In November 2021, I did an airboat tour in Florida on Lake Kissimmee.
It was called a “swamp” tour, although it didn’t feel very swampy. (Not what I would imagine as a swamp anyway. Maybe I don’t know what a swamp is. 😜)
No matter the feelings of swampiness, I saw tons of alligators!
👆 Spot the alligator!
👆 Spot the alligator!
Share the Lake Kissimmee alligators video with the people you’ll be traveling to Orlando with!
It seemed like the conditions were right to see alligators when I went.
It started off as a crisp November day in Orlando with morning temperatures in the 50s. My Kissimmee airboat tour started around 9am. There were clear skies with the sun out.
According to the airboat captain, these sorts of conditions can be perfect for seeing alligators.
It seems ideal to go alligator spotting on a sunny day if the temperatures are on the cooler side.
The alligators will want to come out from the water for some sun. So late morning or mid-day seems to be a good time for alligator spotting.
It sounded like the hot summer days are not the best for alligator spotting, since if it’s too hot the alligators won’t want to come up.
My airboat captain said that in the summer (when Orlando temperatures can be in the 90s), they are lucky if they see 3 or 4 alligators in one hour. Of course, if you’ve never seen alligators out in the wild, this would still be exciting I’m sure.
But in November, I definitely saw wayyyy more than 3 or 4 alligators!
Based on this, it would seem that if you’re in Orlando in November, December, January, or other surrounding months with morning temperatures in the 50s, then it could be a perfect time to see alligators in the wild by taking an airboat tour out on Lake Kissimmee.
This is all my understanding anyway! If you are in Orlando during these months, then for the best chance to see the most amount of alligators, I would say try to go on a sunny day for a late morning or early afternoon Kissimmee airboat tour!
Wild alligators in Florida
Now, it’s important to remember that alligators are wildlife and they do what they want.
There are no guarantees that you will see an alligator when you do a Florida airboat tour like this.
So even if you don’t see any alligators, or if you see less than you’d like, you can think of it as a nice leisurely airboat ride around Lake Kissimmee.
Don’t get your expectations up too high for how many alligators you want to see so you won’t be disappointed if you don’t see too many!
Lake Kissimmee: Where the Everglades start
Orlando is in central Florida.
Orlando FL is nowhere near Everglades National Park. Well, it’s like 3.5 to 4 hours to drive from Orlando to Everglades National Park, so that’s pretty far.
The area around Lake Kissimmee is considered to be the “headwaters” of the Everglades.
This basically means that this is where the Everglades start, although this isn’t the “true” Everglades, or what most people think of as the Everglades.
If you will be going that far south and really want to see alligators, then you need to be sure to go to the best places to see alligators in Everglades National Park!
If you won’t be making it that far south in Florida, Lake Kissimmee can be a worthy alternative near Orlando for both alligators and airboats!
More below for a little bit about what my Kissimmee airboat tour was like!
Here's some info on Florida trip prep!
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Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida which resulted in historic destruction. If you are looking to help but not sure how, consider donating to the Florida State Parks Foundation: DONATE HERE. One of the notable Florida state parks is Cayo Costa State Park in Southwest Florida. Cayo Costa is mentioned as the first spot that the hurricane made landfall. Also see: State parks in Southwest Florida
Are Florida state parks open after the hurricane? Check the Florida Park Service website for current closures. (There are many state parks that are closed.)
Are Florida national parks open after the hurricane? Check the National Park Service website for current closures (October 2 update: Most of the Miami side of Everglades National Park is open, except for camping)
Kissimmee Swamp Tours: Airboat tour to see alligators in Lake Kissimmee
I did an airboat ride through Lake Kissimmee with Kissimmee Swamp Tours. So this is about that experience!
I did the 90-minute airboat tour. I paid around $65 including taxes and fees for the 90-minute airboat tour, plus a little extra for tipping the captain of the airboat. This is a per person cost.
You can tip in cash directly to the airboat captain, or you can add it on when you make payment for the airboat tour.
You will pay for the tour after the airboat ride.
You also have an option to purchase a photo of your group sitting on the airboat.
60-minute swamp tour vs 90-minute swamp tour
There is a 60 minute airboat tour and a 90 minute airboat tour.
The 90-minute airboat tour means more time out on the water means more chances to see alligators!
Especially if you will be going during a time when alligators are less likely to be showing themselves, it might be better to go for the longer tour to increase your chances.
And also especially if this is your only chance to see Florida alligators, you want to give yourself the best chance!
Again, it didn’t feel much like a “swamp” tour. But that’s okay because I wasn’t going on an airboat ride to see a swamp, I was going in order to see alligators!
👆 Spot the alligator!
👆 Spot the alligator!
👆 Spot the alligator!
The Lake Kissimmee airboat: One of the best airboat rides near Orlando
The people at Kissimmee Swamp Tours also take pride in taking you out on a smaller airboat.
This means less people on your airboat and it feels less like a major group tour and more like a more personal tour… or more like it’s just a private boat ride out on the water!
The maximum number of people that will be on your airboat (not including the captain) is 6 people.
Doing the Kissimmee swamp tour during the low-season (the week after Thanksgiving at the end of November), my airboat ride was actually just me and my brother! So it actually was like a private airboat ride!
Day trip from Orlando or from Disney World to see wild alligators in Lake Kissimmee
Lake Kissimmee is located to the south of Orlando.
To get from Orlando to Lake Kissimmee where the Kissimmee swamp tour starts is around a 1 hour drive.
To get from Disney World to Lake Kissimmee is also around a 1 hour drive.
What to do after your Lake Kissimmee alligator tour: Where to eat alligator near Orlando?!
Now that you’ve SEEN the alligators… do you want to EAT alligator?!
👆 Where to eat the “best gator around” after you see alligators near Orlando.
The Catfish Place is a restaurant where you can eat alligator near Orlando in St Cloud FL, and it’s “where the local folks eat.” (It says that on their door. 😜) The Kissimmee airboat captain also mentioned this restaurant as a place to eat alligator.
You can get gator that is “fresh from local lakes” for around $23.
Or get the Florida Cracker Special for around $25 that includes catfish, frog legs, turtle, and gator tail…!
👆 The Florida Cracker Special with gator, to-go. No I did not eat this. My brother did.
This restaurant is located a little north of Orlando. From Lake Kissimmee to this alligator restaurant is around a 1 hour 15 minute drive. (map)
And that’s a bit about one spot to see alligators near Orlando!
Looking for more to do after your Lake Kissimmee swamp tour?! If you’re headed back to Orlando, then you can go to Wekiwa Springs State Park for swimming in Wekiwa Springs! This is also just north of Orlando. It’s located about a 1.5 hour drive from Lake Kissimmee, and it’s about a 10-15 minute drive from the alligator restaurant.
It’s also possible that that you MIGHT see alligators in Lake Louisa State Park, also near Orlando!
HAPPY SEEING WILD ALLIGATORS NEAR ORLANDO!
Things to pack for your Florida vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're swimming.
More for your Florida packing list
- How a cheapo waterproof phone case works
- Why wear water shoes for the beach
- Why a personal swim buoy is an essential for ocean swimming... and springs!
- What to pack for Florida beaches
- What to pack for Florida springs
- What to pack for shelling in Florida
- What to pack for snorkeling in Florida