Category Archive: Airboat Rides Orlando

Contender Profile: Monty the Burmese Python

Slinking in the competition, measuring in at 23 feet, weighing up to 200 pounds, with a girth as large as a telephone pole–in the blue corner, we have Monty the Burmese Python. The Burmese python, or Python molurus bivittatus, is native to Southeast Asia. Like the first round contender, the Nile Monitor lizard, they were brought to the States for the pet trade. Many animal enthusiasts see a cute, 20-inch baby python and decide to take it home. However, within a year, that baby could grow to be more than 5 feet long. Once these unsuspecting pet owners find that they’ve bitten off more than they could chew, they either release them or sell them to irresponsible owners; or if they can’t ensure the growing threat is containment, the snake follows the footsteps of Connery and Eastwood to perform an impossible escape, slithering its way down to the Everglades in search of a bountiful habitat. On an Orlando airboat guided tour you may bump into this unsavory character.

As a young hatchling, these snakes spend most of their time up in the trees, avoiding predators and feasting on small creatures. When their size and weight make tree-climbing more of a hassle than a necessity, they adapt to a ground-dwelling lifestyle. In the air, on the ground, and in the water? That’s right; the Burmese python is an excellent swimmer, capable of submerging itself for up to 30 minutes at a time.

A Burmese python preys on rodents, raccoons, rabbits, deer, bobcats, various birds, and they’ve even been seen consuming alligators. Not only are these non-native invaders disrupting the natural food chain, but their voracious appetite is thwarting conservation attempts for Everglades species like the Key Largo wood rat, American Wood Stork, and American Alligator.

When reproducing, the Burmese python lays a clutch of up to 100 eggs with the average clutch holding and hatching 35 eggs. Once the nest has been built and the eggs laid, female Burmese pythons coil around the clutch, remaining with the young until they hatch. Not only is the female incubating her eggs, but she’s also protecting them from thieves and scavengers.

This aggressive and powerful serpent is a hefty foe. They use their sheer strength to outmuscle opponents, constricting their blood- and air-flow. To hold their prey in place, they have a muscular jaw, filled with hundreds of back curving teeth. Even the largest and most aggressive animals can’t break loose of a Burmese python’s grasp. Burmese pythons have even been reported attacking their handlers, with some instances leading to human fatality. While they may have poor eyesight, their do have a chemical receptor in their tongue and a heat sensor along their jaw, making no animal safe from a prowling Burmese python.

While this contender may outweigh its opponent, don’t discount the fire ant just yet. The next Fauna Face-Off is sure to be a close battle, filled with maneuvers and counter maneuvers by both parties. For a fun-filled Orlando airboat guided tour visit Wild Florida today. If you keep an eye out, you may see the Burmese python slinking through the water or the trees.

Who do you think will win between the Burmese python and the Fire Ant in the upcoming Fauna Face-off? Weigh in on the discussion and tune in to the Wild Florida blog page this Friday for the results.

FIU Students Start Writing Expedition About Everglades

Recently, five writing students from Florida International University (FIU) have been selected to take part in a six-week Everglades wilderness expedition this fall.  This expedition is designed to inspire writers to curate content about their experiences in one of Florida’s natural geographical wonders. The writers from FIU will join other writers from another Miami-area university on the official Everglades Wilderness Writing Expedition.  The end-goal of the program is to get students to engage with the exploration of wilderness, self-discovery and environmental writing.

The program begins in October and the participants will embark on three, all-day trips exploring different aspects of the South Florida wetlands including prairies, marshes, and other areas on the UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, according to Sabrina Diaz, the leader of the expedition and national park ranger.  In additional to those three, day-long treks, they will also take a four-day canoe camping trek along the Wilderness Waterway.

The selection of the students came from a selection of applications and corresponding writing samples that speak to their physical fitness and career goals.  This is an opportunity for each and every student to capture their experience in the Everglades and later have their writing featured in local newspapers and social media.
We are passionate about the Everglades and maintaining the natural Florida that we know and love.  If you want to experience the natural Florida that we know, come by and sign up for an Orlando airboat ride with your family.  We have night and private airboat rides available as well.  Visit the Buy Tickets page on our website to reserve your tickets today.

