Bogey Creek Airboat
Being in Florida, Cheri and I wanted to experience the everglades first hand.
Our hotel recommended a couple of places, including Bogey Creek. They also went over all the options, hinting that the 45 min ride goes off the beaten path and is more of a private experience with wildlife encounters.
Upon arriving at the farm we stopped a couple of times to take photos of the unique Spanish moss hanging off trees, in the area. It set quite the mood as if we were on a movie set.
We arrived and walked straight into their gift shop. Once our tickets were taken care of, we were welcomed to grab something from their snack bar and look around.
SWIRL & NOSE
We stumbled upon a pond with plenty of adult and baby turtles tanning and swimming.
There was also an area of small gator nursery with 4 younglings. A man was in there cleaning their area. I inquired about the sound some of them were making. It seems that they have another similarity with cats, apart from their narrow pupiled eyes, they hiss at you when unhappy. Supposedly they do not actually follow through on their threats. We also learned that they grow 1' per year for the first 8 years.
We were soon called by our "captain" to the dock. We grabbed some of their 3M noise canceling headphones which were much needed. The six of us got on an airboat with a huge fan in the back. We flew through patches of weeds, (looking like fields of grass) lilies and various other plants. The ride was fun, especially turning, we were probably going 30 miles/hr. We took four stops to chat and look around. Our captain warned us that this is not the best time to see gators. It was a windy and cloudy day.
At one of our stops he suggested that anyone is free to come of and walk all the way back. We though it is a cruel joke, but it turns out that he grew up in the area and would often wonder around walking in the water - 4' - 2' dept sounded quite manageable.
We ended up seeing two gators. At both encounters we found them lying on top of greenery patches as if they own the place, just sunbathing. They are reptiles and use their top spiky patches as sun batteries - collecting sun during the day to keep them warm at night - the time they are most active at. One of the gators was about four years old and the other about six. It turns out they can live up to sixty years.
Another interesting fact is that gators are solitary species and live independently. They don't hunt in packs like crocodiles. They are also quite lazy. They would rather wait for fish to swim into their open mouth than attach a bigger animal. Especially humans, we are too big for them.
On our trip we also saw plenty of lilies, quite a few birds and some lotus flowers. We learned quite a bit about the airboat. Ours was small and had no restrictions whether the bigger vessels could only go a certain way with the overwhelming fauna giving people no choice. We learned that the islands in the everglades are man-made for the most part, to help protect against flooring.
After our lovely trip, we were welcomed by a man who had another treat for us. He had a baby gator with mouth taped for us to touch and take a photo with. We saw first hand how their third eye lid comes from the side protecting their eye which can easily fit into their heads if they pass by a leaf or object too close. We also examined their small teeth, which we were told are hollow and ready with bottom ones to replace the ones the top ones break - an anticipated scenario. It turns out that his small bite could bite at a strength of a German Sheppard. The reason why these small gators were kept at the nursery is that they had been found with injuries and taken care of. He took photos for us and promised that a part of our payment goes towards the conservation if the Philippino Gator, an endangered species.