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Old 07-23-2012, 11:11 PM   #1
LovinPooh
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Airboat tours help.. please ;)

I would love any input anyone has on the many airboat tours around Orlando. We have never take one and would love to do so. But I need some input please..
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Old 07-24-2012, 09:17 AM   #2
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We are planning on doing an airboat tour on our Christmas vacation. Seems the biggest factors to consider are:

- length of the ride (most seem to be either 30 minutes or 1 hour, some are longer)
- number of passengers on the boat (some boats are large and have seats for 15 or so....others are small and take a max of 6, which I think would give you a better experience)
- distance from your resort/hotel
- price

We have narrowed it down to Wild Willy's http://www.wildwillysairboattours.com/. They offer the smaller boats, a longer ride (1 hour), get excellent ratings on TripAdvisor, have baby gators you can hold and take phots with after your ride, and have a prepurchase discount when you book online (making the price very reasonable).
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Old 07-24-2012, 11:18 AM   #3
LovinPooh
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Wild Willys does look top notch. I had been looking at Boggy Creek. But thats a half hour compared to the 1hour of wild willys. Gettign there seems to be a bit sketchy though. Says drirections take you down an exit with only sunpass... But theres gotta be alternative route.
thanks
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Old 07-24-2012, 11:24 AM   #4
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Here's another one we considered......4 passengers guarantees a private tour, the boat will stop whenever you want for photos, etc., and everyone has a headset so you can talk to the driver and ask questions during your ride:

http://www.spiritoftheswamp.com (Spirit of the Swamp)
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Gina and her two guys ...conquering awesome Orlando, one offsite attraction at a time!

Jan. 2009....onsite at POR: all 4 Disney Parks
Jan. 2012....offsite on I-Drive: Universal Studios, IOA, SeaWorld, & Discovery Cove
Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
Dec. 2012...onsite at SW! Christmas week at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Gatorland, airboats, & holiday fun
**Christmas 2012 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3041415
Aug. 2013....Sheraton Vistana Resort: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Cocoa Beach & more! **August 2013 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3167818

Aug. 2014.....SVR, SW, DC, AQ, TL, Daytona & MORE! **August 2014 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=51863899


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Old 07-24-2012, 12:00 PM   #5
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thank you!
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Old 07-25-2012, 08:40 AM   #6
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Thanks for this info! We are considering adding this experience to our trip; just trying to figure out the best tour for us.

Has anyone heard anything good or bad about the night tours vs the day ones? The day we have open is Saturday and we will be in Sea World for the day, so I'm considering the evening airboat tour. Any suggestions on transportation to and from the hotel? We won't have a car.
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Old 07-25-2012, 12:09 PM   #7
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I'll give you a little different perspective -- from the viewpoint of an airboat operator at work (NOT commercial tours).

Airboat rides are sort of a quintessential Florida outdoor experience. They are a lot of fun. They're loud, fast, and they get you right down in whatever ecosystem you are visiting. Do NOT take airboats in hopes of seeing wildlife, because they scare most wildlife away.

Big boat vs. small boat -- having ridden in both as a tourist, and having driven both, I can tell you what the main difference is...and it's not what you think. The main difference is safety -- with BIG boats being much safer than small boats. Small boats are more fun to DRIVE, but the experience as a passenger is better in big boats.

The smaller the boat, the more nimble and manuverable it is. For a tourist, that's a good news - bad news thing. Small boats may bounce you around a little more; big boats give a smoother ride. But small boats can also be flipped or sunk in the blink of an eye -- especially if the driver is a hot dog. If your airboat ride is a thrill ride, you selected the wrong place.

Big boats give you a smoother ride, better safety, and the owners are not likely to entrust a big, expensive airboat to a hot dog.

Day vs. night -- Go in the daytime. Nighttime airboating can be miserable. Pros go out at night only if they have to for work purposes.

If you do go at night, DO NOT smile! Depending on where you are, you'll have to deal with clouds of knats, mosquitos, and spiders.

The only advantage to airboating at night is you will see more alligators, and might see them closer than in the daytime. Alligators hunt at night, and are much more active generally at night. But that is more than offset by the fact that you can't see anything outside the patch of light from the boat's lights. Not a good tradeoff.

Length of trip -- take a short trip. When I go out on an airboat, I'm typically gone 4-8 hours. Two hours is a short ride for us, and the minimum we do. But that's because we're working, not sightseeing.

You will get all the airboat experience you want in 30-45 minutes. On most longer commercial trips, the guide is doing nothing more than driving you around in circles (you won't know the difference).

Terrain -- the sawgrass prairies of the Everglades are the best venue for airboating, by far. Very pretty, the boat behaves better on grass, and you're in the ecosystem the machine was designed for. Lakes and rivers are okay, but except for the noise, the experience is no different from going out on the water in any other type of boat.

