01/09/19 Fruitland Park, FL

DAY #81

Made it to Ozello, FL, around 11:45 am on Wednesday, 8 January, and was psyched out to do the air-boat trip. I did an air-boat on Lake Panasoffkee and enjoyed it, and this one promised to be just as enjoyable. Going from the campground to the marina takes a little over an hour and brings you through predominantly developed landscape, including another community of “The Villages.”

Ready to be built on.

Once past them, the land turns to fields, trees, and pastures, and about the time you start relaxing.

BAM! your going through a couple of smaller cities along with their sprawl, so it’s not a lot of rural. As you get closer to the gulf, the land begins to change to water/wetland, and nature once again takes over.

For me, going through the development of “The Villages” and the hustle & bustle of the cities, to the naturalness of the Gulf, I could feel a weight come off me. I felt at peace, I felt comfortable, I felt happy.

Trip #1

This air-boat trip lasted for an hour and took us out into the backwaters of the gulf. While I enjoyed the adventurousness of the air-boat, I got a bigger kick being out on the waters leading to the gulf. We began by trolling down some man made canals bringing us into the waters of the Saint Martins and Salt Rivers. From there we zig-zaged around a bit, and then headed over the water towards the gulf. It was low tide and the water was no more than four feet at its deepest. We basically did a 22 mile loop of the area and then back to the marina. It was an enjoyable way to see the area that you can only see by boat. Saw lots of birds and some mullets (fish) jumping out of the water (man, they could jump).

The ramp where the Airboat was launched.
Pelicans from South Africa.
Bald Eagle checking us out.

Afterwards, I explored the area around Ozello, and then back to the campsite, via the long way home. Driving around after the tour, I saw quite a few “For Sale” signs. I had a moment of yeah, that would be so cool to have a place down here, even a empty lot. But it’s not to be, found out flood insurance (which would be required if financing) can run from 10-30 thousand dollars a year!

Trip #2.

The next morning, Wednesday, 1/9/19, I headed back to within 1/2 mile of where I took the tour yesterday. This tour started off promising, the boat was brand new and shiny, had a big ole’ engine, and really put the other operators boat to shame. Interestingly, this “Captain” used to work for the people who own yesterdays tour. The tour today was going to be a 1 1/2 hour trip compared to yesterdays 1 hour.

We started off with the “Captain” skiming the boat through some sea grass, and then began to follow the river, taking us out toward the Gulf.

Old Florida at its finest.

Built on an island.

Slowly, we made our way towards open water and the outer keys (islands).

Along the way the “Captain” stopped to show us sponges and coral. I must really be simple, because I found it cool to see.

Sponges. They look like tires.
The water way out near the outer keys is only 4-6″ deep.

We stopped at “Hangover Island” to look at some Australian Pines. Story has it that during the civil war, the confederates (who controlled the bay) would use these trees as landmarks for navigation when coming into the bay.

The needles are unlike other pines. Instead of one long needle, these are in small segments that you can pull apart one section at a time.

While walking on the island, the wind blowing through the pines sounded like rushing water, very unique sound.

Also stopped to show us mangroves and their root system.

Hands down, the second tour did circles around the first. It was so much more than just an Airboat ride. It was adventurous, it was educational, it was fun.

Made the drive back to camp. Must be getting used to the way, didn’t even need Google to get back.

A much better day.