So, what is ecotourism? Ecotourism combines the adventure of exploring the beauty of nature with a raised awareness of it. Destinations like the Everglades, with its untouched ecosystem and high biodiversity, offer an experience that’s both fun and educational. Nature enthusiasts and adventurous families alike can expect a great time while learning its secrets. The Everglades has areas so remote that they can only be reached by an airboat, and have remained largely unchanged for centuries.
As children we may learn that wetlands are the playground of ducks and frogs, not yet able to see their importance. Wetlands habitats are of vital importance to all life that thrives near it, and the Florida Everglades is no different. Many endangered animal species call it home, and it also provides drinking water to millions of South Florida residents.Even though it’s an ecosystem fed by floods and shaped by fires year after year, the Everglades are remarkably fragile. In recent years, its protection and its restoration have grown as important issues to Floridians.
Offering the chance to see and hear exotic bird species and observe the quiet power of wading alligators up close under an endless sky, the Florida Everglades is a feast for the senses. It is truly the defining natural attraction of Florida, as well as the legacy of the Gladesmen Culture here at Mack’s Fish Camp. If you’d like to take an Everglades eco tour with us or just want to experience an airboat ride in Miami, come on by.
For generations of Gladesmen, airboats have been a large part of our thriving out here for as long as we have. We are grateful to be able to show people from all over the world what makes the Everglades so special. But, we also take price in doing so safely.
Before an airboat tour, we advise our passengers on safety precautions before even leaving the dock. Here are some of the airboat safety guidelines airboats must follow, per the Florida Department of Environmental Services. They were designed to help offer a safer experience on an airboat ride in the Everglades.
Preoperative ChecklistThe airboat captain inspects the vessel to make sure the engine and propeller aren’t damaged and in working order. This helps to prevent both injury and mechanical breakdown.
Safety EquipmentA first-aid kit, eye and ear protection, drinking water, a B-1 type approved fire extinguisher, and a cell phone in a buoyant, waterproof case must all be on an airboat, in keeping with many requirements for recreational vessels.
Mind the PropellerNo one is permitted near the propeller. Loose clothing and items could get caught in it, resulting bodily injury to the person and damage to the airboat. To avoid this, all items aboard must be secured.
NavigationWe are trained and well-skilled in navigating and maneuvering any potential obstacles, blind spots, or tight areas. Having lived here our entire lives, we’re very familiar with the fluctuating water levels of the Everglades and the area itself. We can safely avoid getting stuck in stuck, but also know where we are in case of an emergency.
WeatherThe subtropical climate of Florida can make for volatile weather conditions, such as heavy thunderstorms, high winds and lightning. We stay mindful of the weather throughout the day, acting accordingly with any changes. In case of fog, airboats are operated with strobes for increased visibility of the craft. During or pending any inclement weather like lightning or heavy rain and wind, our airboats remain docked.
Preventative MaintenanceEvery week we perform maintenance to keep our airboats both clean and fully operational. We check the engine, propeller, exhaust system and more for any signs of aging or wear, making adjustments or repairs as needed.
We Gladesmen have been navigating the Everglades by airboat for decades now. We also take pride in sharing it with all who visit it by showing them a fun, exciting, and safe ride. This environment is our home, and we practice proper airboat safety to make sure that all visitors feel at home.
Built with powerful motors and a distinct design, airboats look like they’re flying over the marsh rather than on it. Racing airboats can reach speeds well over 100 miles per hour, yet most airboats operate most safely under 40 miles per hour. Our everglades airboat tours at Mack’s Fish Camp abide by this safety standard. But make no mistake, moving through this vast ecosystem on an airboat is a thrill like none other.
The landscape of the Everglades has many areas with low water and thick vegetation, which are difficult for motorboats to navigate through. Airboats are flat-bottomed boats driven by a large propeller that sits above the water. This design doesn’t just allow them access to areas hidden beyond the sawgrass. The position of the propeller also prevents airboats from disturbing the plants or animals.
