Billie Swamp Safari - 2011
Big Cypress Seminole Reservation
We saved visiting the attractions on the Big Cypress Reservation until after the cruise. If we had time, we may have visited this one again - just for the airboat and swamp buggy rides.
We arrived early and stayed until they closed. While we were there, we rode the airboats three times and the swamp buggies twice. We went to the snake show in the theater and view some exhibits. At the end of the day, we both agreed we had not had that much fun at a tourist attraction in a long time.
We grouped our photographs and story by AIRBOAT RIDES , EXHIBITS and SWAMP BUGGY RIDES on this page. Our usual chronological order was abandoned to help group the information better.
The park includes 2,200 acres of land and swamp.
When you buy your ticket, they give you ear plugs. The sign at the air boat waiting area reminded you that the airboats are loud.
Maybe the straight exhaust pipes with no mufflers contribute to the loud sound of the airboats.
Mary Lou pointed out that we had a 'friend' watching us stand in line. That explains the chain link fencing around the platform. He could have surprised someone.
We had three very different airboat rides:
> The first was a 'normal' ride that was very interesting.
> Our second ride was a FAST ride with hard turns and little narration. It was just a fun ride.
> Our third ride was with a Seminole tribe member driver who you could tell loved the swamp and the animals. It was a great ride and very informative.
Tilt . . . We hung around the dock after our second ride and the other passengers had left to photograph the airboat. The driver apologized for the FAST ride. He told us he had to be back for lunch. He had a small half-hour window to get his food and eat - he said, come back at 2:00PM to get a better ride. We assured him that we enjoyed the ride.
Get ready, get set, GO!
During the airboat rides we traveled through some beautiful areas and saw an assortment of animals.
These Chickee Huts were to the right of the dock. > > >
This ostrich was the first animal we saw as it was on a piece of land close to the airboat dock.
The sights were beautiful.
Animals roamed freely on the 2,200 acre park. Obviously, we saw alligators on the airboat rides but many other animals lived near the water.
Fantastic views . . .
An abandoned boat . . .
An anhinga drying his wings . . .
Spanish moss . . .
A turtle sunning himself on a downed tree trunk . . .
An assortment of animals live together . . .
A rainbow in the 'roster tail' behind the airboat.
Three airboats were in service the day we were at Billie Swamp Safari. Occasionally another airboat would pass us when we stopped to take a closer look at something our driver spotted.
An old airboat . . .
A stork . . .
These guys move like a silent submarine with their periscopes up.
Anhingas and storks were plentiful . . .
Does this one look angry?
The airboats and swamp buggies share this stretch of the swamp.
This is a good place to tell you what we learned about cypress tree conservation while we were in Florida.
In the 50s and 60s, cypress knees (part of the root system were cut off, cleaned and polished for sale as home decorations. When it was determined that this commercial use was not good for the maintenance of a healthy cypress tree population, the practice was stopped.
Fred's grandparents wintered in Florida during the 40s and 50s. Fred's parent's received this cypress knee decoration as a gift from them. In the 1980's, we received a cypress knee clock as a gift from Fred's parents. So, we have two cypress home decorator items.
They are displayed in our basement.
< < < Cypress knee clock
Cypress knee > > >
These family heirlooms may be valuable.
Okay, back to the airboat ride . . .
This water buffalo ignored us as we approached.
This one spooked and headed toward his friends for security.
This one looked at us ... but ... couldn't care less.
The airboat rides were very popular. On weekends, they put more of the fleet in service.
We spooked an alligator and he went back in the water for safety.
One of our drivers told the people in the front seat to raise their hands if they wanted to get wet. The people in the back row (us) got wet also. (And, the camera too.)
This alligator is happy, you can tell by the smile.
South Florida is the only known place in the world where crocodiles and alligators cohabit the same areas. However, we think we only saw alligators.
A little colored smudge (rainbow) . . .
Ah . . . another alligator
Mary Lou liked the tunnel effect of the cypress domes.
The growth on this tree is an air plant called Grandpa's Whiskers.
A small alligator . . .
An Ibis . . .
I hope they don't expect to be fed.
More Spanish Moss . . .
If you look carefully, you can see where the water level will be during the summer rainy season. (Hint: it is where the trunks are darker.)
More cypress knees . . .
More anhingas . . .
The anhinga are nicknamed the "snake bird" because when they are in the water feeding only their head is above water and they look like a snake moving through the water.
Drying their wings is a full-time job.