Safety -- you should buy and use three things on an airboat ride:
  1. Eye protection -- sunglasses in the daytime, clear safety glasses or goggles at night. Eye protection is a must. For clear eye protection, Home Depot sells perfectly good clear safety goggles for about $5.
  2. Ear protection -- IF the airboat company provides any ear protection at all, it is likely to be cotton balls...which are NO protection at all. Most commercial airboat operations don't even make a pretext of providing ear protection. Very important, especially for kids. The little sponge ear protectors work fine, and can be purchased at any gunshop, most sporting goods stores, and probably at home supply places like Home Depot.
  3. Sunblock -- lay it on thick, even if you are only going for 1/2 hour. You are going to get both sun and wind burn, and sunblock will protect you from both.
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Old 08-13-2012, 12:55 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimMIA View Post
I'll give you a little different perspective -- from the viewpoint of an airboat operator at work (NOT commercial tours).

Airboat rides are sort of a quintessential Florida outdoor experience. They are a lot of fun. They're loud, fast, and they get you right down in whatever ecosystem you are visiting. Do NOT take airboats in hopes of seeing wildlife, because they scare most wildlife away.

Big boat vs. small boat -- having ridden in both as a tourist, and having driven both, I can tell you what the main difference is...and it's not what you think. The main difference is safety -- with BIG boats being much safer than small boats. Small boats are more fun to DRIVE, but the experience as a passenger is better in big boats.

The smaller the boat, the more nimble and manuverable it is. For a tourist, that's a good news - bad news thing. Small boats may bounce you around a little more; big boats give a smoother ride. But small boats can also be flipped or sunk in the blink of an eye -- especially if the driver is a hot dog. If your airboat ride is a thrill ride, you selected the wrong place.

Big boats give you a smoother ride, better safety, and the owners are not likely to entrust a big, expensive airboat to a hot dog.

Day vs. night -- Go in the daytime. Nighttime airboating can be miserable. Pros go out at night only if they have to for work purposes.

If you do go at night, DO NOT smile! Depending on where you are, you'll have to deal with clouds of knats, mosquitos, and spiders.

The only advantage to airboating at night is you will see more alligators, and might see them closer than in the daytime. Alligators hunt at night, and are much more active generally at night. But that is more than offset by the fact that you can't see anything outside the patch of light from the boat's lights. Not a good tradeoff.

Length of trip -- take a short trip. When I go out on an airboat, I'm typically gone 4-8 hours. Two hours is a short ride for us, and the minimum we do. But that's because we're working, not sightseeing.

You will get all the airboat experience you want in 30-45 minutes. On most longer commercial trips, the guide is doing nothing more than driving you around in circles (you won't know the difference).

Terrain -- the sawgrass prairies of the Everglades are the best venue for airboating, by far. Very pretty, the boat behaves better on grass, and you're in the ecosystem the machine was designed for. Lakes and rivers are okay, but except for the noise, the experience is no different from going out on the water in any other type of boat.

Safety -- you should buy and use three things on an airboat ride:
  1. Eye protection -- sunglasses in the daytime, clear safety glasses or goggles at night. Eye protection is a must. For clear eye protection, Home Depot sells perfectly good clear safety goggles for about $5.
  2. Ear protection -- IF the airboat company provides any ear protection at all, it is likely to be cotton balls...which are NO protection at all. Most commercial airboat operations don't even make a pretext of providing ear protection. Very important, especially for kids. The little sponge ear protectors work fine, and can be purchased at any gunshop, most sporting goods stores, and probably at home supply places like Home Depot.
  3. Sunblock -- lay it on thick, even if you are only going for 1/2 hour. You are going to get both sun and wind burn, and sunblock will protect you from both.
Thanks for the great tips! Now I'm more excited about our trip and I'll sure include an airboat ride, taking all your suggestions into consideration for the best experience!
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Old 08-13-2012, 06:43 AM   #9
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We went on Wild Willy's a couple of years ago and had a really good time.........the scenery and birds were great. We did have ear protection provided and it was not cotton balls-very nice and comfortable. We also all held a small alligator in their office.
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Old 08-13-2012, 12:42 PM   #10
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We just booked Spirit of the Swamp at 10am for a one-hour tour. I liked that the boats are small (5 people), the private headsets and that it's only 1/2 away from our hotel so the tour won't take up the whole day. Great reviews too!

Jim - thank you for all that info! Very helpful
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Old 08-13-2012, 01:31 PM   #11
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We did an airboat ride here: http://www.airboatridesatmidway.com/ in January. We've never done an airboat ride before, so we have nothing to compare it to, but we thought it was excellent. We did the hour tour and it was perfect. The only downside is it took us almost an hour to get there, so just plan accordingly.

We were on a smallish boat, it held maybe 9-10 people. My husband gets sea sick easily, but this wasn't choppy at all. We saw tons of animals; cows, different birds, bald eagles and of course, alligators. They had headsets that covered your ears and allowed you to talk and ask questions.

And then, at the end, they had a baby alligator you could pet, hold and take pictures with, which my son really enjoyed.

My husband and I were on the fence about doing this, but my son really wanted to. It ended up being one of our favorite activities and is something we all would love to do again.
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Old 08-13-2012, 02:11 PM   #12
JimMIA
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If you get an airboat ride with headsets, that would make a huge difference. Without that, there is nothing but the roar of the engine...and it is a ROAR.

To be able to listen and ask questions would really change the nature of the ride.
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