Once the initial flight of your airboat ride slows, you’ll be surrounded by the natural beauty of the sloughs and marshes. Under an endless sky, miles from crowded intersections, you can appreciate the calm stillness of nature. You’ll hear and see many species of birds, including raptors like ospreys and colorful wading birds like herons. Not to mention you’ll see plenty of the icon of the Florida Everglades, the American alligator.
Apart from being the transportation standard of the Everglades, airboats provide an exciting way to venture deep into its many habitats. Everglades airboat tours give you the best of both worlds of Florida fun: rollercoaster thrills and the relaxation of nature. If you want to see for yourself or are just curious, then come and pay a visit to Mack’s Fish Camp.
From marshes to rivers and swamps to lakes, alligators have resided throughout Florida for centuries. Spanish settlers & explorers in the 1600’s referred to them as el legarto (“the lizard”), and alligator became the English form of it. Alligators can be found in all 67 counties in Florida.
They’re solitary in nature, and tend to shy away from human contact. But as human populations grow steadily, the potential for interactions often occur. Alligators have been found in neighborhood lakes, backyards, garages, even swimming pools!
Should you encounter a gator that you believe could pose a nuisance to yourself, your pets, or property, you can call the Nusiance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). Alligators under four feet long generally aren’t considered to be a nuisance unless the caller believes it could be a threat. And also keep in mind that, nuisance alligators are killed, not relocated.
Whether you’re a local living with alligators, or just looking to visit the Sunshine State, here’s some tips to be mindful of regarding gators.
Alligators are a cherished member of not just the Everglades ecosystem, but the state of Florida as a whole. Living with alligators, they seem to pop almost anywhere in the state. But the best place to see them up close is in their natural habitat. Taking an Everglades airboat tour at Mack’s Fish Camp is a fun, safe way to learn about them and the role they place in the environment.
Sawgrass is a slim, tall plant that can grow to over 9 feet high! It’s commonly found in wetlands and along riverbanks in the southern United States. The sawgrass marsh is the habitat that inspired the Everglades’ nickname and title of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ famous book, “Everglades: River of Grass”.
Despite its name, this Everglades plant is actually a species of sedge, not a grass. But sawgrass is also named for the fine, sharp points that run along its edges. These teeth can cut a person on contact. At Mack’s Fish Camp, we make sure that no one makes contact with it while on an airboat tour.
Sawgrass may not be so kind to human touch, but it’s very good to the environment of the Florida Everglades. In the winter months, migratory bird species eat the seeds produced by the sawgrass. Other bird species and even alligators use this tall, sharp sedge as protection by nesting in the sawgrass marsh.
The sawgrass marsh is flooded for much of the year, which can help produce taller and thicker sawgrass. If its growth becomes too thick and dense, it can further slow the sheetflow of the Everglades. During the Everglades dry season, sawgrass can help fuel wildfires. The wet soil which roots the plant allows it to recover while also removing any invading plants or trees from the marsh.
Like much of the flora and fauna found in the Everglades, sawgrass is strong enough to thrive here and help the ecosystem at the same time. Although it’s best to avoid touching it, you can see the River of Grass up close on an Everglades airboat tour at Mack’s Fish Camp.
There have been some aircraft that have vanished over the Everglades. In 1945, a group of five naval planes took off from Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station for a training mission. All five Grumman Avenger TBM Torpedo bombers lost radio contact and disappeared. Over the years, the wreckage of old military planes has been found in the Everglades. But to date, no trace of Flight 19 has been found, which helped to popularize the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.
Centuries ago, pirates terrorized the seas from the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean, attacking merchant ships. One such attack involved a pirate ship overtaking a merchant vessel off the Florida coast. The chase angered the pirate captain so much that he made the merchant crew walk the plank and made their captain’s wife watch.
Before her turn to walk she cursed all pirates, and suddenly rough waves pushed the pirate ship deep into the Everglades. The story goes that the cursed ship and the ghosts of its crew wander the swamps and marshes to this day!
