Airboats and Gators

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Friday, October 5, 2012

Howdy folks,

After our sojourn into downtown Fort Lauderdale, we didn't want to do much the next day. Matt said that he might have time to show us the boat he captains, but it didn't work out. We spent most of the day at the house taking it easy and looking at our many options. We have been considering doing a cruise, but because we left it too late our options were running thinner and more expensive. Apparently it is better to book early; they don't really do last minute deals for this sort of thing. Steffie was really keen to get over to the Bahamas for a few nights, but alas that will have to wait until the next trip.

Keen to get out of the house, we went for a walk down to the local shops. The sun was really warm and Steffie got suntouched. I finally purchased a knockoff battery and charger for my Canon camera. In the end it cost me $75 for both, I guess that is a costly lesson to learn about leaving property unattended. We walked back to the house and Matt arrived home so we all went for a swim in his backyard pool. For dinner we all went out to Champps which is a sports bar and ate appetisers until we were all bursting.

The next day Matt offered to take us for a cruise on the boat. He is the captain of a multimillion dollar luxury cruiser which sleeps 6 plus crew. The boat is only two years old, but has some gremlins that he is sorting out and it has spent a lot of time at the dry dock. So it was time to get the boat back out on the ocean and give it a sea trial. After a quick tour of the three story floating apartment, it was time to push off and we cruised through the narrow canal out to ocean. It took a fair while to navigate out through the canals and we putted through the wiggles, under drawbridges and around a property which is called Little Florida due to the shape of the backyard. Once we cleared the cruise liners and container ships, Matt hit the gas and before we could even get up to cruising speed, the engines started blowing smoke so our sea trial was over before it could properly begin.

The first mate turned us around and we headed back to the canals, there was a bit of a problem as where to return to dock, but eventually after cruising up and down the waterways we found a new shop to dock at. I've never been on a luxury cruiser before and it was hard to believe that you were walking through a boat and not a nice hotel room. It would be hard to believe that you can get value for money out of such an expensive toy though. However, it certainly seems to keep Matt busy!

It was around 3pm and we still hadn’t had lunch, so after we dropped off the first mate to the airport, Matt took us to a local hangout with cheap beers and good seafood. It was nice just to sit out on the deck and relax under the humidity. Once we had our fill, we headed for home to unwind. It was time to jump in the pool. Steffie and I went out later to get some meat to BBQ, but the gas was leaking so we ended up using the backup charcoal grill. It all worked out in the end and we treated ourselves to Key Lime Pie for dessert.

Steffie and I were getting itchy feet to get out and make the most of our time left in Florida, so Matt kindly dropped us at a car rental place the next morning at 9am so that we could get mobile. After an hour of waiting for an available car we were driven to a different location so that we could just get a car. Thankfully we got a free upgrade and a few extra free hours, but it was already 11am when we left to drive to the Everglades.

The Everglades take up a significant proportion of Florida’s land area, but are a significant habitat for wildlife and plants. Steffie was excited to go on an airboat tour, so we stopped in at the Everglades Holiday Park at the end of Griffin Road. If you take a look at a map of South Florida, you will realise just how much area is taken up by the expansive wetlands full of alligators, fish, birds, iguanas and mangroves.  The boat ride wasn’t expensive at $25 apiece, so we got on the airboat which was only half full, but still had a dozen people on it. The guide was an interesting guy being a Floridian and having spent most of his life in and around the wetlands. As we stopped at various points along the way, he would tell us what his grandfather showed him when he was a boy and pass that knowledge onto us about what the water temperatures meant, how to tell the depth of the water and that mosquitos only come out at night. We found one alligator swimming around, so we circled around it to take photos before he took us to the reed beds where he called over the purple gallinules that were hunting there.  On the way back we saw a nice orange iguana sitting high in the tree, but we didn’t find the mama gator he was looking for.

Once back on dry land there was a gator show as well. A guy tempted fate by sticking his hand in the mouth of a gator. Apparently they don’t know if something is in their mouth, only if it touches it. The gators were pretty docile and let him sit on his back and hold his mouth closed with only his chin. Steffie fulfilled her lifelong dream of holding a baby gator and it was time to go.

We had the rest of the afternoon to drive to one of the largest shopping malls in USA called Sawgrass Mills. It has a lot of outlet shops and you can just about buy anything there. The food wasn’t great in the food court, but I still walked out with a new pair of shoes and some socks. Steffie was a bit more picky and could find those perfect pair she wanted.

We got back late to Matt’s house to find everyone asleep and the house quiet. Luckily he let us in!
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