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Take a walk-and a few rides-on the wild side with an Everglades Day Safari. The decade-old eco-tour company offers half- and full-day excursions that reveal the area's natural charms, as explained by trained guides.

Participants take a boat ride through the mangroves of the Ten Thousand Islands, walk through a cypress swamp, drive along dirt roads, and scoot atop Lake Trafford on an airboat. Along the way, you can see lots of wildlife in its natural habitat; besides gators, possible sightings include purple gallinules, tricolored and green-backed herons, barred owls, otters and the occasional snake. Plant lovers may get an up-close look at gnarled cypress knees, swamp hibiscus, delicate bromeliads and spider lilies.

For an authentic taste of swamp cuisine, there's a midday stop at Joanie's Blue Crab Café. Lunch begins with a sampler of gator nuggets, Indian fry bread and cactus salsa, followed by burgers and other familiar fare.

Half-day outings, which welcome families with young children, include an airboat ride and reptile show, during which youngsters can pet a snake and hold a baby gator.

Everglades Day Safari Full-day tours conducted daily; $120 for adults, $99 for children (no children under five admitted on full-day tours). Half-day tours Thursday only; $49.95 for adults, $39.95 for children. Pick-up points in Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel Island and Bonita Springs. (239) 472-1559 or (800) 472-3069. www.ecosafari.com.

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