Florida is famous for its alligators, so much so that it has even named one of its football establishments after them (the Gators of course). Going on an airboat ride to see some seemed like the logical (and local) thing to try, so whilst out at the Kennedy Space Centre we were whisked across to give it a go at Cocoa, Florida in amongst the marshlands.
Upon arriving at the site, we immediately recognised how authentic this place was – just a bar off the main road with the owners obviously taking advantage of airboating as a hobby to turn it into a business. Our driver for our 30 minute ride was quite passionate about being in an airboat, telling us about his hunting expeditions for gators and about how he grew up with the marshes as his backyard.
We made our way out into the unfortunately flooded plains (owing to the recent hurricane that had come through), with the promise of seeing some wildlife but possibly not alligators as there was no dry land for them to be spotted on. Our initial thought of disappointment was quickly alleviated as we raced through the water, and we realised that the boat ride was just as fun even if we didn’t end up seeing anything!
But see something we did; pelicans with freshly caught fish, storks racing away over the floating grass to get away from the boat, and then finally our guide spotted one: a small gator floating in the water!
We stayed with it for a few minutes to get a better view and a few photos, before he raced forward another hundred metres and found us another one – we were truly lucky as neither of us had seen either of them until they were pointed out to us (our guide even said it was like finding needles in a haystack with the flooding).
We began to make our way back at this point, only to come across a stunning landscape with the sunset beginning to form, and some horses grazing in the water for their dinner. It truly was a spectacular sight to behold, and really topped off the boat ride as something we’d never forget.
We made our way back towards the bar and dock, twisting and turning as our guide gave us a bit of a thrill before returning us to dry land.
All in all it was a fantastic and more importantly authentic experience. We had our airboat ride with Twister Airboat Rides located at the Lone Cabbage Restaurant (link HERE) in Cocoa, Florida. The price was very reasonable at only $24 for a 30 minute ride, with the option of extending this to 60 or 90 minutes if you want to spend a little more.
We combined this tour with a visit to the Kennedy Space Centre with family members, as the region is not the easiest to get to as a backpacker. Options like Greyhound when combined with a taxi or Uber are probably your best bet, though there are bus services in the area including SCAT which may be useful for the budget traveler.
Header Photo courtesy of VisitCentralFL on Flickr here