Stretching from the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee in the north (near Orlando) all the way to Florida Bay on the southern tip of the state, the Everglades are one of the world’s most unique ecosystems and considered Florida’s natural crown jewel. And Fort Lauderdale is one of the easiest cities to base from to explore the Everglades.
These vast subtropical wetlands are characterized by an unusual convergence of geology, geography and climate. The combination of the area’s porous limestone base, a location that straddles the border of tropical and temperate zones, and monsoonal system of dry winters and soaking summers has created an extraordinary water-oriented landscape.
Extreme fluctuations in water levels are the lifeblood of the Everglades’ diverse mixture of animal and plant life. The ecosystem’s distinctive sawgrass prairies, wetlands and mangroves are famously populated with alligators, crocodiles and bald eagles, as well as lesser known species of snakes (some poisonous), turtles, bears, birds, frogs and insects.
There’s no better way to navigate the area’s waters than by airboat. Flat-bottomed airboats – powered by enclosed aircraft-like propellers – can comfortably traverse the area’s marshy conditions and are as much a symbol of the Everglades as a half-submerged alligator.
Dozens of airboat companies operate in the region offering group rides and private tours. A 30-40 minute group tour including entry to an eco-park typically costs less than $25, while a private tour for up to four people costs in the region of $250.
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