If we are being honest I’ve never planned an airboat ride for my family because I was too nervous to. Trusting a captain I didn’t know, to go out into the Everglades. The Everglades filled with gators and pythons and millions of insects. Just some of the things I know are out there. Not to mention all of the things under the water.
I’ve talked to other moms and their concerns were the same. The boats are big, they go fast and what happens if something goes wrong. You know…worst case scenarios.
But what if nothing goes wrong? What if it is an amazing experience for us?
We booked a trip with Southern Style Airboats and headed out. It is in Ft. Pierce, Florida right along a main road. I honestly had no idea it was there and have driven by it numerous times over the years. It’s NOT in the middle of the Everglades.
I was still nervous, but after so much time in the house I was READY!
1. Not all airboats are the same.
The boat we took fit OUR family. There were 8 total seats. One for the captain and 7 more for our outing. The fact that it was only our family on the boat was something I liked. It would be our experience and not having other people was one less thing to worry about. The larger boats (the ones I had mentioned earlier) fit 20 people or more and didn’t sound like a personal experience for our kids. So if you are worried about a large boat, just know… there are companies that have a boat just right for your trip. This boat was just right for us.
2. Make sure you are comfortable with the safety precautions.
Our youngest who is 4 had to wear a life jacket. It was our choice if our 7 year old wore one. Even though he is a swimmer, he isn’t a swimmer in the middle of a river off of a boat. There was no reason for him not to wear one. There were larger life jackets too, but if you are looking for an adult size make sure to call ahead or take your own.
We also had earplugs provided, but honestly didn’t really need them. The boat was loud but not to the point it bothered our ears. It was actually nice to talk (yell) as the boat was going down the river.
3. Not all airboats go in the Everglades.
WHAT! OK…. This is where my mind was blown. Everything I had been scared of. The reasons I avoided airboats… all out the window. Our ride was down the St. Lucie river. ‘Worst case scenario’ mom could see land on both sides at all times and knew that if anything were to happen we could get to an embankment without having to fight off a giant snake. It turns out all of my worst fears weren’t anything to be worried about. At least not with this trip.
I also recommend researching a bit of the history in the area. Looking at the shoreline and imagining how many different people and historical event happened along the river made me wish I knew a bit more about the area. It was beautiful how untouched some of the land was. I highly recommend exploring St. Lucie County because there are so many nature preserves and parks that have prevented overdevelopment.
4. Animals aren’t guaranteed.
Although your guide will know all of the hot spots and where animals are usually found, don’t be upset if it doesn’t happen. The excitement of looking in the water and around tree stumps. On the shore and under the brush. I can’t tell you how many fallen trees look like alligators. 🙂 But the simple fact that we were exploring. That nothing was planned, that in order to see something the boys had to look for themselves. They were in charge of their own adventure.
When you call to book your trip ask for the best time to see animals, not the best time that will fit in with your other plans. Remember these are wild animals.
5. Dress casual and comfortable.
Take bug spray and sunscreen/sun protection. Remember that the sun will bounce off of the water, and from the sky. Even on an overcast day, you will be in the middle of the water with no shade. While a hat will probably blow off when the boat is going fast, it is nice to have one while you are going slow looking for wildlife.
This was an amazing adventure, that was socially distanced and different than anything we have done before.
So if you have been to scared to venture out in an airboat, the tours you saw might not have been the best trip for you. This one is a great way to ease into it and I promise you’ll want to book another trip before the end of your summer.
Find out more about St. Lucie County and the Treasure Coast here.