Miami helicopter tour and the Everglades

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I need to start by saying, a ride in a helicopter should be on everyone’s bucket list. If you are looking for a fun day out and want to do something different, then this is for you! It’s great to see Miami by boat, but my gosh, it’s so much better in the air. It was my first time in a helicopter and I was just so excited!

Luckily this trip is not weather dependent. We chose to do it on a really good day as it was a little overcast, it wasn’t scorching hot and we missed the rain. I’ve heard it can get unbearably hot and humid in the Everglades, so I would suggest that you choose a warm but not so hot day if possible. The Helicopters have air con, but it can still get very hot if the sun is shining right on you.

My friend and I used South Beach Helicopters and got a private ride which lasted an hour and we got to see the majority of Miami. It was fantastic! A benefit of flying private, rather than with a group tour, is that you can customise your route and it feels more personal. Click here to view their website. You can chose how much of Miami you would like to see and of course the price varies for each route. We chose to do ‘Tour AB’ with some customisation as we added in the Everglades tour before we got picked up and dropped off back at the North Perry Airport. Did I feel grateful? Yes. Did I feel like a celeb? A little. Did I love it? Absolutely!

On the morning of the helicopter ride I was feeling excited yet anxious. The drive from home to the helicopter took roughly an hour and on the way it started to rain. The sky was grey and it looked pretty miserable. I was worried that we chose the wrong day! Luckily, by the time we set off the sky cleared up and we were left with blue skies and the rain had passed. We got to the airport and was greeted by our warm and friendly pilot. He happily answered my many questions, offered us refreshments and then asked us to sign an agreement form. He made jokes about having to jump and there being no parachutes but it was all good fun. Besides, I have always wanted to go sky diving. I signed my life away, and we were good to go.

We flew in a cute blue helicopter that held four people including the pilot. After our safety brief we were off. We spoke to each other through our headsets and before I knew it we were in the air. We took off from the area of Pembroke Pines, flew to Biscayne and saw the American Airlines Arena, over South Beach and the Pacific Ocean. We were lucky enough to see many Sting ray in the ocean! We saw Brickell, Downtown Miami and Key Biscayne. Miami truly is beautiful. We went on to see Fisher Island, the whole beach down to North Beach, Bal harbour, and then Sunny Isles. Whilst flying over the Marine Park we spotted a killer whale swimming in the main pool. It was all surreal.

One of my favourite parts was flying over Star Island and seeing P Diddys house and other celebs. Lisa Hochstein, Gloria Estefan, Naomi Campbell, Stuart Miller, Shaquiell O’niel and the inventor of viagra to name a few (lol) Our witty pilot had some funny puns whilst pointing out his house. The houses were huge! beautifully kept and well designed. It was hard to chose a favourite.

It was a 10/10 for me, the hour flew by and I would do it all over again. Birds eye view of such a beautiful place, who wouldn’t? You can see how the city is changing from the old Hollywood pastel coloured buildings, to the current high-rise glass buildings. The colour of the ocean from above is gorgeous. You can easily spot the sea life and the many boats below enjoying their vacation at the sand bar.

You could book your own experience via  the website and do a similar one for $285 per person. There are also cheaper tours available, as well as customised routes and add ons such as food or stop offs.

The Everglades

We headed over the the Everglades and landed on the open grounds. It’s not everyday you arrive somewhere by helicopter; many heads were turning and I felt quite special haha. The weather was warm and it was still nice and dry. Typical me (always extra) decided to wear heels, and along with the rocking, floating Dock and the cobbled path, it wasn’t the best combo.  Luckily there wasn’t much walking, but do dress comfortably as you can walk around the park afterwards to see the animals.

The airboat, also known as a fan boat, is flat at the bottom and has a propeller above water and is powered by an aircraft engine. They are super efficient for driving in shallow waters such as the Everglades and other shallow rivers. They are quite noisy so I would suggest you wear earplugs which are provided in the shop by the ticket desk. I wore mine and could still hear the tour guide well, it just cut out some of the boat noises.

Google image of a typical air boat
Google image of a typical air boat

Our tour guide was very enthusiastic about her job and very informative. She was excited to spot an alligator she claims she had only seen four times in all the years she had been working there, and it goes to show how big the everglades are. She packed us with interesting information about the history and the wildlife. I was fascinated when I found out that there are a few number of people that actually live on there, in stilted houses. They live purely from the land, hunt and fish their own food and even use compost toilets. Sadly, after that generation of people pass, there will be no more people living on the Everglades.

Take in the brilliant views of the Everglades and try to spot the Alligators. The water lies very still and calm as you glide across and explore all around. Although the Airboat produces a loud sound, the whole experience is very relaxing and soothing. The wind will brush past your face, the sound will fade into background noise, and the journey back will make you feel sleepy as you take in your surroundings. It is a very pleasant experience indeed. I recommend visiting the Everglades as it is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, and it is a popular tourist attraction – on average, one million visit the Everglades each year.

An interesting fact I remember from this trip is that the Everglades has some coral rock in the water and the reason for this is because the Everglades used to be Salt water, until the last glacier melt. #LessonsFromTamara

If you want to escape the beach and enjoy the outdoors, in this area you can camp out at one of the three sites and go hiking/fishing in the national park. The park also offers lodges, restaurants, canoe hire and swamp buggy tours. It is a great day out especially for families. Do be aware that there is a wet season and you may need to plan extra for your stay. The area is huge! and there are many different entrances to the park and different areas to explore. I’m pretty sure we used a company called Wootens but I could be wrong.

After the boat ride we walked around the mini zoo and had a look at some of the endangered animals. we saw turtles, beautiful birds, lizards, snakes, and even the Florida Panther. As we were leaving to grab something to eat, we walked past a small pool filled with baby alligators. The man kindly fished out one for me, tied some tape around his mouth and handed it over for me to hold. Wet and slimy but very fascinating how amazing these creatures are. It made me sad to think that these animals in the tanks were here for the publics own entertainment. Although educational, in my opinion they deserved to be out in the open with their parents. If, like me, you know you would feel bad for the animals, you could skip this part and finish your trip on a high.

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Now as we were waiting for our Helicopter to pick us up and drop us back, we stopped a the food truck for a drink, bite to eat and to wash our hands. Gater bites .
Yes I tried it. I was reluctant to try it, not because Alligator is an unusual meat to eat (it is) but because I just petted a cute baby Gator.

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It was char grilled and served with a wedge of lemon and a dipping sauce. It looked like grilled chicken but had a strange consistency- chewier than fish, a bit like undercooked chicken (ew). It didn’t have much flavour but it honestly wasn’t that bad. Had I not known what it is I was eating it may have been easier to stomach, however it wasn’t my cup of tea and its safe to say I wont be eating it again. I think when travelling you should try to experience as much things you wouldn’t usually, to educate yourself and to just be able to say you did it. Sea Urchin, fried insects, sheep’s head – go for it LOL

My first helicopter experience was amazing, and the educational trip to the Everglades was truly an amazing day out and another moment to tick off my bucket list. Miami is known for its beautiful beaches, pool parties and night clubs, but it has some wildlife and fun outdoor activities too! A great way to split up a trip and keep the whole family entertained.

Quote of the day: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

 

 

 

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