Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Billie Swamp Safari

Billie Swamp Safari

The RV Resort we are staying at for February is on the Seminole Indian Reservation on the edge of the Florida Everglades.


Besides operating several casinos (which we won’t be visiting), the Seminole tribe also operates the Billie Swamp Safari, which is just down the road from the RV Resort.

Together with our friends, Lynn & Dave, and Paul & Cindy, we decided to check it out.  Paul said it was just a mile down the road, so we all got passes that allow us to ride on select reservation roads outside of the RV Resort, and we set out.  We’re not sure where Paul saw 1 mile, because it turned out to be closer to 4 miles away.  Still not a bad ride, but Lynn and Dave were at a definite disadvantage on their small folding bikes.  Added to that, Lynn’s brakes were stuck on, so she was having a heck of a time.  After about a mile, she decided that she wasn’t going to be able to ride, so Tom went back for the Jeep and came back to pick up Dave and Lynn and their bikes.  Paul, Cindy & I continued on.

Just up the road from where we left Dave and Lynn waiting for Tom on the side of the road, we spotted this guy on the other side of the canal.

Alligator in the grass

He was just laying there – soaking in the sun – but we yelled back at Dave & Lynn to watch out for gators! Smile



We arrived at the Billie Swamp Safari, and looked around at some of the animals while we waited for the others to arrive.


White wolf

Parrot House










The Billie Swamp Safari is home to many animals that have been rescued throughout the southern area of Florida, and now make their home here, like this Florida panther that had been kept as a pet and de-clawed, so it can not be released to the wild, and when it got too big for its owner the Safari took her in and gave her a home.

Florida Panther

There are also exotic animals from other continents, like these African gopher tortoises.












The others arrived, and we went inside to buy our tickets.  They offer both airboat rides and swamp buggy rides.  The airboat rides are a 25-minute fast-paced ride through the Everglades, with the possibility of seeing alligators and birds. 

Airboat Tour

The swamp buggy ride is 55 minutes on a huge vehicle that goes through both water and on land.  It’s just like a safari – through several animal habitats including the canal, grassland, hardwood hammock, and pop ash forest.

The swamp buggies look pretty cool, too!


We opted for the swamp buggy tour, and since the rest of the group was eligible for the senior price, Tom & I got the discount too Smile

We got signed up for the next tour, and headed over to wait at the dock.



This sign reminded me of the Christmas show, “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” . . . “Bumbles bounce!”

We waited in the shade of the tiki hut for our tour time.

Waiting for our tour

At our assigned tour time, we boarded the buggy along with a young couple and a young family with 2 little girls.  Paul joked with the driver, and set himself up as her target for the duration of the ride!

We were ready to go!

Ready for a Swamp Buggy ride

As we traversed the canal, we were surprised to see the variety of animals that live on the property – many that you would not expect to see living in south Florida!

Crossing the canal

There were American Bison, including the rare blond bison,





and Asian water buffalo.

Asian Water Buffalo

There were also these antelope-like animals, but I don’t remember what she told us they were.


From the grassland, we entered the hardwood hammock, and the buggy trail got narrower, twistier, and really bumpy!

Into the Hammock

We really had to watch out for palm fronds whacking the sides of the buggy!

The pop ash forest is an area that is typically underwater during the summer wet season – the white fungus on the trees shows the level that the water reaches.

Pot Ash Forest

This lone water buffalo found a nice mud puddle to cool off in.

Water Buffalo enjoying some alone time









Lots of air plants around here, too!

Air Plants make the trees look furry

We left the hammock and the trail took us into a sabal palm forest,


Sabal Palm Forest









and then into an open grassland that made us this we were in the savannahs of Africa!  There were zebras – seriously, zebras!















There was also an ostrich (actually there are a few, but we only saw the one) – he was the highlight of our tour!








After chasing the zebra away,

Ostrich chasing zebra

he hid behind a tree and waited for our buggy to start moving again, and then started coming over to the buggy.  Tom was encouraging it to approach us, and when it got close, it suddenly dropped to the ground and started swaying from side to side.

Mating Dance

It was the craziest thing, and our driver told us that it was a mating dance!  We weren’t really sure who he was attracted to, but he really seemed to be responding to Tom!

When we started moving again, he jumped back up and started chasing us again!

He started chasing the buggy











Wait - don't leave!

He was hilarious, the most entertaining animal on the safari!

As we crossed back over the canal to the dock, we spotted several birds near the water . . .

including a bunch of black vultures,


an anhinga,


and a Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron

It was a great tour, and well worth the ticket price!  We all had a great time!

Our group on the Swamp Buggy


After our tour, we took a walk along the boardwalk.


Alligator fighter


We arrived at the Gator Pit just as one of the trainers was working with a couple of new alligators to see how they would fit into the show.

He would poke at them with a bamboo stick to assess their response, and see how much fight they had in them.





I'm not sure I'd turn my back!

He was quick!










This guy was quick, and managed to catch the bamboo stick . . . but all he really wanted to do was get back in the water. 

He just wanted to get back in the water

He used the rope to control him, but eventually let him get back in the water.  He caught another, smaller gator from the pool. and he was quite a bit more energetic . . . definitely a fighter!

This guy did not want out of the water

As they pulled him out of the water, he swung his tail around and completely soaked the trainer!

Then he gave him a fight!

He was a fighter


Feisty guy

He was a keeper!


With the training session over, we continued along the boardwalk. 


Lynn stopped to talk to some birds.

The birds were talking back to Lynn

Tom and Dave went into the snake house to catch the snake show, Paul and Cindy skipped it, and Lynn and I went in for just the end of the show.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake


He had the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake out – yikes!  Then he got out a corn snake to demonstrate how most snakes are harmless.

Harmless Corn Snake

There’s still no way I’d have a snake crawling around on my head!  Some of the crowd were willing to hold it, though.

Audience gatting into the act

With the show over, we continued past the Alligator Canal,

Boardwalk over the Gator Pond

where the alligators that are not currently included in the show hang out and relax.











Gators in the pond

We may come back another day for an airboat ride, but we had seen enough for one day.  It was a great afternoon, and we really enjoyed it!

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