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“Worth The Drive” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Billie Swamp Safari

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Billie Swamp Safari
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Clewiston, FL   |  
Hotel amenities
New York City, New York
Top Contributor
77 reviews 77 reviews
18 hotel reviews
Reviews in 37 cities Reviews in 37 cities
33 helpful votes 33 helpful votes
“Worth The Drive”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 30, 2010

Let me start by saying I was quite afraid this was going to be a tourist trap. I couldn't have been more wrong. This place was definitely worth the drive out. My GF and I had originally intended to take an airboat ride but upon arriving decided to do the swamp safari instead. It was a lot of fun and the guide/driver was very knowledgeable and interesting. I have read other reviews that mentioned the long lines and if it were busy the day we went I could understand the inconvenience however the day we went it was not crowded and we enjoyed wandering around looking at the animals during the 10 minute wait before our swamp buggy departed.

Stayed April 2010, traveled as a couple
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42 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    3.5 of 5 stars
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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Spanish first
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English first
South Florida
13 reviews 13 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
17 helpful votes 17 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 25, 2010

Was a little apprehensive about this place thinking it was probably a tourist trap. However it proved to be quite nice. We did some research on other places to go and this one sounded good. Then, luckily a man of American Indian heritage was staying at our hotel and he said he had tried several of the other trips and recommended this one. Don't know about the others but I would recommend this one, too.
We did both the Dune Buggy Ride and the fast boat ride and both were fun, especially the fast boat. I thought the place was very well maintained and while it is not huge and they do not have a great number of animals, we had a fine time and I would certainly take people there the next time I am in the area.

Stayed January 2010, traveled with friends
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Lake Oswego, Oregon
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 18, 2010

Billie Swamp Safari is owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe and is about 1/2 hour north from Alligator Alley in the Big Cypress Swamp. The Seminoles are one of the few tribes that did not totally surrender to the US government in the 1800s as about 300 ended up hiding out in the Everglades away from the US army. They were the first tribe to operate casinos in the US and are now one of the wealthiest tribes.

Billy Swamp Safari is their "tourist" attraction that gives you a little window into Seminole character and culture. We were a group of 12, 6 adults and 6 teenagers, and we stayed overnight in the thatched hut Chickees ( traditional home of the Seminoles). There is a package tour which includes airboat ride, daytime swamp buggy ride, nighttime swamp buggy ride, Native American story telling, and a poisonous snake show.

A few words about each:
Airboat ride: fast and furious and fun and not many alligators if it is cold out. Being cold blooded they sink to the bottom of the swamp to keep warm. Saw only a couple, but in warm weather, I 'm sure there would be dozens. Problem: arrived after 12:30 and the lines for the airboat were 1-2 hours long for a 30 minute ride. Better to arrive before 11:30 (no lines) or get the last rides in the afternoon.

Daytime swamp buggy ride: not a problem with lines as the giant sized buggy can hold up to 40 people. Interesting tour through the swamp with lots of sighting of exotic wildlife from Asia and Africa along with wild pigs and alligators and birds. Some blue antelope from India I had never seen in a zoo before. The Seminoles feed them well and have regular veterinary visits. Interesting discussion of Seminole culture and history.

Snake show: great show on the five types of poisonous snakes in Florida- natural history lesson for everyone and a close hand look at the snakes. Excellent presenter.

Native American Story teller: fascinating if rambling look at Seminole culture and legends, the clan structure, vision questions, life style changes, and the money the Seminoles make off the casinos today ($100,000 for each individual Seminole a year - including children!)

Nighttime swamp buggy ride: for me this was the highlight of the trip. Not many people spend the night in a chickee, so it was evident the tour guides considered us special. We had a young Blackfoot as our driver- only 15 of us on the 40 person buggy. Went out into the swamp where we had gone during the day- but the atmosphere was so different. All the animals were bedding down, finding their spot to sleep in the swamp. Somehow I had considered how animals sleep in the wild and it was fascinating to see how some slept totally alone, and others clustered together. Only the spotlight of the buggy lit the scene as we came across animals everywhere. Since we were also looking for the florida panther (six live on the Seminole Reservation around Billie Swamp), the antelopes and young bison and pig look very vulnerable. There had been sightings of the panther two nights before.

It was a cold (for Florida) December night, and the buggy was open air and we were ill prepared for the weather. The driver paused the buggy in the swamp to talk about the alligators. Turns out he was in training to be an alligator wrestler, to be certified the next week. After a question about wrestling, he launched into a fifteen description of "how to wrestle an alligator"- totally serious and a perfect step by step about how to mesmerize and trick an alligator into NOT biting you. He said that to become an alligator wrestler, you have to be willing to have your hand bit off". My jaw was dropping, and I couldn't stop laughing in disbelief. Then more stories about the "reactivity" of the alligator- that he had poached them when he was younger- even after you cut off their head and arms, they can still bite you and grab hold. Hilarious black humor!

As we were all freezing, he drove like a mad man through the dusty roads in the swamp, to get our adrenaline up . The wildest ride of my life! Not for the faint of heart, but so much fun I pe..d in my pants as we bounced along, narrowly missing the palmetto fronds and trees inches from our buggy. Don't think he would have done this with an older, more sedate group- but we had a bunch of teenagers and were having a blast, so he let it rip! This place was definitely NOT Disneyland.

