Fort Lauderdale: beaches, TBEX and visiting a Seminole Reservation

IMG_5066I got soaked through on my first night in Fort Lauderdale. Consequently I spent most of the rest of the week sick. I muddled through, but it was hard work.

Fort Lauderdale is a strange place. You can’t really walk anywhere because it’s all so spread out. Still resolutely sticking to my ‘no car’ rule, this added to my general malaise. Achy and sniffly, with a thirty minute walk to the nearest 711 store, I was not a happy bunny.

They say they’re trying to get away from the ‘spring break’ image of the city, and they have the European-style street Las Olas full of restaurants and shops.....

They say they’re trying to get away from the ‘spring break’ image of the city, and they have this European-style street Las Olas full of restaurants and shops…..

IMG_4989

…yet head back to the beach area and it’s all 2 for 1 cocktails and quite a different vibe going on

My reason for being in Fort Lauderdale, of course, was TBEX travel bloggers conference. One of the great things about TBEX (this is my second, I went to Athens last year) is the little trips they organise before the conference.

On the Tuesday, whilst I was still feeling relatively ok, I took one of the pre-TBEX tours to visit a Seminole reservation, at a place called Billie Swamp Safari at the Big Cyprus reservation, one of six Seminole reservations in the state. This is situated around an hour’s drive from Fort Lauderdale.IMG_5042 So if you thought Florida was just beaches, sunshine, retirement homes and Disney (fair enough, I did too; I certainly wouldn’t have bothered to come here if it weren’t for TBEX) then this place will make you think again.

Exploring the swampland in the swamp buggy.

Exploring the swampland in the swamp buggy.

Lots of animal spotting

Lots of animals to see….

Then further exploring in an airboat.

It was a good day out, albeit a little rushed trying to cram everything in to a day.  We missed a lot of the animals because we ran out of time, and we raced through the little museum.  If you want to be sure to catch everything you can always stay overnight in a chickee, which is a traditional Seminole home.

A cheekie, or traditional hut. They have huts like this so that you can stay overnight in the reservation.

A chickee, or traditional hut. These are temporary structures, stemming from the days when the Seminole people might need to pack up and move on quickly.  The Seminoles don’t live in these huts today, although you can stay overnight in one similar to this at at Billie Swamp safari (the ones you stay in are rigged up for electric).

The Floridian Seminoles are an interesting lot.  The only tribe in America never to have signed a peace treaty with the US government, they made money from gaming (they were the first native tribe to open a high-stakes bingo hall), eventually buying out theHard Rock brand around ten years ago.  Tourism is thus a secondary income source for them.

A Seminole man trying to keep the traditions alive by hand-carving a canoe using traditional methods (no power tools here)

A Seminole man trying to keep the traditions alive by hand-carving a canoe using traditional methods (no power tools here)

In truth, Florida is still not somewhere I would chose to go unless I had a reason (a conference, a desperate need for a Disney theme park, etc).  There are more interesting (to me anyway) places to go in the US.  However if you do end up in Florida for whatever reason, then this is definitely worth the trip.

As for the conference itself, hmmmmm. Let me come back to that at a later date. I need a few days to digest everything, and I need to get rid of this annoying head-cold so that everything isn’t quite so fuzzy in my brain.

Meanwhile, I’m off to Miami.

2 replies »

  1. Hi Sarah
    Oh sorry to hear that you are not feeling too well. I guess walking anywhere in the States is a non-starter because of the size of the place. I found your writing on the Seminole people fascinating. I would not hae known anything about them, so thank you for educating me. I hope you manage to shrug off your cold.
    Safe travels my friend xx

    • Yeah they’re not made for non-drivers; New York is probably the only place for that.
      I’d never heard of the Seminoles before I came here either. I somehow never thought of any native tribes living in Florida, don’t know why because obviously they were all over the country.

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