Florida Guide > Other Activities
When we first drove by the entrance to Gatorland, we weren’t impressed! There is a huge green plaster alligator’s mouth surrounding the entrance to the attraction that you walk through to gain access to the store and ticket booths. But the kids wanted to go, and you know what it’s like on holiday, the kids get to do what they want, parents are just along for the ride (and to pay for things!).
So in we went. The store is typical of any attraction store, selling themed souvenirs in all shapes (well, mostly alligator shaped, actually) and sizes. There’s also quite a lot of great information about the alligators and their natural environment and this was very conservation focussed – things were looking up.
We paid our money, very reasonable prices, and entered the attraction. The first area you reach is the baby alligator nursery. Alligators are the cutest of creatures when only a foot long! You can walk around the pens and throw specialist alligator food (that you purchase from a nearby stand) into the pens and see them scrambling for the treats. Boy, can they move quickly! The local bird wildlife like the same treats so they will also be asking for their share!
The attraction in set in a very natural environment (once you get through the mouth entranceway) and is very pleasant to stroll around. You can walk around lakes, across bridges, taking things at your own pace. Gatorland doesn’t just have alligators, there are all sorts of different animals. We particularly liked the llamas and the ostriches. You can buy approved food treats for most of the animals and feed them. The ostriches were particularly animated and they have such long necks and sharp beaks, but it was still fun feeding them all the same. You needed to count your fingers afterwards though!
Our favourite part of the visit was the alligator wrestling. Two Florida Crackers, in a round arena, with a moat around the outside, “crack” jokes and tell you some very interesting tales and facts about alligators. Including the fact that it is a myth that alligators can outrun a horse (as the crackers point out, their legs are an awful lot shorter!).
They then open up a drawbridge and some alligators come into the arena. They get someone from the audience to pick an alligator and they then haul it out, tail first. The alligator looks well fed already so it probably isn’t as risky as it sounds, but it makes for great entertainment. They then get it to open it’s mouth by stroking it under the chin (snout?) and place their heads and hands inside. Great to watch, not so great to copy! It’s a really good show and very funny and entertaining and the alligators aren’t upset or harmed in any way that I can tell.
Another show at the centre is watching an alligator jump out of the water to catch a (dead) chicken strung up overhead. It’s quite frightening to see how high they can jump and how big their teeth are. I guess if they didn’t want to do it, they wouldn’t jump, but I guess all that jumping just works up more of an appetite.
Throughout the time at the centre the staff are constantly promoting conservation and the best interests of the alligators and how important it is to protect their natural environment and there wasn’t anything happening that I felt damaged the dignity or health of the alligators. Funds to assist with preservation of their natural habitat are raised through visitors to this attraction.
It turned out that, after all, that the kids had got it right and it was a fantastic day out. Shame on us for doubting them!
Tips: A visit to Boggy Creek on the same day as a visit to Gatorland is a good combination. Many of the local supermarkets or tourist centres will have discount coupons for both attractions.
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Page added on: 16 September 2005
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