Night in Chickee hut: also very memorable. Huts hold two people in a thatched roof, screened in sides hut. No electricity, only kerosene lamps. Just sheets and a thin blanket to keep warm. Since it was in the Everglades, I thought, no problem. However, it was December, and the temperature dropped to the high 40s or low 50s, so I froze my bones off. The teenagers rounded up extra blankets from empty chickees (we were the only ones in individual chickees) but it was not enough. Recommendation: bring a light sleeping bag or warm long underwear to sleep in and you will be fine. The huts are on stilts over water, so the cold air from the water makes it extra cold.(not a problem most of the year) There are also many animals(alligators/critters) in the swamp surrounding the chickees, which makes it interesting and adventurous. Bathrooms are a distance away, so bring a flashlight.

We are an adventurous family, so the nighttime buggy and chickee hut "hotel" appealed to us as an unique experience. Not for everyone, but for those who are tired of the rest of plastic theme park Florida, this is great alternative.

Also, don't miss the nearby Seminole Museum for an in-depth look at the culture and history of the Seminoles. They were living a traditional way of life until the 1960s when the drainage of the Everglades ruined their way of life and they turned to casinos to keep the people out of poverty.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
vancouver, bc
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 27, 2009

We had read bad reviews about this place and expected the worse, but were very pleasantly surprised. It was a long drive up the road to Billies Swampland from the main highway (alligator alley) but we found it interesting, it was a new part of the country that we hadn't seen before. We got there fairly early, 11 am, and there wasn't too much of a crowd, we had to wait 30 minutes for the next swamp ride. They have a zoo of types, with alligators of course, snakes, lizards, turtles, exotic birds etc to look at while you were waiting. We were anxious to get on the boat and tried to get on first, but word of advice - don't get on in front - that's where you get really wet! Our guide was a lot of fun, and very knowlegeable, he advised us it would be loud and it was - it was really fast too, and so much fun! I couldn't wipe the smile off my face! We slowed down to see the alligators and other wildlife, you actually go over them in the airboat, and learned a lot about them and their habitat. There are lots of wild pigs and piglets, and all kinds of other animals that don't really belong there, (they've been donated), scottish deer, ostriches, vultures, raccoons, and a bunch others I can't remember, but it was fun to see them. When we returned we went on the huge swamp buggy ride - it went through the water and on the land, the guide was great at reciting the history of the seminole indians and the local plants and animals. The ostriches were a hoot, they would come right up to the swamp buggy and were very curious, and one tried to race us. :), All in all it was a highlight of our trip and I would highly recommend it.

  • Stayed April 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Lincoln, Rhode Island
19 reviews 19 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
80 helpful votes 80 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed February 25, 2009

Well, I could go on for an hour but here is the summation of the experience. We were there last week while visiting Ft. Lauderdale and the concierge at the Marriott Harbor Beach recommended this location for an airboat ride. After driving for an hour we arrived at Billie Swamp Safari and was greeted by a not so pleasant early twenty something year old. We bought the tickets and had to wait 50 min for the next airboat ride so we walked around and saw their "zoo" which housed a bear, cougar, and a few other animals. This was fine. We then crossed the parking lot and viewed the allegators and some birds which was somewhat interesting. The allegator area was actually interesting but after 5 min. you had your fill. I'll give this part a B. The moment of truth arrived at 2:30 and we (2 other adults and 3 children) were anxiously awaiting the airboat ride. The airboat was filled with about 10 passengers and the guide. (I say this loosely) After we were seated he explained that we had to wear earplugs and told us to roll them and put them in our ear. THIS WAS THE LAST THING HE SAID FOR THE ENTIRE 20 MIN (MORE ON THIS LATER) BOAT RIDE. He backed out and proceeded to drive quickly around a path in the glades that the Seminoles obviously cut out. After driving quickly for about 10 min he got to an area with some intersting vegitation and again, NOT A WORD about it or the wildlife. He then parked the boat in a pond area and stopped the engine and said (OH HE DID SAY SOMETHING) "We're out of gas". The current took us to the edge of the pond and he started the engine again and drove back to the middle!!! After spending another 3-4 min. drifting and looking at what looked like construction debris he managed to start the engine and drive back to the dock. It had to be no more than 18 - 20 min of useless time spent. The kicker is when we got to the dock a young boy said, "Dad, it hasn't been 30 minutes", and the joker driver said " Try 20!". Maybe the actual driver was sick or something but this was not what I expected. Don't waste your time or money.

  • Stayed February 2009, traveled with family
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 26, 2008

We went with our two children. The buggy ride was interesting and the guidde very knowledgeable. otherwise, the staff were not very customer oriented. We were told to wait by one hut for a show along with about 15 other people. after awhile, someone asked and the show was actuall at another hut. Over 20 people arrived late because of following staff directions, yet they would not let us in despite only 4 people actually sitting on the benches watching. Kids were crying. it was really not nice. When our entire group ( now we were strangers before this) went to the front to ask for a manager, we were told none were available and we could feel free to buy another ticket for another day. I would not return.

Stayed June 2007
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Buffalo, NY
Top Contributor
57 reviews 57 reviews
22 hotel reviews
Reviews in 34 cities Reviews in 34 cities
46 helpful votes 46 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 14, 2008

Went there yesterday and it was awesome. Had my daughter (10), niece (16), my wife decided not to go as I read a review somewhere stating that there are lots of mosquitos (which was false. In matter of fact I didn't see one mosquito!)

The swamp buggy tour was very informative as well as the snake talk. But the best part by far was the air boat!!

While we only saw a few gators at first, when I guide finally stopped at a gator hotspot, we spotted over 30 gators! Some of the gators were right next to the boat and you could reach out and touch them.....if you dare!

If you are looking for a great family attraction, this is the place.

  • Stayed August 2008, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Billie Swamp Safari

Address: Clewiston, FL
Location: United States > Florida > Clewiston
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 3 Specialty Lodging in Clewiston
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 33
Also Known As:
Billie Swamp Safari Hotel Clewiston

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