I found a groupon.....and my experience began with this company! After calling several times with no answer, I finally left a message. No return call. I called on a Monday morning, talked to someone, I explained I had a groupon and wanted to make a reservation for later in the week. He said any day was good at 11. I asked if there were later times and he said 11. I joked with him on that, and he said 11. I pushed and he finally said he does his groupon tours at 11, 12, and 1. I asked about the later times and he said 11. OK! 11 it is.
Yes, you meet at a liquor store. This bothered me. But he gave clear directions, I messed up, I called him, he redirected me. The liquor store is clean. A couple homeless people hanging around but no problems. Clerk said the airboat guide would arrive soon. Another party arrived. They used the bathroom, I did not, so cannot comment. Owner arrived, Captain Joe. He has a small table and one chair in a corner of the store. He took my groupon voucher,, my credit card, and $8 for parking, cash only. My groupon voucher stated this, but was $6.
We followed him to Lake Jackson. He clearly told us we'd be doing this. We received no map, handwritten or printed. He did not mention we should use the bathroom or have a decent supply of gas, but common sense tells you this. He did inform us we'd be out in a wildlife management area, well away from town. So common sense should prevail with gas and bathroom issues.
It is a nice drive with good roads. You will see St. Cloud, neighborhoods, schools, parks, and then farms-cattle, horse, planting farms. Some small rivers and lakes. It is a pretty drive overall, about 40 minutes, take or give a few. You do then enter this state natural/management area, which has the parking fee. Captain Joe stops here and puts money in a pole drop, and we get a pass which we are to put on our inside front dash. AND, a ranger did come by and check! So, that is the Parking FEE everyone seems to complain about. It is a long dirt, dusty road, with some bumps. Not bone rattling. Park, get on boat. I think he should have offered a hand to the ladies in our group, when getting on and getting off. He did not. Other men in our group did! Thanks to them. He went to park his truck/trailer and seemed to be gone longer than it should have taken. Off we go!
Our trip was one hour. There obviously was no 12 PM trip this day. He sticks to the edge of the lake quite a bit, and also takes you out in the middle. He does a few quick turns and speed ups with the boat, so you get somewhat of your thrill ride. A few more of those turns would be fun! Wildlife-we saw 4 snouts of small gators a good distance away from us. We saw several birds. One small turtle.
We were told we would see gators, and maybe hogs, deer, and snakes. He told a couple of stories of hogs and snakes. He did take us to the den of a female alligator. I felt safe, unlike other reviewers. Other than those stories and statements he said nothing. He did not inform or educate us about the lake, wildlife management, the area, the birds, the plants, trees, or flowers, not even about his airboat, which I am sure the kids and men would have liked. He did tell us after the boat ride ended, and he got tips, about how we could stay in the park all day, use the viewing tower, trails. None of us were inclined, and we all chatted afterwards that we felt we got an average rated experience. We all felt he should have talked a lot more about the things we were seeing. We all tipped him. There is a big sign on the front of the boat, that you can read when sitting in the boat, that he works for tips. HMMM, I am sure he gets paid too! And I am sure there is a new outhouse near the launch, so there is a bathroom out there, if needed.
So, I enjoyed the airboat experience and the lake. Can't help how much wildlife you will see. But I do think certain aspects of this company and tour could use improvement.
The one thing that we all noticed, was the fact the Captain seemed to be chasing the large white Anhinga bird around the shoreline! I thought this was just my feeling, but it was not. We all stopped at a gas station after leaving, and discussed our tour. So, one aspect WE did not approve of.
So, average rating. And that's my take!
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