Looking for off the beaten path in South Florida? Then how about an adventure in the Everglades? At Billie Swamp Safari you can explore nature trails, learn about local animals, and eat native Seminole cuisine. It’s the real Florida experience.
Located less than 2 hours from both Miami and Fort Myers is Billie Swamp Safari, located inside the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. We arrived around lunch time, after having spent a couple of hours at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. We were greeted in the gift shop with a big smile by Amanda, who explained all of the different exhibits, shows, and rides that were available. The really cool thing about Billie Swamp Safari is that it’s free to get in and you only pay for the specific activity you want. So if you’re not into snakes, you don’t have to pay for the Snake Show. Or if grandma thinks the Buggy Tour might be too bumpy for her, she can sit and wait in the Butterfly Garden.
Since we were pretty hungry (aren’t we always??) we actually started our adventure in the Swamp Water Cafe. We were greeted with another big smile (seriously, everyone was always smiling!) and given some delicious bread that tasted a little like funnel cakes… yum!
The menu itself was a pretty decent size, with a lot of typical American diner type food like burgers, sandwiches, and wings. But there were also some “Seminole favorites.” Since we wanted to experience real Florida, we chose the Sampler Platter which consisted of catfish, gator tail nuggets, frog legs, french fries, coleslaw, and cornbread.
Remember how we said we were pretty hungry? Well, we tried to finish it all. We really did. And even though it was all delicious (yes, even the frog legs) we were only able to finish about two-thirds of it.
Over the next few hours we continued our Everglades adventure. We went on an airboat ride, went to the Critter Show and Snake Show, and finished off with a Swamp Buggy Eco-Tour. The airboats and buggies run continuously throughout the day but the Critter Show and Snake Show only have 2 scheduled times each, so keep that in mind when planning your own adventure. What we thought was great was that in between each activity, you were still left with time to roam around the grounds and check out their various animal and traditional Seminole village exhibits.
Our ride on the “River of Grass” allowed us to really see how amazing this body of water is. Our guide slowed the airboat and pointed out animals as we encountered them, and answered all of the questions we had.
This show was done at Fort Critter. We were shown different animals and told about their eating habits, where they usually live, life spans, etc. We were even able to pet most of them!
During this show, several snakes were brought out and shown to us. We learned a little about them and their unique characteristics and even got to see them being fed!
This tour was SO much fun! Hold on tight because the road does get bumpy. We were going through water, between trees, and got to see a lot of native animals (like buffalo) and non-native animals (like ostriches). We even saw a wild bear! It all happened so fast that we didn’t get a picture. Our guide was absolutely giddy with excitement. He said in 13 years working there he’d only seen a bear one other time.
To complete our adventure, we spent the night in a native-style chickee. There was no electricity, no bathroom, no wifi. Just two small beds. But once again we were greeted with a smile, this one a bit greener. And there was a small deck in the back of the chickee which overlooked the water, which we absolutely loved!
I really enjoyed my time at Billie Swamp Safari; I got to do and see so many cool things. It’s a great place for kids and adults to spend a day and experience the real Florida.
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**A big thank you to Melissa and Florida Seminole Tourism for hosting us. As always, however, all opinions are our own.**