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Best Airboat Ride Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 1999 - Buffalo Tiger's Airboat Tours

When it comes to airboat rides, forget the painted, commercialized boats and the uniformed tour guides. They're all too predictable and sanitized. For adventure and education, Buffalo Tiger's outfit is the place. Tiger is an old, worn former Miccosukee Indian chief whose dark eyes still twinkle. And he has a great retirement gig -- running an airboat company off Tamiami Trail. While others actually drive the boats, Tiger can often be found in his gift shop, surrounded by paints and putty, making crafts to sell. You get 40 to 45 minutes on the airboat for $10, but it's not the length of the ride or the cost that makes it really special. It's the intimate and casual approach. If you see something you want to look at more closely, the guide will stop the boat for you. White flowers on the water mean it's shallow, the guide will instruct you, while yellow flowers signify a deeper swamp. The guide will also stop the boat and let you pull a piece of sawgrass out of the swamp and inspect the bottom to see that it's white and has the texture of heart of palm. Miccosukees, you learn, used to eat the grass. (We took a small bite, but were warned that the Everglades are contaminated by pesticides from northern farms.) We saw about a dozen gators, from ten-footers to little babies. (Gators, we were told, live to be well over 100 years old.) The stop at an old Miccosukee village, where chickees stand in ruins, was fascinating. And we got a chance to drive the boat for a few minutes.

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