Contender Profile: Nile Monitor Lizard

He’s been slinking beneath your Orlando airboat and sliding through the gator pits; introducing, fighting in the blue corner: Nile “Not-A-Crocodile” Monitor. This adaptive creature is capable of skulking through a variety of diverse habitats. They can run up to 18 miles per hour across packed earth or swim swiftly underwater for up to an hour. Their arsenal of weapons includes sharp, snake-like teeth, a long muscular tail used as a whip, sinister claws for slashing, a seriously bad temper, and an aggressive determination.

In preparation for the upcoming Fauna Face-Off, we’re going to take a closer look at one of the first contenders: the Nile Monitor lizard (Varanus niloticus). This invasive contender is the longest lizard in Africa. It was first spotted in the Cape Coral area in the early 90s. This predator poses a serious threat to local water birds and any other mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that it can fit into its powerful jaws. To make matters worse, these creatures have even been seen hunting in packs.

These large, prolific carnivores are intelligent and determined hunters. They reach up to 5 feet in length, some even surpassing 8 feet, and can weigh up to 30 pounds. In their native Africa, they’re often seen along desert fringes, grasslands, rainforests, human inhabited areas, and areas in close vicinity of rivers, swamps, ponds, seashores, and lakes. The most plentiful and attractive area for an African Nile Monitor roaming Florida would be the mangrove swamps, salt water marshes, and river banks of the Everglades.

The Nile Monitor is the second most common African monitor species sold in the United States. That’s how this species came to Cape Coral and the Everglades areas. Reptile enthusiasts purchased them in the exotic pet trade and they either escaped or were intentionally released. Now, this fierce predator and scavenger is here to battle the native Everglades inhabitants for their territory, resources, and even their lives. The Nile Monitor is not a picky eater. Its stomach has been known to hold a variety of edible content, ranging from mammal hair and bird feathers, to alligator egg shells, and small reptile and amphibian bones. The creatures most at risk to this invasive species are lizards, snakes, freshwater and box turtles, ground-nesting birds, gopher tortoises, burrowing owls, wading birds, small mammals (like feral and domestic cat small), and the American alligator.

Because of the threat this monitor poses, the American alligator is taking control and challenging this invader to battle in the Fauna Face-Off. The alligator is tired of seeing its young and the young of its cousin, the American crocodile, snatched up by this Everglades invader. Tune in to the Wild Florida blogs this Friday for the first round of the Fauna Face-off: the American alligator vs. the Nile Monitor lizard. To get in the mood, take an Orlando airboatride at Wild Florida today. Who knows, you may see one of these resilient reptiles on your trip.

 

How to Liven Up an Event in One Easy Step

We understand the stress that comes along with planning an event. Whether it’s a birthday party, family reunion, school function, or a work outing, there’s always the worry that your guests won’t enjoy themselves. Well, leave all your qualms at home because we have an idea for you that is sure to liven up any event you may be hosting. It’s something that can entertain people of all ages, and adds excitement and bit of adventure to your typical event, day or night. What is it? It is a gator handler!

Wild Florida has gator handlers for hire, meaning you can hire a person to show up at your event with their little friend- an alligator. These trained professionals can come to your home, office, convention center, school, and pretty much anywhere else and provide a hands-on experience your guests will never forget. Your event will be the talk of the town! Guests will have the opportunity to touch, hold, and pet the alligator with assistance from the gator handler. Feel free to take photos posing with the alligator to ensure you’ll remember this exciting occasion. The professional gator handler will be there to keep everyone safe, keep the alligator under control, and to teach guests interesting facts about the animal.

