EXCELLENT Everglades adventure With Captain Steve in Big Cypress National Preserve.. Wow, did we have fun while on a great back to nature tour. We had a relaxing, informative, and very special swamp adventure. This was our second trip with Captain Steve’s operation. Last year we went for the first time as his very first customers, and we were super excited to return again this year. Read on!
We went for an afternoon swamp buggy tour yesterday with Captain Steve’s Swamp Buggy Adventures. Now mind you I was taking this swamp adventure with my two nieces Kati, Colleen, and with my wife Maureen, also known as “Doc”. Well, Doc is from Queens, NY, a born and bred “city girl”, not exactly what you might call a swamp woman. Kati, 16 is a “Hottie cheerleader” going to school in Naples Florida. Colleen,9 who has a small issue with bugs……..she gets welts just thinking about them, and says she’s a “Tom-boy”, but used to be a princess. How does that work anyway? And me, a small town guy in his mid-50’s from upstate New York, married to the Doc and now we live in Chapel Hill North Carolina. I camped and hunted some when I was younger and I spend time fishing in my kayak whenever possible. We could probably be described as the quintessential tourist group, with a broad spectrum of outdoor likes and dislikes. So I was wondering how we’d like this swamp buggy thing, and we were about to find out.
The plan was to leave at 2:00 PM, with Steve’s best driver Otis, and return after dark. Sounded great to me. Steve even offered to let us use his camping space out there in the woods to cook some “sammie’s” (sandwiches) over the campfire.
Well, after a hurried lunch at home we left to meet Otis at the Concho Billie trailhead off Turner River road. “Otis is a tall drink of water in a cowboy hat” was the only description that I had to go on from Captain Steve. So I’m thinking to myself as we arrive; OK we just drove an hour to get here, so there had better be somebody looking like Otis around ‘cause we’re already way out in the swamp, somewhere down this dirt road, in the middle of Big Cypress National Preserve. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that had just counted 41 alligators just in the last 8 miles along with a dozen or so wading birds and a huge turtle. We had already seen more wildlife than we had expected to see all day.
Sure enough……cowboy hat and all. Otis has sort of that Clint Eastwood feel about him, you know, a little weathered, no wasted words, and a pause before he speaks, but with a certain niceness, like your favorite uncle.
He was full of knowledge about south Florida, the Everglades, and all of the local flora and fauna. We could see that Otis was confident in this element…. the swamp. And that felt really good being that we were heading away from the nearest road and civilization at 4-5 mph, and it was getting swampier by the minute. The buggy, big, tall, rugged and capable is not the picture of automotive excellence. It looks a bit like a cross between a monster truck without the body and a dinosaur. Just big rugged steel frames with the guts all hanging out to see. I loved it. Basic transportation for the swamp. Its functional, and surprisingly comfortable with bench seats for 6.
There we were piled atop the buggy like the Swiss family Robinson about a mile from the nearest road out in the wilderness of south Florida. Its flat. Before we knew it we were driving through 2 feet of water with what appeared to be savannah on both sides. We spotted a Red Shouldered Hawk off to our right. Further on, the terrain is so varied out there that soon we went through a pine forest and then past several Oak heads (slightly higher ground dry enough to support oak trees). It was beautiful to see the changing environment and the vast variety of plant species. By far the predominant tree is the Cypress, tall ones and short ones but they all have a really ancient look when you see thousands of them at once as far as you can see. It looked other-worldly. Otis gave us lots of history surrounding the trees in the area.
New driver! So I’m sitting there enjoying the bright sun and fresh air ride thinking “I wonder what its like to drive a swamp buggy creeping along so high up off the ground, with that lazy bounce and always tilting side to side like the snap roll of my power boat.” That’s when Otis turns around and says how would you like to drive us through this long stretch of deep water. My eyes light up and then I realize that he’s asking my 9 year old niece. Her eyes light up as she’s headed for the driver’s seat. She handled the buggy like a 9 year old pro. I handled my passenger seat also like a pro. Then my older niece Kati took the wheel, making it look easy. I manned the video camera, with daydreams of my own swamp buggy, me dressed in camo and a big dog of some kind at my side. Yeah that’s it, a dog named Linus.
