Visit the Crescent J Ranch, a short drive from Kissimmee and take a wildlife tour on their swamp buggy. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing birds, alligators and tracks of wildlife in our 2-hour tour with a wonderful guide called Nancy. Here’s how the trip went…
Surely the best way to see Florida’s wildlife is eight feet off the ground, sitting in a comfy seat with a naturalist providing a running commentary on all the animals, birds, and vegetation that come into view. This is pretty much what you get when you sign up for a two-hour fully guided coach safari with Forever Florida at the Crescent J. Ranch.
Forever Florida is part of a 4,700 acre eco ranch and conservation area which is carefully preserved as a habitat for an abundance of Florida’s indigenous wildlife, including one of the highest concentrations of endangered and threatened species. This biological hotspot has nine different ecosystems which are home to alligators, bobcats, white-tail deer, wild boar, black bears, panthers, possums, armadillos, foxes, otters, skunks, snakes, turtles, and wild turkey along with many bird species. This trip will introduce you to just some of this broad list of animals and birds who make their home in the preserve. You will certainly return home with plenty of new facts, photographs and experiences of Florida’s unique wildlife.
We took our seats aboard the swamp buggy, high above the sandy trail with great views from the open-sided vehicle. Our guide, Nancy, was soon pointing out an alligator and a turtle before we had barely left the ranch car park! She gave us a brief history of how Dr. Broussard, a tenth generation rancher from Louisiana, bought the land in 1969 with a view to keeping it as a wildlife preserve. The family still own and live on the ranch, continuing to preserve the land under the Allen Broussard Conservancy, in memory of their son.
The swamp buggy rumbles along the sandy trail beneath shady pine trees and out into open pasture. Around 1500 acres is used for raising cattle and horses and the remainder is a wilderness preserve. Solar-powered electric fences contain the grazing area on which Charolais cattle, horses and Cracker cattle could all be seen from our grandstand seating on wheels.
As we drove along we stopped periodically to see alligators of all sizes from 12 inches to 12 feet in length. We saw plenty of animal tracks along the sandy trail and areas where wild boar had been scavenging for roots, leaving a destructive patch of earth. Streams and sloughs crossed the trail and cypress trees stood in ponds, their “knees” protruding from the water as part of their extensive root system. Pine flatwoods, saw palmetto, sabal palms, and plenty of wild flowers lined our path.
Finally, we returned to the Visitor Center having thoroughly enjoyed the two-hour tour of the “real Florida”, getting up-close to many animals and learning about even more wildlife. Suitable for all ages, Forever Florida at the Crescent J Ranch is a great place to bring visitors and youngsters to experience what Florida is really all about!
For the more energetic there is an alternative horseback safari which is so much fun along with a mega tree top zip line adventure.
If you enjoy exploring the Orlando area, you may be interested in my book of Days Out Around Orlando which is available in all formats on Amazon.