Groups of all sizes are welcome. Wild Florida offers various packages to meet the needs of your particular group given the number of people, location, and special occasion. We can provide an amazing venue also in our Cypress Ballroom or covered deck overlooking the swamp. Whether it’s day or night, we will make sure your guests have the time of their life! An alligator and its handler will transform any ordinary party or gathering into an unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience. For more information about how you can hire a gator handler at your next event, call Jordan Munns at 407-922-5395 or email him at Jordan@wildfloridairboats.com.   Also, book your Orlando airboat rides tickets directly on our website.

Introducing the American Alligator in Round One of the Fauna Face-Off

gator 300x158 Introducing the American Alligator in Round One of the Fauna Face OffIn this corner, we have the American Alligator, going up against the Nile Monitor Lizard in Week One of our Fauna Face-Off Fridays.  The American Alligator, which you can find on an Orlando airboat ride at Wild Florida, is often found in the Everglades in South Florida, along with other locations along the Southeastern United States in swamps, streams, rivers, ponds and lakes–mostly wetland habitats.  Weighing in at up to 1,000 pounds and measuring anywhere from 11 to 15 feet, the American alligator will turn out to be quite the contender.

Commonly known as apex predators, gators consume fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. During breeding season, you will often find alligators declaring their territory and locating suitable mates.  Male gators use infrasound to attract females.  Even though you may view gators as tough, scary creatures, their species has been decimated through hunting and other ecological factors, and they’ve been listed as an Endangered Species.

Gators have several dangerous qualities that make them a strong contender in the Fauna Face-Off.  For example, the alligator’s movement can be quite dangerous, as they can travel quickly on land and water.  Not only are they fast, but they’re smart, being able to use lures to hunt prey such as birds.  They are the first recorded reptiles to use tools.  Oftentimes, they will balance sticks and branches on their heads to lure birds searching for suitable nesting materials.  Gators can also perform specific vocalizations to threaten competitors and signal distress, which just adds to their long list of abilities, making them the Everglades’ top predator.
We want to wish our alligator representative, the American Insti-Gator, luck in this Friday’s face-off when he goes up against a worthy opponent, the Nile Monitor Lizard.  If you want to learn more about alligators, come experience one of our Orlando airboat rides at Wild Florida.  Visit our booking page to buy tickets today.

The Benefits of Orlando Eco Tours

Eco tours are a popular attraction for the traveling public. Orlando eco tours take adventurers into the untouched and unaltered areas of Florida. This form of tourism is a way to allow tourists to explore, without causing damage to the natural environment or native culture that resides in the region. It’s the type of traveling that the conscience-guided Jiminy Cricket would encourage and advocate. Let your conscience and curiosity be your guide and look into all the available eco tours the next time you’re on vacation.

Unlike traditional tourist attractions, eco tours places a heavy emphasis on environmental conservation and the discouragement of land development. When designing an Orlando eco tour, the biggest concern is how to appease your audience’s excitement for nature without damaging the natural surroundings and creatures. Because of this nature-friendly mentality, more of Orlando’s natural habitat and wildlife population are preserved and sustained.

With an eco tour, the community is closely involved with the attraction’s success. This provides more opportunity for local residents to make a living, doing what they love–instead of solely driving airboats as a hobby. While adventurers enjoy their eco tour, they’re also gaining a better appreciation for the environment and its inhabitants. As an added bonus, eco tourists’ funds go straight to continuing the conservation of the toured land or waterway. All funds made from each eco tour helps to support the environment and those trying to protect it.

Due to the popularity and the environmental benefits of ecotourism, environmentally-responsible practices are being spread to other tourism industries. If you’re interested in exploring and supporting the natural beauty of the Florida Everglades, contact Wild Florida today. We’ll take you on much more than an Orlando eco tour–we’ll take you on a perception-changing, unforgettable adventure.

Have you ever been on an eco tour? Share your experiences with us.

 

Innovations in Airboat Ingenuity

When we think of an airboat, we typically think of a wonderfully-guided tour through the Everglades where we participate in spotting and identifying native Florida wildlife. However, this versatile vehicle can be used for much more than just entertaining and exciting wildlife lovers. Gone are the days of using an airboat for the sole purpose of guided airboat tours; now we enter a realm where we use this amphibious vehicle to save lives and put out fires–literally.

