Airboating among the gators in Orlando

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By Sarah Sekula, published on visitorlando.com // photos and video by Macbeth Studio

From sunny temps to orange groves to amazing wildlife, Orlando has a lot going for it. That said, spending time in the great outdoors is very appealing. One way to cover the hundreds of miles of wetlands is by airboat. It also gives you the chance to spot Florida’s most famous reptilian celebrity, the American alligator. With the wind in your hair and the sun on your shoulders, you’ll be feeling downright Floridian in no time.

Seek out these modern-day dinosaurs by racing among the saw grass on a guided airboat tour with Boggy Creek Airboat Rides. At times you’ll zoom along at speeds up to 50 mph, and at other times you’ll sit still to soak up the scenery and learn about Lake Tohopekaliga, which locals call Lake Toho for short. It’s a fascinating place that allows you to soak up the authentic side of Florida.

“It’s roughly around 23,000 acres, and it’s the headwaters to the Everglades,” says Wayne Corbitt, captain at Boggy Creek Airboat Rides. “So you could go from here all the way to Miami.”

Everything about it is fun, starting with hightailing it through a 8-foot-tall sawgrass and cattails. First things first: Keep your eyes peeled for gators; they can be tough to spot.

“The biggest gator I’ve seen out here is close to about 14 feet,” says Corbitt. “A male gator can grow up to 1,000 pounds. We see some of them so much that we recognize them and have names for them.”

Beyond the toothy reptiles, there are birds galore. Blue herons, egrets, eagles, pelicans, just to name a few. Otters are often spotted, too. Surprisingly, you may even catch a glimpse of cows since most of the lake is surrounded by ranches.

Needless to say, this is a great daytime activity, but you also have the option of taking a nighttime tour where you’ll hear the hum of crickets and frogs while being surrounded by the red glow of gator eyes.

To sum it up: I’d sign up for an airboat ride any day because you never know what your’e gonna get; that’s part of the thrill. It’s different every time and always a blast.

If do go, here are some tips:

1) Before you head out to Boggy Creek, put on sunscreen. That way, you won’t forget.

2) Bring a camera and polarized sunglasses.

3) If you want to see gators, the best time to spot them is in the morning (during the summer). In the winter, if the weather is colder, the afternoon can be better if the sun it out. When it’s cold, the gators like to sun themselves to warm up.

4) A new restaurant will be open on site this summer. And, yes, gator is on the menu.

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