It was a perfect day for the Billie Swamp Airboat ride. The sky was blue as tourmaline and a light breeze riffled the air.
Even though I’ve lived in South Florida for most of the past 28 years, I’ve never been to the Big Cypress Park in the Everglades.
Chickee huts, native structures of the Miccosukee Indians, are everywhere.
They serve as picnic pavilions, places to store old farm equipment, and shady play areas for children. Some backyards have several.
AIRBOAT AT DOCK, BACK VIEW OF ENGINE
These chickee huts may be seen from the dock of the Billie Swamp airboat ride.
The airboat is noisier than one might anticipate. Earplugs are distributed with one’s pass for the ride.
PARKED IN THE SUN
The ride is relatively brief. Nearly 15 minutes of the half-hour jaunt was spent parked in still water while the guide answered the prattling questions of a child.
PARKED IN THE SUN
Among the facts learned: There are 2.2 million square miles of Everglades and 6 million alligators.
SMALL TURTLE'S NOSE BARELY VISIBLE
As a longtime Florida resident, an alligator sighting is no longer a thrill. Mostly, one hopes not to see them crossing the road or climbing from the water into one’s yard.
They find little dogs and small children tasty.
ALLIGATORS LURKED HERE
We also encountered water buffalo and ostriches (or possibly emus) in one area of the swamp. Water buffalo were imported for the entertainment of the visitors who expect to see wildlife.
Their milk is used to make expensive Buffalo mozzarella.
MYSTERY PORTAL -- YOU HAD TO BE THERE TO SEE IT
I was especially intrigued by what appeared to be a mysterious portal in the shrubbery, photo above. I have a quartet of door and archway art on one wall of my home.
LONG STRAIGHT ROAD TO BILLIE SWAMP SAFARI
There is lots of nothing to see on the reservation, as the U.S. government was fond of giving Native Americans the least valuable parcels of land.
RESERVATION FLAT LANDS
The Miccosukee have made the best of it, breeding cattle, rock mining, and of course the big money-maker, running casinos.
There is a small restaurant with a limited menu on the premises. I had the over-priced gator tidbits. It wasn't the first time I've had gator but it's not on every menu in the state either. Yes, it tastes like chicken.
There are some brightly-plumed jungle birds, snakes, and turtles in cages for visitors to see.
BIG TURTLES WITH BEAUTIFUL SHELLS