In December of 1972, an Eastern Airlines flight bound for New York crashed into the Everglades after taking off from Miami. The crash was likely caused when the autopilot was accidentally shut off by a while investigating a burned out indicator light. In the years after the tragic crash, sightings were reported of ghostly-looking men on Eastern flights.
The descriptions given of the men sounded very similar to those of the captain and flight engineer of Flight 401. Rumor has it that Eastern Airlines installed good parts from the wrecked plane into other planes in their fleet.
Bermuda Triangle and pirate ghosts aside, the Everglades itself holds a great sense of mystery. It’s this mystery that gives weight to the stories and legends born here. But when you take an airboat ride at Mack’s Fish Camp, there’s nothing to be scared of. It’s just the side Florida very few people get to see.
The 2017 dry season saw some of the most wildfires in years. The state of Florida has had over 2,000 fires so far this year, with 125 fires burning an estimated 31,000 acres through April. The fire in the Everglades was so bad in April that it came right to the doorstep of Mack’s Fish Camp! Thankfully, through the efforts of the Department of Forestry, our historic family home was spared from the encroaching blaze!
Despite the hazards fires pose to animal and human Florida residents alike, they can also be beneficial to Everglades ecosystems. For many years, fire in the Everglades has come from lightning strikes and humans. The health of the different Everglades plant species in them relies on the extreme differences between the two seasons here. Just as the summer rains revive the Florida wetlands, fire in the Everglades helps plant life thrive.
The Pine Rocklands habitat has a need for fire that is two-fold. Hammock species of plants that grow there can block sunlight, which can harm smaller plants and even the taller pines. Fires can help clear overgrowth to let all plants thrive, and the extreme heat helps pines seed the ground.
The trees of the Pinelands are very fire-resistant because of their thick bark. The hardwood hammock can withstand fire somewhat, because they sit on wet soil and are very humid. Fires that occur in the coastal prairies are usually started by lightning , and prevent exotic plant encroachment toward freshwater marshes.
The habitats where fire is the most vital are the wet prairie and sawgrass marsh. The Everglades is a river, and the main sheet flow moves through these habitats, and is improved by the reduction of sawgrass. Sawgrass fires also burn off flammable plants near tree islands and hardwood hammocks, which are more vulnerable to fire.
Because of its destructive potential to people and the environment, fire in the Everglades can be quickly written off as a monster. State officials and fire departments keep watch over and fight fires across the state, protecting buildings and the environment alike from them. But fire can also be beneficial to this ecosystem, especially when used in prescribed burns by these officials.
The complexity of the Florida Everglades ecology is a lot to explain, but beautiful to see firsthand on airboat ride. At Mack’s Fish Camp, you can learn about these diverse environments while seeing them up close.
A long, stout fish, bowfins are strong fighters, and have been known to snatch lures from unsuspecting anglers! They have long dorsal fins and rounded tailfins. At first glance, they can be mistaken for a bullseye snakehead fish.
The largemouth bass is the most popular game fish in North America. They’re also the state freshwater fish of Florida, and with good reason. These bass are found statewide, and are found near vegetation. A big catch for a largemouth bass in Florida starts around 24 inches long and weigh 8 pounds!
This long, torpedo-shaped fish is generally not considered a game fish. But it’s aggressive eating habits can offer a good fight. Its long snout and thick, armored scales give the Florida Gar an almost prehistoric look. It also breathes through gills and an air bladder, and must surface periodically for air.
Identified by their whisker-like barbells and forked tail, channel catfish are the most –fished catfish species in America. They are a popular catch for food, and are attracted to strong odors. Shrimp or other commercial stink baits are recommended for them.
A very popular sport fish in South Florida, tarpon are found in both saltwater and freshwater habitats. When it’s not quite warm yet in during spring, tarpon are very abundant in the Everglades, especially the younger ones. They can grow quite large, weighing over 200 pounds!
