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Bob's Excellent Adventure (into the Florida Everglades)

by Tammie Thompson

Bob's Adventure, photo by T. Thompson Bob's Excellent Adventure was just that - excellent. Here's the deal, I'm not much for organized tours, but this tour was definitely more on the adventure side, and less on the tour side.

Half-day adventures start at 9am. The Funmobile has several pick-up points along the southwest Florida coast. Hooking up in North Naples, we joined the Funmobile to start our adventure.

The Funmobile is a comfortable tour bus, driven by Captain Bob himself, and his comedic assistant, Jake. Jake's a gray Cockatoo who meanders the bus, pecking at ball caps, and keeping the kids entertained. It's effective, and blends well with the litany of information Bob expels over the P.A. We learned all about the history of the Everglades, interesting amphibian facts, plus an infusion of local politics. My six-year-old heard not a word, as she monitored Jake's every move.

We pulled into the small marina at Lake Trafford in no time. Lake Trafford didn't look much like the Everglades I had envisioned. A bit barren, the lake resembled any other inland lake across the U.S. - on the surface.

After a short pit stop in the General Store that included incredible hometown friendliness from the locals, we boarded the airboats for our tour. Provided with headphone-type earmuffs to keep the noise level down, we headed out onto the lake.

Our boat included two other families with children. All of the kids were on "gator lookout", but out of the dock they were more enthralled by the speed of the airboat. The airboat skims atop the water - nary a bump or a ripple could be detected. We sped across the lake, towards shore - or what we took as the shore. But it opened up into small canals, with water only inches deep that exposes the true beauty of the Everglades. We powered down to a slow cruising speed, on gator patrol. But it was the marshes, short palms, lily pads that co-mingled to create a green wonderland that mesmerized me.

Bob's Adventure, photo by T. Thompson Our guide rattled off the names of rare birds and indigenous plants, as we motored through the swamplands. The kids sat quietly, taking it all in. They pointed at rare birds, looked for alligators and smiled a lot. Giant bugs flew by; swarms of mosquitoes didn't have a moment to fest upon us, as we kept moving.

We sped through water just inches deep, over reeds and grasses - then slowed to get a photo of the rare Purple Gallinule. Alligators peeked just above the surface, then skirted away. Time stood still as we gazed at a rare Eagle's nest, hoping for a glimpse of the resident Eagle couple. An egret, Herons, Ibis, Pelicans - the list of resident birds is Iong. We skirted the lake's edge through more canals. Alligators basked in the sun.

"There's one. There's one. Did you see that big one? Look, look!" After the initial shock and awe of the abundance of amphibians (turtles too), wore off, we all settled into a contented state of absorption of Everglade life.

The airboat tour lasted about an hour. It was much too short. I could have toured the Everglades for hours. With topography so unusual, and birds and alligators so abundant, it was definitely an adventure worth exploring.

After the tour, Captain Bob gave us another treat - a short educational and interactive reptile demonstration. He talked about the resident snap turtles, lizards and snakes. The kids gathered around to hold the tiny alligator and not-so-tiny snake. I opted out of the snake thing - someone had to take photos. A quick photo with Jake the bird, and we were back on the bus, headed home.

The half-day adventure is really the perfect amount of time for crazed families. All of the kids on the bus (and there were many) came off the experience amped and contented at the same time, and a little bit more educated. So next time you are in Southwest Florida, don't miss Bob's Excellent Adventure.

For more info see excellentadventure.org .

Bob's Excellent Adventure Funmobile is based in Fort Meyers. They do pickups from Fort Meyers south to Marco Island. Call 888-847-9074 or 239-437-2095 for more information.

...... Tammie Thompson lives to travel. It's all about the adventure, whether it's hiking a local mountain, snorkeling a Caribbean reef, or tasting fresh powder snow. Tammie lives in Truckee, CA with her husband, two adventurous children, and Lola, the Bernese Mountain Dog.

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