For the past few years, airboats have being designed with full fire-fighting, EMS, and rescue capabilities. Due to their versatile nature, it’s only natural to use this vehicle to save lives, as it can adapt to almost any situation. These vehicles have been described as the Swiss Army Knives of emergency vehicles, housing a multitude of capabilities in a manageable scale. Some of the components and amenities of these vehicles include a water pump system, a 420 HP turbine engine, and an electronic control system, all within a trailer-legal hull.

This innovation has helped emergency services of all kinds. Even the Broward Sheriff’s Office currently uses an airboat for their Everglades-emergency services. The Sheriff’s Office reported that within their first week of use, a team of rescuers effectively responded to a helicopter crash in which one victim was seriously injured. Now, the Broward Sheriff’s Office uses their airboat-emergency vehicle for rescue missions of all shapes and sizes.

During any rescue mission, personal safety and time are of the utmost importance. These boats are capable of functioning on land, water, and even ice. The next time you’re exploring on one of Wild Florida’s airboat tours, just think of how versatile and incredible this innovation is. Contact Wild Florida today for additional information on one of our airboat tours.

How else do you think an airboat can be used? Get creative and tell us about your innovative ideas for an airboat–your idea could change the future of airboat ingenuity and technology.

 

It’s OK to Smile for These Crocodiles!

As we’ve discussed before, the Everglades is the only place in the wild where you can see alligators and crocodiles living side by side. Unfortunately, the American crocodile has been going through a rough patch lately, with water fluctuations and a decline in food sources leading to lowered population numbers. However, researchers are discovering that these numbers may be turning around very soon.

Recently, Frank Mazotti, a researcher from the University of Florida, and his team recently completed a research expedition to the Everglades to examine the crocodile population. While there, they caught and documented 962 crocodile hatchlings, nearling doubling the number (554) from last year. Mazotti and his team have been monitoring the Everglades crocodile population since 1978, when they were officially listed as endangered; needless to say, they are very excited by the slowly-improving numbers.

Initially, the American crocodile reached endangerment status after a series of canals were dug into the Everglades’ waterways. These canals drained marshlands for agricultural purposes, in turn increasing the salinity of the water, which was extremely harmful for a number of Everglades species. While a number of restoration efforts have helped to improve the quality of the water in the area, Mazotti cannot determine for sure if they have directly led to this astounding population increase. He did note, however, that they should continue to see improvements.

When you visit Wild Florida for one of our exciting Everglades airboat rides, we hope you’ll get the chance to see all varieties of creatures that call this beautiful place home. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Call us at (866) 532-7167 to book your tickets and learn more about our park.

 

The Difference Between an Alligator and a Crocodile

What if we told you that all alligators are crocodiles, but not all crocodiles are alligators–confusing, right?  Well, we don’t consider ourselves experts, per say, on the matter of alligators and crocodiles, but we do know a little something about the matter due to our adventurous airboat rides and hands-on alligator experiences.  What it comes down to is taxonomy.  Both alligators and crocodiles are members of the reptilian order, Crocodylia.  It’s the families that each species belongs to is different.  A bit more simple than you originally thought?

There is a completely different family under the Crocodylia order called the Gavialidae family, which contains the gharial. Overall, we’re looking at around 23 different species of crocodilians.  The crocodilian lineage can be traced back 240 million years, and they’ve outlived dinosaurs by almost 65 million years.  They live life split between water and land, and they’re gifted swimmers–many being able to swim up to 20 mph.  There are several other factors that make this order specifically suited for the water such as being able to hold their breath for up to an hour, having eyes on top of their heads to lookout for prey, and possessing powerful tails that act as a propeller as they travel through water.

