Admittedly, when we look at the pictures of our kayak tour through the Everglades, we get a little queasy. In some photos we are extremely close to the alligators and the terrifying thing is – we didn’t even notice it along the way. Because one thing is clear: When you are in a kayak on the rivers of the Everglades, you are no longer in your own habitat, but in that of the alligators and pythons. Man has little to report here. And you can be sure: Whenever you discover an animal in the Everglades – be it an alligator, a fish or a wild bird somewhere between the trees or the arms of the mangroves – at that moment the pairs of eyes of at least 20 other animals are on you and you have no clue of it.
And that is exactly the reason why we decided on a kayak tour on our road trip through Florida , which of course couldn’t miss the Everglades: We wanted to experience the animals in their natural habitat. It was clear to us from the start that we would not do an airboat tour. The airboats are so extremely loud that they completely scare off even the last water flea. Firstly, this is pretty uncool for the animals, and secondly, you will hardly see an alligator. It is not without reason that airboat tour operators often combine airboat tours with alligator shows such as “Alligator Wrestling” to ensure that visitors see alligators in the first place and thus reduce their disappointment. Our opinion: it doesn’t work at all!
So we were looking for an environmentally friendly alternative and came across kayak tours through the Everglades. That sounded like a blatant adventure and we didn’t think about it for long: we’ll do it!
Everglades Kayak Tour: Start on the Turner River
The day we want to explore the Everglades starts early. We got bogged down with planning the trip and that’s why we start in the morning in the east of Florida in Homestead, which is actually a bit too far away as a starting point for a full day in the Everglades. So we drive in the wee hours of the morning armed with coffee on the Tamiami Trail through the Everglades National Park all the way west to Everglades City. This is where our agreed meeting point for our kayak tour is: At 9 a.m. we meet Ryan and Ozz from the Everglades Kayak Company , who will take us on a private tour through the Everglades today. After a brief briefing on the situation, our guide Ozz drives us to the Turner River, where our adventure begins starts.
By the way, there is a small sight to be admired along the way: the smallest post office in the USA in Ochopee! As we drove by, we almost missed it, it’s just a small white wooden house on the roadside. There is exactly one person in it, because there is no more space. It remains to be seen whether there are really many locals who drop their mail here or whether it is more of a tourist attraction.
Kayak through the wilderness of the Everglades
After a short drive of about 15 minutes we arrive at the starting point on the Turner River. The Turner River is located in the middle of Big Cypress National Preserve, the area in the Everglades where you can find most of the animal and plant species. You can even find wild pumas (yes, real pumas!) Here, which are pointed out by warning signs everywhere along the Tamiami Trail (a little hint: the Americans will explain to you that there are panthers here. For us, panthers are the black ones Big cats, in America panthers are the brown big cats we know as pumas. A certain species lives in the Everglades, namely the Florida panther. As we understand it, it is a puma. So don’t look out for big black cats, but for brown ones, they are harder to spot
After we have carried the kayaks to the water with our guide Ozz, there is a small paddling and safety introduction. For both of us, who last sat in such a vehicle during a school trip in middle school, it is immediately clear how it works. We carry our kayaks into the water and off we go. Ozz is a pretty big guy, by the way, and tells us that he grew up here and is constantly camping wildly in the Everglades (the area around Thousand Islands is said to be amazing!) – we feel in good hands with him and we are sure that he is if in doubt, knows what to do
We paddle slowly over the Turner River and let the impressions work on us. The deeper we go into the Everglades, the quieter it gets. At some point you can only hear the quiet beating of our paddles and the chirping of birds. We haven’t discovered any alligators yet and it actually takes a while to get there. To our left, a large alligator lies calmly in the sun and eyes us critically. Of course, we can’t keep the recommended minimum distance of 3 meters on the narrow river and so the pump is quite a problem when we have to pass the huge alligator. Ozz explains that typically 15-20 alligators have been seen at this point, but the water is so shallow that most of them have retreated into deeper waters.
At the time of our tour at the beginning of April, the Turner River has very little water because it has hardly rained in the last few months – and so it doesn’t take long before we run aground with the kayaks. That means: get out! Into the knee-deep, muddy water in which alligators, pythons and all kinds of critters lurk. We’re really fed up and our guide Ozz doesn’t seem so relaxed either. In the end everything goes well and we are safely back in our kayaks.
