growing up in South Africa I was spoilt in terms of proximity to nature and wildlife. Every day I miss being able to experience those magnificent landscapes and being able to go on safari a couple of hours drive away. Being in the Everglades was such a similar experience for me. While I was on an airboat instead of a car, it was a humbling moment to sit back and enjoy an incredibly beautiful landscape, and in such a different, unique way as well. The Everglades is a unique wetland and there are not many places like this in the rest of the world. The marshlands reminded me of home, and it was just wonderful to experience another version of Mother Nature’s finest. Looking out for alligators, while a lot easier than going on safari looking for lions, was so much fun, and it was a rejuvenating experience for me. I love wildlife and nature, and the Everglades have that on offer in a big way.
My experience with the alligators and Coopertown did not end there. After our boat ride and a chat with the Captain, I was treated to lunch at the restaurant. On the menu: alligator and frog legs. Now, I’ve tried alligator before when I lived briefly in Louisiana so I was not too worried about this experience. It is quite yummy and tastes similar to chicken. These were particularly delicious and I did eat several pieces. The frogs legs however I was quite nervous about. As a travel blogger, and someone who is eager to experience everything the world has to offer, I am always up for trying anything. It’s important to me to try the local cuisine, regardless of how different or odd it may seem. So when you’ve eaten guinea pig in Peru, you cannot really turn down frog’s legs… Even if eating frog’s legs seems way stranger than guinea pig! You can check out what I thought about these guys in the video Field-Trip Lifestyle took of my experience below – don’t laugh too much at me eating the frog’s legs!
My first airboat experience in the Everglades was definitely something special. I learnt a lot and it was so good to be back in nature. It is unbelievable to me that this place is so close to such a huge city. A completely natural world stretches out in front of you as you skate across the water with the wind blowing in your hair. It was truly an epic experience. To anyone visiting Miami, I would definitely recommend visiting the Everglades.
I am grateful to Field-Trip Lifestyle for inviting me to be a part of their #WhenInMiami series.
The Traveling Ginger was a guest of Field-Trip Lifestyle.
My opinions are, as always, my own.
What do you do when you are in Miami? #WhenInMiami Let me know in the comments!