It seems that the state of Florida does amazing things at creating fantasy worlds for you to explore. Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, and Busch Gardens are the masters at this, but smaller attractions have taken a page from them and tried their own way to take you from where you actually are and transport you to somewhere else entirely. However, there is one amazing attraction in South Florida that has embraced the world around us and made it the star of the show; Billie Swamp Safari.
Located off Alligator Alley in the middle of the Big Cypress Reservation, it is a bit of a hike from any major metropolitan area of coastal Florida. Once you arrive at this tropical paradise, you’ll realize it is well worth the trip!
Now, tropical paradise might be a bit of a stretch for some, as it is not a beachfront area with palm trees and tropical drinks flowing. In fact, it is almost in the middle of the state, and as alcohol is banned from the reservation, the only tropical drinks are bottled water, soda, and amazing ice tea. It is a paradise if you take it all in, though. Alligators dot the 19 mile long road you travel down off the interstate just to get to the attraction. Wild birds, such as the cara cara, ibis, great blue heron, and sandhill cranes abound. Even the hum of the modern airboats and swamp buggies bring you back in time when the pace of life was slower, and the ever-connected universe of social media didn’t exist.
The safari is an all-day affair. For only $50 per person, you enjoy a 25 minute long airboat tour, a 50 minute swamp buggy adventure, a snake show, and a critter show. When you throw in lunch at the amazing Swamp Water Café, where Seminole food is the star, you get an even better idea of the history and cultural importance of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. VIP tours are also available.
In this writer’s opinion, The Swamp Water Café is almost worth the drive itself. The Indian fry bread with honey butter is to die for! The menu features a wide variety of foods, but our favorite has to be the Sampler Platter, which features gator, catfish, and frog legs, all caught within site of the building. (the swamp sampler food items are not caught onsite, but certainly could be) You can’t get much more farm-to-table than that!
It’s amazing what sort of wildlife you’ll see on the property as well. Some of the highlights of the airboat tour are the Cypress Trees, Bison, Water Buffalo, and of course alligators! Keep an eye beneath the surface of the crystal clear water as well, as it is teaming with fish. You might even spot a few hogs, or even an ostrich.
Yes, ostrich call the reservation home. In addition to the Asian water buffalo, there are several imported critters on site, such as Chinese Deer, Red Deer, Waterbuck, and more. The local wildlife are also visible, including the black ibis, Turkey Vulture, and Osceola Turkey, to name a few.
There are also several animal exhibits scattered around the compound, which feature wolves, cattle, capybara, otters, panthers, and more.
If you really want to get the feel of how the natives once lived, they also offer overnight stays in their chickees!
Down the road from the safari you will find the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum. This facility, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, gives you a better idea of how the tribe lived and flourished and land where the federal government was afraid to go. It explains the history of the tribe, which is one of the only undefeated tribes in the United States.
South Florida truly is paradise, and through our #Staycation series we try to help you become a tourist in your own backyard.
What’s your favorite local destination? Let us know in the comments below.