WEST BAY- You may be quite familiar with our local beaches. The beautiful white sand dunes, and emerald waters, but how well do you know our local wetlands?
NewsChannel Seven's Donna Bell continues our Anchor Adventures series of reports, with an Eco-tour, which doubles as an educational experience for the whole family!
Just five miles from the Emerald Coast of Panama City Beach, you'll find the swamps of West Bay.
The best way to get an up-close look at Florida nature at it's finest, is on an airboat. We hop on board our swamp-mobile with Capt. Rick Ackerman of Airboat Adventures.
"Dolphins, eagles, we just saw some ospreys back there and we do quite often see alligators," Says Capt. Rick. "It's like a roving science experiment!"
Donna gets out of the airboat to get a closer look, and says, "right now we are in the depths of the swamps and let me tell you, its a little creepy out here! but I'm pretty sure we might see a snake or an alligator, if we're lucky!"
Capt. Rick agrees, but adds, "We don't have quite the population of alligators as down south but you do see some, and we tell people we aren't just an alligator tour, we're an Eco-tour"
Donna marvels at the natural beauty of the area. "We're literally standing right in the middle of a saltwater marsh, something you can't get to everyday, but its fascinating to get back to what Florida truly is, untouched by all development."
Capt. Rick says, "with the exception of the Intracoastal Waterway which is man made, these creeks are all natural!"
The creeks are teeming with life. Not just animals, but plants as well. "For instance," says Capt. Rick, "this is a needle rush grass which is very important for the nature of the creeks out here. It has a real tight root system, and if you step off into this wet muck, the grass is what holds the banks together and forms these creeks"
"This must be what life was like for the Native Americans," says Donna.
"That's right," says Capt. Rick, "this is where they lived right here in these kind of areas, and built their homes and raised their families."
As we head back to civilization, we have one more chance to walk on the wild side! Back at the Airboat Adventures, you can find a small Gator farm, where you can touch, and even hold, a live Florida alligator.
Whether watching from the boat, or getting an up close and personal look at the critters, this Eco-tour is sure to be an educational and entertaining way to explore the natural treasures of Florida.