By now I’m noticing all kinds of things around us that we would never have seen anywhere else. Its was sort of like taking a hike and swim through the preserve without leaving the comfort of your seat. The slow creeping speed through the Cypress forest lets you examine things with a level of detail that is unparalleled. You get a real connection with nature much like going hunting. I had the time for more than a passing glance at the natural world. It’s great. And Otis would stop any time we asked and he’s always got a story of bit of history to share. We found the camp after 2 hours of wonderful travel and cooked the “sammies” as planned. We saw some bear tracks, and many more ibis, herons and egrets.
Otis did a 3 point turn with the buggy that involved some lurching back and forth, crashing into the brush and spinning tires in the deep mud, it was great, and we left the campsite at 6:30 PM. The ride back was surreal. With the sun having gone down about an hour earlier the trail back seemed much more perilous. What was a drive through a wildlife park during the day was like a drive through Jurassic Park at night. We plunged into the inky shadows anticipating the surprises that lay ahead in the darkness. The buggy headlights gave us an eerie view ahead down the tree lined trail and some degree of trepidation looking at the water holes that we approached in the night. A big surprise was the temperature drop. Daytime was sunny and 80, now it dark and 60, so we put on our jackets. One of the best parts of the whole trip was a stop out on the prairie to watch the stars. This is the best planetarium around. From horizon to horizon its stars, so many it was hard to find the usual constellations that we know. The Milky Way was brilliant. Colleen counted the shooting stars. We hooted with an owl in the distance and watched another in an oak tree overhead. We stopped to watched 2 alligators in the water, watched 2 Green Legged Night Herons fishing, saw some bats and marveled at the sounds of the night. After an hour and a half trip back to the trailhead we found that old dirt road and my Honda Element stacked up with kayaks looking like just an ordinary car relegated to the pavement.
For a really great outdoor experience and to see the real south Florida find Captain Steve, and ask for that tall drink of water in a cowboy hat as your driver. You won’t be disappointed, and we’ll be back again next year. — Doug Cary, Chapel Hill, North carolina
Hi, am having trouble writing you at contact area.
I love your "work." would like to take a tour sometime. I used to work in some of the everglades areas.
I have written an article and anyting can be changed if need. It is an online one with examiner.com.
May I use info from site? I have used a few photos, but they can be changed out if need too.
http://www.examiner.com/events-in-ft-myers/enjoy-swamp-buggy-tours-with-captain-steve-into-big-cypress-nat-l-preserve — deborah ford, sw fl
My husband and I took a trip with Captain Steve and we will never forget it. Not only does he know the history
but he was the most considerate host of a tour I have ever encountered. I am a Travel Agent and tell everyone
about Capt. Steve. — Dawn Barraco, Colorado
what a great time so much better than an airboat went on american airboat tours goodlanf fl (next to stans???) we thought we were going to be killed! ran into another boat and into the bushes without question \\\"swamp buggy steve\\\" is much more fun yet very safe i will tell everyone back home(in the mother country) this is a \\\"dont miss\\\" for your holiday. — william bowsher, leeds,uk (england)
Dear Steve, My entire family agreed "This was the Best Day Ever" From the moment I left you a voice mail inquiry to our actual tour through the Cypress Preserve we all felt like we've known you for ever. I'm from the New England area and you always hear about southern hospitality.
I guess you are who they were talking about. Your abundance of knowledge and love of the preserve made it as much educating as it was adventurous. My husband was whining about not seeing any alligators in Florida, That was until you brought him to the very place you would want to observe them, Their natural home. Steve we all want to say that we miss you and hope to see you the next time were down to visit my sister, who also would love to see you again, this time you come to her place in Fort Myers,
"The Clam Bake" for some real New England Seafood that her husband has perfected and is matched by no other. Call her first so she can have my parents come in to see you again.
