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Southwest Florida Adventure Tours's insider take:

Wild alligators, panthers, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey—who knew a Florida cattle ranch could be so exotic? Babcock Wilderness Adventures' 90-minute swamp buggy tour of the Babcock Ranch, the largest cattle operation east of the Mississippi River, traverses five ecosystems, from open prairie to cypress swamp (8000 State Road 31, Punta Gorda; 941-637-0551; For those in search of aquatic life, dolphin sightings are almost a sure thing on Captiva Cruises' Dolphin Watch and Wildlife Adventure Cruise. The waters of Pine Island Sound are home to one of the world's largest populations of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. While the playful creatures jump in the boat's wake during the 90-minute excursion, volunteers from the Sanibel and Captiva Conservation Foundation narrate. (McCarthy's Marina, Captiva Island; 239-472-5300; Everglades Area Tours' half-day fishing and kayaking outing to the Ten Thousand Islands begins aboard the "mother ship" that Captain Charles Wright pilots to a remote island beach, where the kayaks are deployed (City Seafood Café dock on Begonia St., Everglades City; 239-695-9107; While paddling and casting your line, you may spot dolphins, manatees, loggerhead sea turtles, bald eagles, and ospreys. Everyone returns to the beach for a seafood lunch that might include the fresh catch grilled on an open fire. After lunch, you can fish or beachcomb for seashells, but if it's shells you're after, you're better off on Mike Fuery's Shelling Tour. Captain Fuery, a local shell expert, has been guiding trips for 30 years. Out on remote barrier isles such as Cayo Costa, common finds include sand dollars, lightning whelk, lettered olive, and angel wing shells. Find the rare brown-spotted milky junonia, and you'll get your photo in the newspaper (Tween Waters Inn Marina, Captiva Island; 239-466-3649;

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