The Everglades dry season (December though April) often leads to extended periods of drought, and lower water levels. While this can concentrate fish in gator holes, sloughs, and canals, it leaves them exposed to predators in marshes. Their numbers are replenished and more abundant during the flooding of the Everglades wet season, though much less concentrated.
The fish in the Everglades are vital to this ecosystem. They are a primary food source for alligators, birds, and larger fish. Fish also help manage Everglades insect populations. Whether you explore on our bass guide service or just take an Everglades tour on an airboat, you’re sure to see plenty of them!
It definitely feels like summer in Florida for most of the year. But, the Everglades doesn’t really have a summer, or even four distinct seasons, just two! There is the wet season, which lasts from May through November, and the dry season, lasting from December through May. During the Everglades wet season, the Florida wetlands are replenished by heavy rains, and alligators nest and hatch their young. The dry season is defined by little rainfall, and peak activity of several species of Everglades birds like herons and egrets.
The best time to take an Everglades tour can be a matter of preference. The dry season offers cooler temperatures, and the lower water levels and bird nesting concentrate Everglades wildlife into smaller areas. But many tourists visit South Florida at this time, and it gets very busy. During the wet season there are fewer crowds, but also higher temperatures and frequent rain.
Despite there being only two seasons in the Everglades, there are transition periods between them. Starting in October, a noticeable shift starts to occur, the rains become less frequent, and the heat is less intense. Also, a decrease in humidity brings a decrease in pesky, biting mosquitoes!
The Everglades wet season can get too hot for some, and the dry season can bring too many people. But, maybe there’s a time of year that’s just right for you. Miami in the fall doesn’t see the leaves changing colors, but the license plates start to! So before the holidays take a bite out of your budget, and snowbirds start arriving from across America and beyond, consider taking an Everglades tour in Miami this fall at Mack’s Fish Camp.
Alligators are mostly seen as either floating in water, laying about, or casually walking across a gold course. But, don’t be fooled. Because alligators are ambush predators, they rely on quick bursts of speed to catch their prey. Though not fast, alligators are capable of moving at 10-15 miles per hour from a standing position. In the water, they can swim nearly twice as fast because of their muscular tails!
While they definitely close to it, the American alligator doesn’t sit at the top of the Everglades food web. The Burmese python, an exotic invasive species, is now the apex predator of the Everglades, and preys on alligators. Of the alligator myths listed, we wish this one was true, as Burmese pythons have become a significant threat to Everglades wildlife.
Intimidating as they look, alligators aren’t bloodthirsty. Their cousins the crocodile, particularly Nile crocodiles, are known as aggressive potential man-eaters. Alligators are quite shy, and try to avoid humans. But, they can become aggressive if you’re near their nest, or if they have been fed by people. Feeding alligators makes them associate people with food, so if you encounter a wild alligator, don’t feed it!
Again, that seemingly lazy log with eyes shouldn’t be underestimated. Young alligators are more agile, but adult alligators are very strong and muscular. Adult alligators rely on a combination of their sharp claws and long tails to climb trees and even fences! They can use this ability to pursue prey up trees, though they prefer to “work smart, not hard” and wait under the tree.
Alligators are reptiles, and not only are they cold-blooded, they can’t regulate their body temperature on their own. The Florida Everglades is perfect for them, because alligators thrive in temperatures between 82 and 92 degrees. However, every so often the Everglades is within reach of cold winter weather, but alligators are ready for it. When faced with temperatures of 55 degrees or lower, alligators go into a dormant state, slowing their heartbeat to 1 to 2 beats per minute!
Alligators are amazing and powerful creatures, so it’s easy to fall victim to some of these alligator myths. But with a good balance of curiosity and skepticism, you can discover the truth about these awesome animals. The alligator tours at Mack’s Fish Camp let you see them up close in their natural habitat. You’ll also learn more about alligators and also the Everglades ecosystem from Florida Gladesmen that have lived alongside them for generations.