Also known for their skills in hunting, they can eat almost anything they are able to catch like turtles and even buffalo.  Another impression trait about this order is their powerful senses used in hunting such as their eyesight above water and at night. Their teeth aren’t made from chewing for digestion, but more for spearing, so crocodilians actually just swallow its food whole or in larger chunks.

While we’ve explored the similarities that reside within the order, let’s explore some of differences between the two families: crocodiles and alligators.

The first main and most obvious difference between the two families is their geographical location.  Alligators are primarily found in freshwater swamps, lakes, slow-moving streams typically located in the southeastern United States, South America and China.  Crocodiles, on the other hand, can tolerate the salty waters for mangroves and estuaries in Africa, North America, South America and Asia.

The shape of each families’ jaws is another outward difference you can detect between the crocodile and alligator.  Crocodiles typically have long, pointed snouts that are V-shaped, whereas alligators possess more rounded snouts that are more U-shaped.  The alligator’s jaw tends to be stronger, designed to withstand the pressure of cracking down on hard-shelled prey that reside within its habitat.

A crocodile’s teeth are much more visible due to the similar sizes of the upper and lower jaws, forcing its teeth to interlock when they shut their mouths.  An alligator’s teeth are often hidden when its mouth is closed, and you can only see its top teeth.
We’re passionate about Florida wildlife here at Wild Florida.  Aside from our unique airboat rides, we also have a wildlife park that allows your family to experience some of the most unique animals you’ve ever seen.  You can certainly spend an entire day at Wild Florida, and we would love to have you.  You can book your tickets on our website.

Resourceful Reptiles

When it comes to ambushing prey, alligators and crocodiles reign supreme. Lying perfectly still in the water until their prey comes within striking distance, when hunting, alligators are successful over 50% of the time–that’s more than most predators. Alligators are efficient in both underwater and shore-line hunting, but how can a single species be so successful? This creature is the last surviving dinosaur, so it must be doing something right.

Originally thought to be unintelligent, alligators and crocodiles are beginning to surprise scientists and biologists. Recently, these resourceful reptiles have been documented using sticks and twigs to lure in winged prey. If you happen to see a bundle of sticks floating casually towards you while taking an airboat ride, don’t reach for it! Like a chimpanzee fishing for termites in a mound, American alligators and mugger crocodiles have been using sticks to fish for birds. This is the first instance in which reptiles have been consistently recorded using tools.

A researcher from the University of Tennessee, Dr. Vladimir Dinets, comments, “This study changes the way crocodiles have historically been viewed. They are typically seen as lethargic, stupid, and boring but now they are known to exhibit flexible multimodal signalling, advanced parental care, and highly-coordinated group hunting tactics.”

A study was conducted in Louisiana by Dr. Dinets and his colleagues, during which they monitored the reptiles’ habits around two rookeries where spoonbills, white ibis, great egrets, and snowy egrets nest. The alligators were observed collecting and masterfully balancing twigs across their snout. The sticks would lure the birds within striking distance and with lightning reflexes, the alligators and crocodiles would attack. Even if the alligator needed to adjust its position, it did so in such a way that the sticks did not fall.

This behavior seems to only take place between the months of March and June–the birds’ breeding season. During nesting season, sticks are in short supply, so the birds are desperate to build their nests–some desperate enough to tempt fate with the planet’s most ancient predators. Because of the tropical climate, the mugger crocs in India appear to perform this behavior all year; juvenile alligators and crocodiles were not observed using this strategy, maybe because their snouts are too small to hold the sticks in place.

This is an impressive finding. It not only indicates the first time a large predator has used an object to lure in its prey, but it also displays the predator taking its prey’s seasonal habits into account, only using sticks during the desperate nesting season. The next time you’re on a Wild Florida airboat ride, observe the animals, see if you can identify them using tools and being resourceful in their natural environment. For additional information on tours, contact Wild Florida today.

Along with the use of tools, there have also been other cases where crocodiles have been seen catching sharks and bringing them on land to kill them rather than attempting to drown them. Do you think alligators and crocodiles are smarter than they’ve previously been portrayed? Share your insights.

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