If you have never been on an Airboat Ride before you are in for an aquatic adventure. I recently went out for the first time in Vero Beach with Florida Cracker Airboat Rides. This family run business is headed up by Captain Lawrence, one of the most knowledgable guys around. He should be, he has been air-boating for over 35 years.
Florida Cracker owns two airboats. One seats nine passengers, the other seats eleven. Both are powered by airplane engines which propel the boats around the marsh at high speeds. At times you will feel like you are hovering just above the water. Before you climb on board you will be given a special life preserver, some basic instructions and a headset. Not only can you hear the Captain as he narrates your trip, but because the headphones also have microphones you will be able to communicate with him as well as the other passengers during the tour.
What You will See
As Captain Lawrence steers the airboat in and out of the swamp channels, he will slow down and point out the various species of wildlife that live in the marsh. Expect to learn a bit about the history about the St. Johns River as well.
One of the most notable birds in the marsh are the Osprey. They perch high above the water in massive nests built from sticks and Spanish Moss. From here the Osprey can dive down to hunt for fish which accounts for 99% of their diet. These migratory birds will roost here to raise their young. At one point we saw them bravely face the sun while covering their babies with their wings in order to protect them from heat. We also spotted herons and egrets along the way.
You will see many alligators lurking around the marsh. These stealthy creatures glide through the water, revealing only the tops of their heads, before sinking like a submarine back to the bottom. Other animals such as lizards, snakes, turtles and frogs also live in the watershed, however gators are the top of the swamp food chain. It is not uncommon in these parts to see gator on the menu at local restaurants. If you are curious to try it Captain Lawrence suggests the Marsh Landing Restaurant.
While we zipped around, Captain Lawrence told us about the different types of vegetation that live in the marsh. We drove right through a field of beautiful yellow lotus lilies. Water Hyacinth float on top of the water creating thick mats of dark green leaves and delicate purple flowers.
Airboat Ride Advice
A professionally guided airboat tour is a great way to get out on the water and learn about the Florida eco-system. Whether you are a first timer or veteran, I would highly recommend taking an airboat ride with Florida Cracker.
- Wear shorts and a t-shirt. No skirts ladies.
- Put on sunscreen. Sunglasses too.
- You can wear a hat. Your headset will fit right over it.
- Bring a camera with a strap. Leave your bags behind.
- Keep your mouth closed. You wouldn’t want to swallow a dragonfly.
Disclosure: This complimentary activity was provided by the Indian River County CVB. No other compensation was received for this review. This post reflects the honest opinion of my experience without outside influence.
Written by Dana Freeman of Dana Freeman Travels.
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