Sincerely Audrey Chagnon — Audrey Chagnon sister of Laurie Thomas, Clam Bake Ft Myers, and family, Fort Myers Florida
I went on Steve's tour last week and it was AMAZING! There is no better way to see the Everglades than on Steve's Swamp Rod. — Joe A, Port Washington,NY
My wife and I managed to get out with Captain Steve on one of his last rides before they closed down the park. We absolutely had a blast riding around the swamp with him! We got to see a lot of white tail deer, we saw a Florida panther, a few alligators and a few different species of birds. Captain Steve was very knowledgable about the area. He was a very friendly person and easy to get along with, just a \" good ol boy\"! We will definitely be back to see him... Hopefully sooner than later! — Jeff Mezzo, Cortland NY
Members of the Everglades Foundation Staff had the pleasure of taking a night ride with Captain Steve and it was fantastic! A night to remember! Steve is a gracious host and a passionate champion of the Everglades. We are fortunate to have him offering an educational, fun ride with delicious food. What an amazing experience! Thank you Steve! — Susan Ervin, Miami, FL
Those of you who have not met Captain Steve are in for a treat. Our group really enjoyed the swamp buggy experience, and plan to schedule another trip.
Captain Steve has a wealth of stories about the Everglades and its inhabitants... some of these stories may actually be true!! — David Arch, Oak Brook, IL
My family and I had a great time on our trip in to the Everglades. Captain Steve was very knowledgeable and taught us a lot about the history and how the ecosystem works in the Everglades. My wife and daughter got off the swamp buggy and waded in the water. We saw quite a few birds, a few alligators and some deer. — Timothy Lindstrom and family, Hebron, Indiana
What an adventure of a lifetime into the ‘real’ Florida! Capt. Steve took my three oldest grandkids (9-10) and myself into the Big Cypress and we had an amazing time. We spotted a bear, saw deer, raccoon, turtles, snakes and more! Don’t forget the bug spray (which you need everywhere in Florida when the rains first come, we went in July), and bring plenty to drink and food because it’s a good day trip. We all learned so much! There were surprises for us throughout the adventure and history around every bend. Beautiful! Getting connected to nature is good for the soul and this trip does that. Thank you again Capt. Steve and we will see you again! — Tamara Caggiano, Naples Florida, United States
I have been a tour guide in the Everglades for 14 years now. Three years ago,Steve took us by swampbuggy. Camping on a hardwood hammock. For 3 days we enjoyed the peaceful beautiful Everglades.(except for the bear that wondered through at 1am.) This past year, I have used this tour to entertain friends from out of town. And for me to see parts of the glades previously off limits. On the tours we have seen otters, deer, gators, snakes, birds, and the most beautiful trees and plants. For me its like being able to go
walking on the moon. I highly recommend this tour for anyone that's wants the best. Steve has taught and shone me things about the glades I have never read in a book. — Kenny Hill, Fort Myers FL
Getting out of South Dakota, during a brutal winter is one thing, and going to Florida is another. But actually getting out and actually EXPERIENCING the true magnitude of Big Cypress and the Everglades is one of the best feelings in the world! We would like to extend a big 'Thank you' to you for allowing us to see things that photos could never describe. We had an amazing time and will definately be back! Hope all is well! — Leighton and Susan Scott, South Dakota
Wow! It doesn't get any more authentic than this. If you want to see Big Cypress Preserve through the eyes of a native, Captain Steve is the real deal. Check out my Everglades gallery at www.karentbartlett.com — Karen T. Bartlett, Naples
What a ride! Not only was Capt. Steve filled with information but fun! The beauty of those Everglades were outstanding. The love and respect that Capt. Steve has for those swamps made us fall in love with them too. We have never seen such wide open beauty before and plan on seeing it again and again with Capt. Steve!
Elise & Larry Will
— Elise Will, Pine Island, Florida
Although we are locals, our children & grandsons ages 5 and 11 are not. We couldn't think of a better, safer and fun way for them to see the everglades and learn from a real gladesmen! Our guide Otis was friendly, informative & great with my grandsons. We saw alligators,turkeys,deer & a Big Cypress Fox squirrel which was the highlight of the trip for me. Of course the ride in a swamp buggy was what my grandsons enjoyed most. Being up high enough to see over the prairie and into the hammocks was a real treat. We went in the dry season, so the height let us catch a cool breeze and the buggy cover kept us out of the hot sun.
Otis explained the flora and the fauna, even teaching me a thing or two. We got off the buggy to explore panther tracks and a swamp hunting shack. The weather was beautiful, Otis was wonderful and the area was so peaceful. It was a perfect day.
