Safari in Florida? That's right, you don't have to go all the way to Africa to go on safari. You can answer the call of the wild and go on safari right here in Florida; but, on these safaris the only thing you'll shoot is a lot of pictures!
While some of these might be officially classified as eco-tours, with all of them you will be seeing wildlife — some native to Florida and in their nature habitats and some not. Most of them are guided tours, but have different modes of transportation. Almost all require tour guests wear long pants and closed-toe shoes; and, anytime you're outside in Florida don't forget a hat and sunscreen, and learn other ways to how to beat the Florida heat.
Billie Swamp Safari
Located on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, about halfway between Fort Myers and Palm Beach, Billie Swamp Safari explores the untamed Florida Everglades. Native American guides provide detailed history of the swamp on the Swamp Buggy Eco-Tour where you will see native animals and possible sightings of bison, water buffalo, wild pigs, and ostriches. On the Airboat Trail tour, fly just above the water to see alligators, turtles, fish and more or explore on your own through trails and elevated, wooden walkways. Snake and Swamp Critter shows and alligator feedings are held daily.
A Swamp Safari Day Package is $49.95 for adults (ages 13-61); $45.95 for seniors; $35.95 for children ages 4-12); children 3 and under are admitted free. The package includes access to all tours and shows from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. If you would prefer, purchase just the Swamp Buggy Eco-Tour or Airboat Trail tour for $25.00 per person. Night tours and VIP packages are also available.
If you'd like a real native-American adventure, reasonably-priced sleeping accommodations are available in native thatched-roof Chickees. While this is an especially fun adventure for children, parents will find themselves "roughing it" with no electric (except in the "dorm" Chickees). Pillows, sheets and blankets are provided, but you'll need to bring your own flashlights, towels and toiletries. Sleeping accommodations start at $60 per night and reservations are required.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wanyama Safari
Talk about photo opportunities! Bring along the cameras and video recorders for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Now Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas guests can actually enter the serene savannahs for an up-close personal encounter with wild animals. The hoofstock and birds roam freely on the savannah where guests may enjoy 24-hour viewing opportunities from their balconies and the main lobby. The 33-acre savannah is home to more than 200 mammals and birds representing a cross-section of the African palette — greater kudu, Grant's zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, impala, marabou stork and more. Concierge-level guests can explore the savannah more closely via the afternoon Wanyama Safari experience which ends with a South African feast at Jiko - The Cooking Place.
Disney's Wanyama Safari is available to guests (ages 8 and up) daily. The cost is about $190, plus tax, per person and includes dinner at Jiko - The Cooking Place.
| Wanyama Safari |
Disney's Wild Africa Trek
Prepare for one of the wildest adventures of your lifetime, as you observe hippos from the river's edge, gaze at crocodiles just a few feet away and make your way carefully across a wobbly swing bridge. The privately-guided expedition also takes you "over-landing" across a savanna in a VIP safari vehicle to a private safari camp to sample tasty African-inspired delicacies.
Disney's Wild Africa Trek is available to guests (ages 8 and up) daily at different times of the day. The cost is about $189, plus tax and includes a photo CD of your tour. The cost of the tour does not include general admission to Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park.
Everglades Day Safari and
Captain Bob's Excellent Adventure
Spend the day exploring the four main eco-systems — sawgrass prairie, mangrove estuary, cypress swamp and pine savannah — that make up the Florida Everglades, but the Everglades Day Safari starts and ends your day in Fort Lauderdale on Florida's East Coast or Fort Myers on Florida's West Coast. Comfortable tour buses depart daily from a variety of nearby locations.
Every 'glades tour includes an airboat ride; a relaxing boat cruise, swamp buggy ride or second air boat ride (depends on weather conditions); a wildlife drive within the Big Cypress Preserve; and, a lunch with alligator appetizers. Bring your camera, because alligator sightings are plentiful as are the birds.
If a full day of adventure is just too much for you (or your small children), then you may be more suited for Captain Bob's Excellent Adventure which is just a half-day of fun, including airboat ride and reptile show.
All-day safari is $145.00 for adults and $125.00 for children ages 5-11. (Prices do not include gratuities.) Half-day adventure is $80.00 for adults and $45.00 for children under age 12.
Florida EcoSafaris at
There's not another nature park in Florida where you can pack so many thrills into one day. Sure, you'll see native wildlife, but the real adventure comes by way of how you see them — zip lines, bungee jumping, horseback riding and the new canopy cycle. Of course, there is also a coach tour for those seeking a tame wildlife experience.
Perhaps the most unusual sightseeing experience in the United States (and as of now, the only one in the country) is the Cypress Canopy Cycle. It's like a reclined bicycle suspended safely by wires at tree-top canopy level — up to 25 feet in the air. The one-hour experience allows a birds-eye view of the Forever Florida Wildlife Conservation Area.
Zip lines are becoming more prevalent in Florida, but Forever Florida kick-started the trend. Now they not only have the over-two-hour guided Zipline Safari, but the new rollar coaster-like zipline adventure — The Rattlesnake. The Zipline Safari covers seven different ziplines and three skybridges, all high above the treetops for a once-in-a-lifetime view. The Rattlesnake is a first-of-its-kind in the U.S. where you fly up to speeds of 20 m.p.h. through the treetops on a multi-level coaster-style zipline.
Other adventures include an additional zipline and bungee jumping experiences — Peregrine Plunge (height of 71 feet to a speed of 30 m.p.h.), Panther Pounce (a 68 foot leap) and Swooping Crane (a 55 foot freefall). The coach tour seems rather tame in comparison, but it provides great photo opportunities.
The full-day EcoPark Admission includes: The Rattlesnake, Zipline Safari, Cypress Canopy Cycle, Peregrine Plunge, Panther Pounce and Swooping Crane and is $135.00 for adults and children ages 10 and older. Participants must weigh no more than 275 pounds for each adventure except Panther Pounce, which has a 265 pound weight limit.
The setting is right out of Africa, but the location is about 45 minutes north of Tampa. Giraffe Ranch in Dade City is actually a native wildlife preserve as well as a working ranch with domestic cattle and horses. Tour the preserve in a safari vehicle and enjoy up-close-and-personal contact with many of the exotic animals — feed the giraffes, zebra, lemurs and others. Also see the working herd of Austrian Haflinger horses and tiny Irish Dexter cattle.
Giraffe Ranch is located 38650 Mickler Road, Dade City. Call 813-482-3400 for reservations or more information. Safari vehicle tours are $59.99 (plus tax) for adults (ages 12 & up), $54.99 (plus tax) for seniors (age 65 & up), $49.99 (plus tax) for children (ages 2-11) and free for children under age 2. Group rates are available. The Camel expedition is $150.00 (plus tax) per person. Children under age 3 are not allowed to ride and children under age 5 must ride with an adult. Appropriate clothing is recommended for all activities — hat, sunscreen, long pants and closed-toed shoes.
Lion Country Safari
At South Florida's Lion Country Safari, you can drive yourself wild — use your own car and travel at your own pace — to see free-roaming wild animals... lions, elephants, chimps, giraffe and more. After you park your car, feel like a kid again at Safari World where you'll find amusement rides and more animals.
Your adventure doesn't need to end there. You can experience the overnight sounds of the jungle and wake up to the sounds of lions roaring at the adjacent Lion Country Safari KOA Campground. Bring your own tent or RV or reserve a cabin.
Lion Country Safari is located at 2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee, FL.
If you're into eco-friendly travel, don't miss these opportunities when visiting Florida: