Romancing the Swamp…

Wade into the Florida wild with local eco-tour guides

Intrigued by the swamp? Then explore it. The experience will forever change you. The Florida Everglades is the largest remaining sub-tropical wilderness in the contiguous United States, unique in the world among wetlands and the site of some of the state’s most spectacular natural landscapes. And it’s awaiting your discovery!

Based out of Naples and operating in the western Everglades, Swamp Explorers, Inc. is the premier eco-tour provider in southwest Florida. Offering swamp walks, hiking, kayaking, and photo safaris in the Big Cypress National Preserve, Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, and the Ten Thousand Islands, these are not your typical Everglades tours. Instead of catching a passing glimpse from the window of a bus, you’ll get an intimate personal experience of the natural wonder and beauty that is the Everglades.

The owners of Swamp Explorers, Inc. are also your guides. Famed photographer Rick Cruz is a 20-year veteran of nature photography and is celebrated for his documentation of rare and endangered orchid species. His romance with the swamp was fostered about 5 years ago when he was invited by Park Biologist Mike Owen to document Ghost orchids in the Fakahatchee Strand. Since then Rick has been trekking through the swamp, nurturing that romance, and his artwork has been widely exhibited in numerous galleries and museums and has appeared in four PBS Documentary Specials. Partner in the venture, Julie Cardenas, grew up in Naples and has cultivated her passion for exploring the natural wonders of the world since childhood. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Biology from Florida Gulf Coast University and holds certificates as a Florida Master Naturalist and NAI Certified Interpretive Guide. Following a diverse travel career that spanned more than 20 years across 5 continents, Julie became a guide in her native Everglades about 5 years ago.

A shared passion for Florida’s unique ecosystem, a strong conservation ethic, and a commitment to environmental educational and sustainable tourism are what brought these two together to launch Swamp Explorers, Inc. “These are our core principles and driving force,” says Cardenas. “We hope to inspire others through interpretation of our rich natural history and cultural heritage.” According to Cruz, the only way to make a connection with the environment is to experience it as the Native Americans and original Gladesmen have. “We want to bridge that connection between people and their environment.”

Rick Cruz and Julie Cardenas

It has been said that only by getting wet can one get into the heart of the Everglades. Enter a mosaic of aquatic landscapes with Swamp Explorers, Inc. and encounter plants and animals found nowhere else. Discover South Florida’s pristine estuary system, famed for its abundant bird rookeries and rich marine life on one of their kayak tours. Understand and appreciate nature in order to capture her essence through photography on one of their photo safaris. Step off the “beaten path” and into the watery wilderness for a truly unique experience shared by few on one of their swamp walks.

“Swamp walks are our specialty,” the pair report. “We just got our permit to conduct hiking and photo tours in the Big Cypress National Preserve, and we are currently the only tour operator with access to the Loop Road Unit.” There is a cypress dome there that Cardenas describes as “a truly magical, primordial place that captivates the senses.”

Experience the REAL Florida. For an educational adventure deep into the Everglades, contact Swamp Explorers, Inc. at 239-961-1151 or visit their website at

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