When you think of airboats, you probably picture gliding across a gator-filled Louisiana bayou, not the Florida panhandle. But the Sunshine State has brackish swamps aplenty, and Wild Thang Airboat Tours offers the perfect way to take in the scenery and wildlife.
Located in Panama City Beach, Wild Thang Airboat Rides takes guests on exhilarating rides across Saint Andrew Bay and Grand Lagoon. You’ll get up close and personal views of fresh- and saltwater marine life, including alligators, dolphins, manatees, sharks, turtles, jellyfish, stingrays, snakes and more. On land, you might see wild hogs, deer, herons, bald eagles, osprey and maybe even Bigfoot. Well, probably not, but here’s to hoping!
Airboats have a flat hull and bench seating, and the boats at Wild Thang can seat up to 16 people. If you have a large group, reserve as many boats as you need so everyone can go out at once. Keep in mind the boats are loud. It may be hard to hear, especially since you’ll be wearing hearing protection, but you won’t want to miss all the interesting things your knowledgeable captain has to share about Florida’s ecology. (The jokes are pretty good, too!)
Airboats are moved and steered by rear propellers that don’t reach into the water. That makes the boats highly maneuverable and able to go places others can’t. To show you the boat’s capability while having little fun, your captain will probably end your tour by spinning the vessel in a complete 180-degree circle. But don’t worry. The experience is completely safe. While the airboats are capable of gliding across the water at a fast clip, Wild Thang likes to keep top speeds between 30 and 40 miles per hour for safety.
Before you decide if an airboat tour is right for you, here are some things to consider:
- No passengers under two years of age are allowed.
- Children must sit on the bench next to their parents, not on their laps.
- Everyone must wear protective earmuffs, which Wild Thang provides to all passengers.
- You will probably get wet; you may get muddy. Dress appropriately.
- Hats are discouraged, but sunscreen and bug spray are musts.
- The airboats are not wheelchair accessible.
- Even if it’s raining, your tour may go on as scheduled. The captain will decide if it:s safe enough 30 minutes before the scheduled launch time.
Wild Thang offers 30-minute tours, but you’ve got a better chance of seeing wildlife on the hour-long tours since there’s time to go farther out. If you don’t get to see a gator from the boat, rest assured one will be waiting for you when you return to shore. Wild Thang keeps several juvenile gators at its facility and allows guests to hold one after their tour.
-During the busy summer months, the popular 90-minute Sunset Night Ride can book up days or even weeks in advance. Be sure to make reservations early especially if you have a large group of people.