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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

THE EVERGLADES' NATIVE SON

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

As we turned off Florida Highway 29, to this funky potholed road, our interests started to climb. Lined with Stone Crab cages reflecting local industry, Dupont St. is a short 45 minute ride from downtown Naples. The air laden with salt, slowly, we made our way to the end where we found Totch’s Island Air Boat Tours. Located on the edge of the Everglades, way down in the southwestern tip of Florida, this area is rich in history and lore.

 

THE HITCHHIKER

Loren G. "Totch" Brown, most around here knew him as Totch, is a legend in these parts. Born the son of a moonshiner in 1920 on Chokoloskee Isla, his family settled here in 1880, on Florida’s last frontier. He lived a simple life, as a commercial fisherman, marijuana smuggler, and alligator hunter. Living off the land, hunting birds and alligators, fighting hordes of mosquitoes… can you imagine living amongst these swamps, with no air conditioning, cell phones, or modern conveniences? No electric for that matter…On purpose!

In the ‘70’s, Florida was an easy entryway for marijuana smuggling, especially for someone who knew the area better than the authorities. A.k.a. Totch…. Making 25 Grand per boat load was good money to folks who were used to making a few hundred dollars a month. With the advent of aerial surveillance, that plan came to a screeching halt.

 

Local tradition credits him with giving rise to the Stone Crab industry, since he devised the crab trap design in use today.  

In his later years, Totch spent most of his time on a tiny island in Chokoloskee Bay, now surrounded by the Everglades National Park. He loved it there as it took him back to his childhood, and had plans to live out his remaining years there. His wish came true after suffering a massive heart attack during the construction of his Indian chickee house. 

TOTCH'S CHICKEE HOUSE

After Totch’s death, his daughter Lorna purchased this tiny three quarter acre island and made it an Historical site, naming it Totch’s Island. 

Remember, this is southern Florida swampland, with a local population of hungry alligators, and not exactly known for its beaches. With numerous environmental restrictions placed on local Crabbers and Fishermen, the Totch family needed to find something for income, and thus two years ago, started an Air-boat tour service.

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Our guide, Gary Thompson, Jr., instructed us to climb aboard the six seat air boat, in a professional and surefooted manner. Pushing off from the dock, we quietly made our way down the Barron River, with pertinent commentary from Gary. With a visit from a large hitchhiking Red Pelican on our bow, off we were only minutes later, along side the mangrove jungle. The Captain detailed the abundant wildlife, some natural, and some "imported". Great Blue Herons, Ospreys, a pod of 8 Manatees, raccoons and a half dozen alligators, one of them 12 foot. Mullet and Tarpin jumping and spinning on the surface of the water, as well as an abandoned colony of pigs, goats and an ostrich.

GARY THOMPSON JR.

It was as if Gary had a control knob at his Captain’s seat all for our photo opportunities. And this native local man knew his Everglades. The history, the fauna and flora, the people, the tribes of Indians. He was confident, respectful, funny and adventurous. We couldn’t have booked a better, more informed guide. Not to mention that the ride itself was a thrill. The rapid turns were the best, as the boat busted out into open waters toward Totch’s Island. 

 

This small three quarter acre man made shell island is where Totch spent much time, hunting, living off the land, writing his memoirs. "Totch A Life in the Everglades" became a best seller, and is a glimpse of his colorful hard life of poverty, pride, honesty and crime. His innate-style of storytelling enlivens his and his family's history of eking out a living on the edge of the Everglades. Totch lived by his own rules; he didn’t exalt or excuse his lifestyle but laid it out explaining the strength it takes to survive on the edge.

While there on this humble island, our guide described the construction of the chickee house, crab cages, island life and the surrealness of the island itself. Off we pushed, and again made our way past the impenetrable mangroves, this time spotting a pod of manatees. A rare sight indeed. Constantly watching for water movement or bubbles, there was a large alligator slithering along the groves.

HI THERE!

Gary estimated this gator to be twelve foot in length, but looked bigger and badder to us! To see this alligator in its natural environment, effortlessly "cruising" was worth the price of the tour. And to be so close, inches above the water, makes one’s heart jump. 

 

We continued the tour in our rudderless airboat, just skimming the surface, turning onto shallow creeks, that as the tide changes exposes the root systems of the mangroves. These creeks were completely covered by a canopy of branches, and the numerous native orchids growing in the mangroves were pointed out to us. Fantastic imagery! At one point, needing to make up for some time, we surged on a straightaway creek that made for an exhilarating, wide grinned thrill. This man knew how to give a tour!

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Returning to the dock charged from our experience, we were able to handle a two foot long gator for a photo. Highly recommended, Totch’s offer 1-1 ½ hour tours ranging in price from $30.00 - $40.00 dollars per person. Specialty private tours are available as well as fishing in the 10,000 islands. If you’ve never ridden in an air-boat, and want to experience the Everglades from a "local’s point of view," Totch’s Island Boat Tours is the place to go.

For more information: Totch’s Island Boat Tours   Toll free: 1-866-626-2833    929Dupont St. Everglades City, Fl                        

Web-site http://www.airboateverglades.com

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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