JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One of the most popular eco-tourism attractions in the state is the air boat ride. The airboat is perfect for the shallow, swampy areas of Florida.
"First group come on down," said Josh Schrutt as he welcomes passengers on his airboat that seats 18 people.
Schrutt has been offering airboat rides for three years at his Old Florida Fish Camp Restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, located across from Adventure Landing off Beach Boulevard near the boat ramps.
Just recently, he purchased an 18-person airboat. A big upgrade from the first airboat he bought in 2011 that carried 6 passengers. "Now, I can seat more people. Entire families and big groups can now enjoy the Intracoastal together." Schrutt has been busy giving locals and tourists a one-of-a kind ride on the water, over land and under bridges of the marshland near Beach Boulevard.
Powered by a 600-horsepower supercharged Corvette engine, the airboat can reach speeds of 60 mph. However, Schrutt keeps speeds much lower for safety reasons. But he still shows passengers a good time doing what amounts to donuts in the water. The experience is part thrill ride, part eco-tour.
"We are in one of the feeder creeks of the Intracoastal waterway," said Shirt as he shares his knowledge of the Intracoastal. "Ten trillion gallons of water flow in and out of here every day."
Schrutt gives passengers an up close view of wildlife from a unique perspective. About 10 minutes into the tour we saw a bald eagles nest. "The branches and sticks in that nest weigh close to 1500 pounds" One of the eagles was perched not far from the nest.. In the water, we saw dolphins, a lot of them, some females with their calves.
You'll also see oyster beds during low tide.
egrets, pelicans and even some birds you usually don't see in town. "It's one of the rarest birds of the waterway. It's the Roseate Spoonbill," said Schrutt. The bird is the closest relative to the pink flamingo in this area.
The tour lasts a hour and covers up to 40-miles.
Between the eco-lesson and the revved up fun, passengers leave with a different perspective of orbits and our local waterway. Airboat tour prices range between $30 and $50 per person depending on how many are in your party.