Article and photos by Elena del Valle
Glen Wilsey, our guide, and the swamp buggy
On one of those rare chilly South Florida mornings recently I drove to the Everglades to experience the Exclusive Swamp Buggy Eco-Tour, the new 90-minute escorted private eco-tours at Billie Swamp Safari. During the tour, Glen Wilsey, an alligator wrestler turned guide, showed us his corner of the universe.
Billie Swamp Safari is between Ft. Lauderdale and Naples in South Florida
This little fellow had sharp teeth
Before we set out to discover the Big Cypress Reserve, the part of the Everglades we were in, Glen introduced us to a small reptilian friend for a few minutes of show and tell. Next we headed to the Swamp Water Cafe where we shared a traditional Seminole sampler platter: fried frog legs, fried alligator, fried catfish, fried bread and hearts of palm.
Seminole hearts of palm
After we tasted the snacks, we boarded the homemade swamp buggy. Smaller than the full sized vehicles for the 32-person regular tours, the swamp buggy can accommodate five passengers in the elevated back and a sixth in the passenger seat next to the driver.
We were lucky to spot this yellow rat snake during our drive
Our swamp buggy drove easily over water
During our drive, we saw local and exotic flora and fauna including sable palms, resurrection ferns, oak and maple trees as well as vultures, glossy ibis, black feral pigs, bison, ostrich, yellow coral snake, and Asian water buffalo,
Billie Swamp Safari, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, is deep in the heart of the Florida Everglades and has 650,000 visitors a year. There are 3,300 Seminoles living in six reservations in Florida.