My boyfriend and I had tickets to the (year-long rescheduled!) U2 concert in Miami and decided to make a weekend out of it. The concert was amazing and would be, what we thought, the highlight of our adventures in Miami.
We were wrong.
This sweet man of mine put us up at the Delano in South Beach, which was, in of itself, an 'adventure', but kudos go to the concierge for turning us on to this adventure.
When asked of 'must-do's' in the area, his leading response was to tour the Everglades.
Now, my being quite thrifty, before we left Charleston, I signed on to Groupon in Miami hoping for some deals that I could impress my guy with. Now, since I have never been to Miami, and Groupon has incredible marketing, ripe with stock photos of 'actual customers who bought this trip', I just knew that the offer of $27 for 'The Everglade Experience', granted it was 51% off!, would not only impress him, but surely would give us the adventure we were looking for.
SO, when the concierge presented us a well laid out postcard with a panther sitting atop a Hummer and an airboat I was excited! Then, we saw the prices. My boyfriend doesn't have to be as frugal as I, though even he questioned the concierge.
Yes, as you have read the other posts, it seems quite expensive, especially when I had been tantalized by Groupon for considerably less.
We took the afternoon to think about it. However, strolling down the shops on Lincoln and sipping sangria couldn't keep our minds off of what would sure to be worth it, right? It HAD to be.
When we returned to the hotel, which was near dinner time, Paul called Everglades Hummer Adventures and spoke to someone who explained, in rich detail, what was included and what we should expect. Now Paul is, as others have described themselves, also very much a world traveller and couldn't have been more impressed with the voice on the phone and so... he booked it!
Pick up from our location, which was included, was at 10am. We weren't sure how a Hummer would be able to squeeze between the hedge-lined driveway of the Delano, but it was an H3 and it was perfect. Had it been the monstrous yellow Hummer, well, that would have been ridiculous and for the two of us. The closeness of this model would allow us to share a more personalized experience.
A young man named David picked us up, greeting us with a handshake and a smile. He told us it would be about an hour's drive to the actual 'entrance' to the Everglades, which he had informed Paul during their phone call.
During our drive, David (who, in all honesty looked like he was in college!) was very open and vocal. I thought perhaps he was simply our driver, like a cab driver, who would take us out to meet a guide, but he was it. And WHAT a guide he was. As we drove to our destination, David 'showed us the sights'. He pointed out places, buildings, new construction...the works! He described how Miami came to be, even going so far as to tell us about the cultural diversity in the area. And he knows his stuff. My boyfriend is an avid reader and most always educates himself before he goes to a new place, and even so, he and David had great conversations about what was being explained to us. What I'm saying is, it doesn't seem like David simply read a guide book and was regurgitating facts. It was definitely an education that we gratefully accepted.
Lunch, which was included, was at a Subway sandwich shop at the last station before entering the Everglades and Native American Territory, home of the Miccosukee Indians.
I won't go into as much detail about the experience because I believe everyone should experience it for themselves - it's such a personal thing.
However, some of the highlights were all of the alligators. They were everywhere! David was again, so informative, telling us things about this reptile that we didn't know. The H3 was great, in that it allowed us to enter into some narrow spots where the gators like to hide :)
David also took us to the monument that had been erected in honor of the passengers and crew of ValuJet Flight 592 that crashed into the Everglades in 1996. It was quite eerie being there, especially with the large flock of vultures that were sitting atop each of the concrete pillars.
Following our tour, on which we saw lots of wildlife even with the swamp being dried up due to lack of rain, we drove down yet another trail for our airboat ride.
The airboats, which were not your (sorry Groupon!) mulit-passenger $27 airboats, were very impressive. The boat we took had two long bench seats and a seat for our captain. David also joined us on our airboat ride. So, to give perspective, Christian, our captain/guide was in the back, Paul and I sat comfortably in the middle with room to spare, and David lounged in the front, or bow of the boat. It seemed like it could hold no more than 5 or 6 people, including the guide. This is exactly what we wanted.
We didn't want to share our experience with strangers, nor did we want to be stuck on an airboat in the Everglades with loud, unhappy, or compromised people.
The airboat ride is something we will definitely do again! Though David had already educated us on the alligators, Christian, our guide, reinforced that with every gator we saw. He showed us some secret spots, would pull up right next to them, and we were even fortunate enough to spot some babies...though Mama was certainly nearby! Christian also was very knowledgeable on the different species of birds - what a variety.
Hydroplaning in the prairie was is also something that you surely will not experience on a cheaper ride! Christian took us out into the sawgrass prairie and did a few spins with us. What fun to speed around! An otter even danced for us out there :)
We had such a great time that David had to remind us to take some pictures, and bless his heart, he took some great ones of us that will remind us of what a unique place this is.
As we started our journey back to civilization, David was quite professional in asking about our trip, eager for suggestions on how to improve it. We told him we would definitely do this tour again.
David, Paul and I want to thank you so much for this experience. What a treat is was for us to follow up an amazing U2 concert (that we had been salivating over since Christmas!) with not only a tour that was delivered as promised, but having met, who we now consider, a new friend.
Anyone considering taking a chance on the Everglades Hummer Adventures should go with their gut and jump on board. Unlike a few of the negative reviews here on tripadvisor, one has to consider the source. If you are unhappy in your experience, then it might just be your fault for not speaking up.
If you are wanting to spend your personal vacation lumped in with strangers for a few hours and are not interested in quality or knowledge, then by all means, buy the Groupons that will save you a good percentage.
However, if you want to have an experience, whether it be alone or with family/friends, that takes its time, is flexible in its offerings, and exposes you to sights that you would otherwise never see, then choose this tour. David and his staff will go out of their way to customize the right option for you. And one has to realize in looking at costs - you get what you pay for. I am blessed and thrilled that my boyfriend was thoughtful enough to put this adventure in the hands of someone who knows his stuff, than grouping us together on a 'tour' that would have included other people's memories along with ours - now we have OUR memories.
Memories to last a lifetime.
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