Thanks Otis! — Susan Stocker, Naples Florida
Been trying to contact you to tell you how much we enjoyed the 11-19-10 Everglades City Ladies Coffee tour yesterday. We have been telling everyone we meet how personable and fun you were, including your buddy, Martha at the Museum of the Everglades. — Jane Rackley, Everglades City
My wife and I took the tour yesterday. We had a great time! We saw several deer, bear and panther tracks AND a 10 foot alligator! He came almost to the buggy. He hissed at us several times. We got to watch him walk back to his waterhole.
Captain Steve was informative as well as entertaining. He made us feel right at home!
Again, it was great fun. Thanks for sharing the swamp with us. — Stan Grief, Kevil, KY
Capt.Steve, the swampbuggy ride was an experience of a lifetime! your knowledge and passion for the everglades is heartfelt, the wildlife that we witnessed in their natural, unspoiled surroundings is something that our children will remember for their entire lives and we sincerely thank you for the experience !
God Bless You
Moore family — kevin moore@ family, southern ohio
Steve, we went out today with you into the absolutely wonderful scenery of the Big Cypress Preserve, and want to thank you for the great time we had. And we will never forget our "National Geographic Moments"! Thanks again, and take care and keep going. Warm regards. — Jo & Karin., Belgium
Oh Boy! Yesterday we had an adventure. Went away back in time, before people in Florida. Deep into the Big Cypress on a giant wheeled monster, unimaginable! Yet we rolled along, up and down, 10 feet high with truly a view to die for. What we experinced is hard to convey in words, or even pictures. Capt. Steve showed us what heretofore has only been available to a select few: old time loggers, extreme hikers and adventurous hunters. Prairies like the mid-west; beautiful sub-tropical flora, and fauna had me wearing down the camera battery. This is the real mccoy, a Florida before development.The Capt is a gentleman, most knowledgeable, thoughful. Hold on to your hat, go if you have the guts. — Chuck Miller, Big Cypress, the Concho Billie Trail!
I'm active duty Air Force and my uncle is Capt. Willie Keene working with Capt. Steve. Every time I go on the buggy with him it ends up being one of my most memorable trips of my life. Whenever I am in his or his friends company, it brings me right back. I've never met a man more knowledgeable on the Everglades in my life. There are just some things in life that books can't teach you. Uncle Willie can because he has lived them. I cannot think of a better guide or teacher than Willie or any of the Capt Steve crew. These men are the absolute best in the business. The Everglades is more than just a tour for them. It's where they grew up, it's where they have made memories, and it's their life. I guarantee this trip will be one you never forget and will make a great friend in the process. — David Masey, Oklahoma City OK
Steve, Thank you for a informative ride.
I live in Florida. I would have never enjoyed the chance to see the great views of the natural Florida. All because of you, I was able to enjoy the trip. I had a friend from Iowa who said he will do it again that was with us. Lots of fun. — Don Meek, Cape Coral
The four of us had an amazing time in Big Cypress. We started early so we could see the wildlife (bug spray is a must!!). We saw deer, turtles and more! Capt. Steve had many stories to tell and great knowledge of the area. We all learned a lot about the history of the park! We went in late May so go early in the morning and avoid the heat of the day! Thanks for a great time!!!! — Greg Howard, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Dear Steve and the best tour guide ever Stevie,
There may not be enough that I can say to rely the message of how great our tour of the Everglades was with you! From the moment I spoke with you over the phone to the long goodbye at our car, it was amazing!! Your knowledge of the Everglades was both educational and fun!! The bugs and dust are easily forgotten the minute you start to move in your swamp buggy! We felt very confident in your ability and knowledge to keep us safe and have a most wonderful time!! We met you as our tour guide but left as friends!! Anyone who misses this opportunity is truly missing out! We will be back again in August, (I've already started planning.) I can not thank you enough for encouraging us to take an afternoon tour so that we could experience both day and night in the Everglades. The night part of our tour was my favorite. The stars were breath taking! I would highly recommend a night trip to any and everyone! This is what Florida is really about. We choose this vacation over Disney and would do it again without hesitation. Steve and Stevie, we can not wait to see you both again very soon! — Margaret, Chris and Zac, Port St. Lucie, FL