Big Cypress National Preserve Eco Tour
They are business-minded, the Indians in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, you have to give them that. We are on our way to Billie Swamp Safaris in the Big Cypress Reserve, which is about an hour west of Fort Lauderdale in the middle of the Florida swamps. This is not the original home of the Seminoles. Before the arrival of white settlers, they lived along the coast, where they caught fish in the shallow waters off the coast and collected shells on the beach. In the course of the development of the coasts, which was always associated with the expansion of the tourist infrastructure in Florida, they were increasingly displaced into the humid and swampy interior, into the swamp area of the Everglades, which occupy the entire interior of South Florida.
Things to know about the Big Cypress National Preserve
- location: Big Cypress National Preserve is located in South Florida, north of Everglades National Park.
- Size: It extends over 720.000 hectares and offers a diverse landscape.
- Admission: Entry is free, so you can enjoy nature at no extra cost.
- wildlife: You can see alligators, Florida panthers, waterfowl and many other animals.
- Hiking: There are hiking trails, some through knee-deep water in the swamp.
- Paddle: Kayak or canoe on the Turner River and experience nature.
- Camping : There are five campgrounds along the Tamiami Trail, some with RV hookups.
- Driving: The Loop Road offers a scenic drive through the swamp area.
- fishing and hunting: These activities are allowed, but respect local regulations.
- visitor centers: The Oasis Visitor Center offers information and an alligator viewing platform.
- Photography: The landscape offers numerous opportunities for amateur photographers.
- Best time to travel: Winter and early spring are ideal as the weather is more pleasant.
- Events: Guided tours and events are offered to get to know nature better.
- Protection: The area was protected in 1974 to preserve an important ecosystem and watershed.
Via the "Alligator Alley" to the Big Cypress National Preserve
We follow the fast Interstate 75, which is popularly referred to as "Alligator Alley", and turn north at the large-sized advertising posters that point to the offers that await us: Airboat rides in the Everglades, eco tours the swamps and Indian food. The Big Cypress National Preserve turns out to be a surprise. Along the street we keep seeing well-kept houses, which have nothing Indian about them, between simpler residential buildings. And in the center of Big Cypress we suddenly find ourselves in front of a huge retirement home that you won't find in any other Indian reservation.
The rise of the Seminoles
When we inquired, we learn that the Seminoles still had 1957, when their tribe was officially recognized as such, had an annual budget of less than 15.000 dollars. Her rocket-like rise to one of the richest American Indian tribes began with tax-free sales of cigarettes on her reservation. They were the first Indian tribe to offer gambling on its territory in bingo halls, which is strictly prohibited outside. Today, they own several major casinos and have been the proud owners of the Hard Rock Cafes hotel and restaurant chain since 2007, which they bought for an astounding 965 million dollars. The income from these tribal companies will flow back into the tribe; how it is distributed, the Seminoles must give no information. However, a few years ago, corruption within the tribe flourished.
Successful company in the Big Cypress National Preserve
But obviously something sticks with the trunk as well. He can now call himself the owner of a new museum that presents tribal history. And that the Seminoles are also savvy in tourism, we see Billie Swamp Safaris, a company that offers airboat and eco-tours through the swamps and shows visitors alligator fights and shows such rare animals as the Florida panther. We choose the leisurely and above all quiet eco-tour with special vehicles through the swamp area, and our driver explains us - with a lot of humor - animals and plants that we see along the way.
Book your trip to the Everglades here
It doesn't matter that a few cattle or African water buffalos graze from time to time among the numerous cattle egrets, ducks and other water birds. We don't see alligators, but we can imagine that they are in the numerous watercourses and ponds. And our guide insists on having briefly seen one of the almost extinct Florida Panthers behind one of the bushes. Is it true? We cannot prove it because we have not seen him. We learn a lot from the history of the Seminoles. He tells us how the Seminoles successfully defended themselves in the war against the white invaders by using the special features of the site. It remains to be seen whether we believe everything he tells us, but we definitely have a lot of fun.
On the way with the airboat
Back at camp we watch the airboats making a roaring noise out into the swamps. And we are amazed to see that the local bird life is not impressed by this noise. A heron remains completely motionless in the water in front of us. He looks spellbound at his prey and is not irritated by the engine noise. Or maybe he's deaf by now, who knows? We have a freshly baked Indian meal at the Swamp Water Cafe Bannock Bread taste good. After that we drive back to Fort Lauderdale.
More trips to the Everglades
Practical tips for visiting Big Cypress National Preserve
- Plan your visit in advance: Find out about opening hours and events.
- Pack right: Take sunscreen, bug spray, water as well comfortable shoes mit.
- stay on the paths: This is how you protect nature and yourself.
- Respect the wildlife: Watch them from a safe distance, do not feed them.
- Use the visitor centers: Here you can get maps and information from experts.
- Try different activities: Hiking, paddling and fishing are just a few options.
- Camping : Reserve in advance if you want to stay at one of the campsites.
- Photograph responsibly: Follow the rules to protect nature.
- take your trash with you: Keep the park clean for other visitors.
- Drive carefully: Roads can be winding, so drive slowly and enjoy the view.
- Note the weather conditions: Summer can be very hot, so plan accordingly.
- Take part in guided tours: They offer a great way to learn more.
- Travel in the off-season: Fewer people means a quieter experience.
- Enjoy your visit: Take time to enjoy nature and tranquility.
Tips for the environment
Parking at the airport
Excursions and tours
Excursions and Tours in and around Fort Lauderdale * is available at Get Your Guide, for example
Travel guide for Florida
Hotels in Fort Lauderdale
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Source Big Cypress National Preserve Florida: own on-site research courtesy of The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. However, our opinion remains our own.
Text Big Cypress National Preserve Florida: © Copyright Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline