Gator Girls in Florida’s Everglades

Meet Captain Rob, alligator air boat captain extraordinaire. This man has been out on the swamps with the alligators from an alarmingly young age. “When I was 9, my Dad threw me in the water and said, “Swim son!” and then pulled me back out and let me drive the air boat. I’ve been here ever since,” he related.

If you’re going to go to the Everglades to see the alligators, you need to book a trip with “Airboats in Everglades” , AND, you need to get a private tour. You should also request a veteran like Captain Rob; they have some young bucks working in a lot of these companies that don’t have as much experience, but that’s just my personal opinion.  It’s hard to see, but in the picture above he’s holding a type of plant that grows in the swamp that can be used for numbing and healing wounds. He then proceeded to cut off one of the reeds from the water and take out a gauze like material that the Indians used for wounds as well. Resourceful ones, coming up with ideas like that and the name TamiAmi (Tampa and Miami)?

If you watch shows like “Gator Boys” or do some research online, you’ll see bigger boats like this:

You’ll have to share the tour with a lot more people unless you find a smaller company like Airboats and Everglades. This was our air boat:

That’s me and my cousin Nikki; add our Mom’s and we had 4 on the boat. We were able to go REALLY fast on the water and get some air, and we were able to ask a lot of questions and get some amazing stories from this expert. We were sitting in one of the alleys in the swamp for about 30 seconds when this big boy showed up:

Captain Rob told us he was about 11 feet long and that he had known him for about 11 years. The biggest crocodile in their area is about 18 feet! To think about an 18 foot alligator grabbing onto me and spinning in the water on top of being able to jump about 20 feet in seconds was starting to pick up my heart beat.  He tried grabbing the tail to pull it up onto the boat so we could feel it (this is the part where I really began freaking out), but the alligator was NOT having it and began thrashing about. At this point, I was sure we were done for, but he just kind of kept swimming.  Captain Rob said this was because it’s mating season and they’re extremely temperamental. Comforting.

A female alligator came up soon after, and then we saw a bunch of these guys: Baby alligators! I was much less afraid around these guys, but it made me sad that they both caught and ate them, and that only 5 or so of the 40 that were born earlier in the season were alive. It’s mind blowing that a hawk will actually snatch these things up for dinner! Besides the baby alligators, we saw a bunch of different types of birds, including this pretty guy:

And this little one!

At one point on the boat my mother began screaming and flailing. I began screaming because she was screaming and grabbing onto me, and then I saw the frog and began panicking more  (I know, I’m a wussy girl). Once I saw it was a frog I tried getting it off of her leg, but my mother said, “No! Take a picture!” I laughed in disbelief but Captain Rob was super impressed by it.  He stayed there for a good two-three minutes so we got plenty of pictures.

After the boat ride, Captain Rob suggested we go try some alligator and frog legs. I had just seen both of these creatures alive so the thought was a little unnerving. But my cousin is super adventurous, and my policy is I’ll try most things once, so off we went to Coopertown Restaurant. We ordered alligator and frog legs from a very friendly young lady. The place is a dump but it has super cool souvenirs, and they have their own air boats and animals off to the side.

(Ignore the bad hair – it got torn to pieces on the boat!) As you can see from my facial expression, I wasn’t a huge fan of the taste of frog legs and alligator. The texture is pretty gamey but it does really help that it’s fried. If your stomach can’t handle the thought, I definitely suggest it as a place for good souvenirs. My aunt got a really cool alligator claw back scratcher, my cousin and I found some chic dream catcher earrings made by a cute old Indian man (see below), and my mom picked up some alligator teeth for my Dad, a big “Gator Boy” TV show lover.

This was by far the most fun and scary thing I did on the trip and a “must-have” experience if you’re going to visit the Everglades! Up next: A night in Key Largo!


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