This is the only anhinga we saw in a tree.
More feathered friends . . .
This osprey caught a fish and took it into a tree to eat it.
After we watched this alligator for a short time the driver started pulling away. At that moment, the alligator "yawned". He told us an alligator opens it's mouth to cool itself. Thank goodness for the 'multiple image' setting on the camera, we photographed the only alligator we saw with its mouth open.
Most were like these - laying in the grass and looking around if not asleep.
Most were just sunbathing . . .
The swamp buggy road crosses the route the airboats use.
Top of Page
This figure on a hillside across the swamp, overlooked the main part of the park.
The grounds around the gift shop and restaurant were used for exhibits.
One road is lined with bunkhouses. They are rented to groups - mainly schools.
Dugout canoes . . .
Mary Lou watched these alligators sleep.
As they were not moving, a turtle rested on one of them.
Sleeping must be contagious.
If you aren't sure how to be safe around alligators, click on this poster.
A lot of common sense involved.
We went to the snake show. This guy thought he was a comedian. He was really sort of silly. But, he did a good job showing us the snakes. A sign said "No flash photography permitted". So, when he said that "flash does not bother the snakes nor me, shoot them if you have them", Fred thought that was great.
A rattle snake . . .
Coral snake Scarlett King Snake
Cotton mouth water moccasin . . . ??????????
Eastern diamondback . . .
Top of Page
SWAMP BUGGY RIDES
They operate a fleet of swamp buggies. They are quite the vehicle. The only part of the suspension that softens the ride is the tires. So, you had to hold on tight sometimes to stay in your seat.
The swamp buggies do not have brakes. They stopped at the depot by running into it. Some drivers 'stopped' smoother than others.
This one could be rented for use by a private party for only $600.
The start of the swamp buggy ride goes through the parking lot toward the swamp. The drivers remotely operate a power gate used to keep the animals in the park.
The birds and animals were accustomed to the vehicle traffic.
They are so accustomed to seeing the swamp biggies, they do not move off the road. These water buffalos were in no hurry to move out of the way. The driver moved the swamp buggy close enough that this one's nose was under the swamp buggy. The driver finally used her foot to encourage the animal to move out of the way.
We got a dirty "don't bother me" look
before it moved out of our way.
There were tree groves scattered throughout the park.
Some of the trees formed a 'forest' known as a tropical hardwood hammock.
Southern Florida was suffering from the winter's drought. This area is usually flooded but this year it is almost dry.
This Seminole camp was occupied until 1968. It is like camps used by 300 Seminoles who lived in the swamp to avoid detection by the Federal Government.
Cook Chickee > > >
Grinder . . . Dugout canoe . . .
Spring for fresh water . . .
Vents in the ends of the cook chickee made the smoke stay close to the ground. If they had a regular style chimney, the Federal troops would have followed the smoke and found where they were hiding in the swamps.
Sleep Chickee . . . Sleeping platform . . .
This soft plant was used by the Seminoles as mattress stuffing . . .
A burl like this would have been used by the Seminoles to make bowls.
This is a Strangler Fig wrapped around a host tree. It will eventually kill the host tree.
Another tree grove and watering hole in the swamp land . . .
A turkey performed for us.
Animals were visible during the entire swamp buggy ride.
The driver took us 'off the road' to attract an ostrich. He told us that they are MEAN. He warned everyone to keep their hands away from the ostrich.
This is white lichen that grows in clean fresh air - the point above where the water covers the tree trunks in the rainy season.
This is rare red lichen.
Now, we will tell you why we saw so many animals during our swamp buggy rides. First, they were on the park land. Second, they had a reason to stay close to the road - feed boxes. Feed boxes were placed near the road throughout the park. Each day two tons of food was placed in the feed boxes. All animals ate the same specially blended feed.
One of our drivers did not like the ostriches. We thought for sure he was going to run these two over. He obviously knew how fast they could run.
Wild pigs were a problem for the park and several area in Southern Florida. One driver told us the excess population was 'relocated' to other areas of the reservation. We were also told at one point that there was 'open season' on the wild pigs.
These deer were peacefully resting until we stopped to look at them. Then, they got up and walked away.
Like we said at the beginning, we would go back to Billie Swamp Safari again. Two 'all day' tickets were $64.33 with Fred's military discount. The regular price is $45.95 each.
Put this attraction on your 'to do' list.
Top of Page
MAIN PAGE - Florida Winter Tour - 2011