On December 8, 2019 for Mike’s birthday this year, I decided to take him someplace different so we headed to Babcock Ranch Eco Tours at Babcock Ranch Preserve for a swamp buggy ride. The ranch is very large, 67,618 acres in Charlotte County, which is managed in cooperation with the Florida Forest Service. It was one of the single largest purchases of conservation land in Florida’s history. It has many diverse habitats, including prairie, and swamps, hardwood forests, etc. While we were there we saw, deer, wild pigs (including cute, little piglets) Florida cracker cows, regular cows, alligators by the billions and tons of birds, including turkeys. There is hiking opportunities but I believe the best way to see and learn about the vast preserve is to take the Eco Tour.
HISTORY: It was and still is a working ranch since 1914 which was comprised of 91,361 acres. The Ranch produced timber, cattle, crops and sod. In 2006 most of the preserve was sold to the State and the remaining is a private residential community. The ranch today is still privately run but owned by the State.
THE TOUR: When arriving you walk down a little path to the visitor center. We were welcomed by friendly staff, who like our narrator on the tour was passionate about their work. There is also plenty to see right there, including caged (my favorite way to see them) snakes, and while we were there we saw Santa Claus and he was holding an alligator and then one of the snakes, there is a little museum which actually was a prop from a movie that was filmed there. There is a beautiful gift shop which sells all kinds of souveniers including local honey, books, trinkets, and much more. We even got our picture taken with Santa with no snakes or alligators.
The Eco Tour is a 90 minute narrated tour which takes you through four different eco systems, including, you guessed it a swamp, which at this time of year was dry, which I think made for better wild life viewing, but we may have to go back when wet just to see. The swamp buggies are really buses. Our guide, Karlie, was a wealth of knowledge and passionate about her work and told us the history of the ranch, pointed things out that we might have missed, answered any questions we might have had. The wild animals came up to the bus, as they obviously knew the sound of the buses, they came running, and waddling over to the bus for their treats they knew she had, except for the alligators of course.
I think the Cracker Cows were my favorite, we learned that they are only bred to keep the breed alive. The plentiful amount of alligators was amazing to see all while safely on the bus. Living here in Florida for most of my life one would think that seeing things like alligators would get old but it never does. After the tour we went to eat at the Gator Shack where we had some amazing BBQ. Fair warning the portions are super large. There is a walking tour however, after eating we were so stuffed we had a hard time even thinking about walking so decided that for the next time.
THE COST: $24.00 adult, $23.00 for seniors, children 3-12 $16.00, 2 and under free.
Reservations can be made online, however they may have room if you didn’t make any plans and happen to be close enough, so give them a call at 1/800-500-5583.
LOCATION: 8502 FL-31, Punta Gorda, FL. Turn at the bright flags that say Eco Tour and BBQ. Turn down the road and keep driving to the end, can’t miss it. You will pass a ton of solar fields (which is pretty amazing on it’s own) and culverts which house many animals as well.
I left out somethings because I want to leave a little mystery to encourage other’s to head over to Babcock Ranch Preserve Eco Tours and experience it themselves.
Get out and see what the real Florida has to offer…
Until next time, follow a brown sign somewhere cool,
#babcockranchecotours; #realflorida; #followthebrownsigns; #sonya6000