This is an air boat. As you can see, the propeller doesn't go into the water. It has a flat bottom, and doesn't need much (in some instances any) water to move.
These boats don't come equipped with seat belts, but there is a little bar that keeps passengers from flying off the side. In all seriousness though, it was a really smooth ride and once we got going it felt like we were flying. They are, however, very loud boats. For most of the time we were moving at full speed I had ear protection on, although I did take them off near the end of the trip and it wasn't so bad.
The objective (or at least one of the objectives) was to see alligators (gators) in their natural habitat. The area we were going around is government property that is leased by the air boat tour company. Gator huntin' isn't allowed in this area, and it's kind of a refuge for them. Most gators don't live to be more than 5 feet in length, so gator farms will raise them to be that size to give them a head start before releasing any. These farms, in addition to releasing a certain number of animals back into the wild, also sell the skins and meat for profit. The bayou we were in had a mix of wild and farm raised gators. Farmed gators have a notch taken out of the tip of the tail, so that's how you can distinguish them from a wild gator. Of course, they fight so much they may end up with missing parts anyway... like this guy...
|Oh yeah, he's totally leaning in to kiss the gator. That little maneuver gained this guide $5 from me, personally.|
|A Great Egret.|
|A common moorhen, who also liked the marshmallows! (There was a gator in the water about 15 feet away.)|
|A very large turtle, he didn't like us and he jumped off his log when we got close.|
|Look at those teeth! He/she is going to be fierce when they grow up (or a marshmallow junkie).|
When we got back, I took some pictures of the inside of "Air Boat Adventure Tours", because the place was definitely quirky and like something you read about in creepy books. They had stuffed gators and skins all over the place. They also had a holding tank filled with gators. There was a fairly large albino gator which came from a farm. This animal can never be released into the wild, it's color would have made it stand out too much and it would likely die. This animal also had another strange feature, it had a double eye on the left side of its head. It only had the one eye socket there, but you could clearly see two pupils. I don't know if that affects its vision, but I imagine it must.
|The albino gator. If you look carefully you can see the double eye. The right eye was normal.|
Most of the gators in the tank were pretty small, and were just kind of hanging around. Normally I don't like captive animals, but these guys didn't appear to care. I'm of the belief now that gators are pretty big couch potatoes.
|This shows the eye glow that hunters and trappers use to find gators. They hunt at night, when the animals can't see very well, and the glowing eyes give them away.|
It was really good to see Bea again, as well. I'm terrible about keeping up with people, I'm just not a phone person. I was just starting to really know her when we were living together in State College and then we all moved. It was also great to see the girls again, I miss having a cat around.
|Lani and Luna|