Alligators, pythons and … alligator fish?
The deeper we go into the Everglades, the more water the Turner River carries. The paddling is slowly becoming more relaxed, the river is wider and we can marvel at all sorts of animals. Almost every tree has some giant bird that we have never seen anywhere before, watching both us and the fish in the river.
We see more and more alligators at the edges of the river and you really have to look carefully not to miss them. The reptiles know exactly how to move in order to remain undetected. We experience a brief moment of shock when one of the alligators suddenly descends only 3-4m away from us and swims towards us … old Swede! Ozz had previously explained to us that the alligators are usually afraid of the big colorful kayaks and swim away if we get too close – this alligator saw it differently! We watched to get away and couldn’t spot the alligator either, but our GoPro took this photo:
Do you see him? He’s right next to the kayak!
Another creepy discovery during the tour were pretty big fearless fish with really nasty teeth. They just didn’t want to make room for us in the water and that we wanted to pass them with the kayak didn’t interest them. They couldn’t even be pushed aside with a paddle! They look a bit like alligators with their teeth and Ozz also gave us their name, which we of course forgot. Google says it was alligator pike, you can take a look at it… .ieks!
On the way back we also saw pythons and that was the moment when Christian really worked up a sweat. He can’t with snakes at all, especially not when they sneak up swimming through the water. It’s really hard to see the pythons in the water, only now and then a part of their body or their head flashed out of the water a few centimeters from our kayaks … that was pretty scary. For about 10-15 years there has been a real python plague in the Everglades due to introduced giant tiger pythons and it is very likely that you will encounter one of these giant snakes in the wild during a kayak tour through the Everglades.
For this reason, Ozz decided that he would no longer drive with us to the other side of the Turner River: There the river becomes really narrow and meanders between mangrove tunnels. Sometimes it is so narrow that you have to get the paddles into the kayak and paddle a little by hand – due to the low water it would have been much too dangerous. Getting stuck in mangroves between alligators and pythons is certainly no fun and so we were almost a little glad that our adventure came to an end here. On the way back Christian almost capsized because suddenly a fish jumped out of the water directly over his kayak and he was extremely scared! That seems to exist in the Everglades too: fish that jump out of the water almost three feet high … whatever for 😉
Information about the kayak tour through the Everglades
A kayak tour through the Everglades is organized relatively simply. We did our tour with Everglades Kayak Company . A 3-hour tour costs around € 100 per person , full-day tours around € 190 per person. A competent guide leads you through the waters, most tours take place on the Turner River.
Arrival and overnight in the Everglades
The kayak tours all start in the west of the Everglades, so it makes sense to spend the night there too. The village of Everglades City is well suited , as it is also the starting point for kayak tours. There’s not much else to see in Everglades City, but the accommodations are cheap and you’ll be right in the middle of the action. We got a bit bogged down with planning and only had to travel for almost 2 hours by car from Miami in the morning, which was suboptimal.
Equipment for the kayak tour
Depending on how long you are on the road, you should pack food and drinks. Before you start the tour, it is best to go to a toilet again, because there are none on the way. You have to pack your cell phones and cameras waterproof, because the paddles keep getting water and mud into the kayaks. And if you should capsize … not good (for many reasons …).
Otherwise absolutely vital: Because of the mosquitoes in the Everglades, you should definitely wear long clothes and use mosquito spray! But no car, please, you can’t impress the mosquitoes in Florida with that. In Florida there is mosquito repellent from OFF! to buy, alternatively you can order one from Nobite here, which works very well.
We found our kayak tour through the Everglades awesome and we are totally happy that we did this adventurehave dared. If you’re not in the mood for the overcrowded and polluting airboat tours, then this is definitely the best way to get to know the untouched nature of the Everglades. It is important to be accompanied by a local and competent guide in order to make the whole thing as safe as possible. After the tour we heard that the alligators can capsize such a kayak, our guides have repeatedly emphasized that they have never experienced an unprovoked attack by an alligator. The fact that the kayak tours through the Everglades are generally even made with children speaks for us that they cannot be excessively dangerous. So from us a clear GO! 🙂