Monday, January 18, 2016

Go Wild at Gatorland in Orlando

Crikies!  You see that one there?  Let’s take a closer look…

Want to feel like the Crocodile Hunter?  Get up close and personal with crocks, gators, and other exotic animals at Gatorland in Orlando, FL.  Don’t poke any sticks at the wild animals though, as you may see their quick reactions with a friendly reminder that you may very well be on the food chain there.

Watch gators leap out of the water during the Jumping Show.  A couple of backwoods boys compete to see who can get the gators to jump the highest and even hand feed the gators.  Many exotic birds hang close by, hoping to get some of the free eats that are being handed out.

Get lost in the swamp.  Walk briskly along a bayou boardwalk.  Beware of snakes.

The more signs you see warning of poisonous snakes, the more uneasy you’ll become.  Though there are snakes on display within the park, on the swampy trail, it’s an active swamp with creatures that may very well venture onto the walkway.  Look around carefully, and don’t pick up any snakes crossing your path.

Climb on top of a gator.  Wrap your hands around its mouth.  Check out those sharp teeth up close.
My, what sharp teeth they have!  The better to chomp you with.  Be brave, and don’t let them smell your fear.

Get your picture taken while riding the gator like a cowboy.  Learn how to wrestle gators, and gasp at the inside of an alligator’s mouth.  Are you brave enough to stick your head by a gator’s mouth?
The show’s star goes chin to chin with the gator.  Holding up the gator’s chin with only his own chin, he pulls his hands back.  Look, mom, no hands!

Learn the difference between a gator and a crocodile, and get to see each of them for yourself.  Gaze into the eyes of the albino alligator, which is thought to bring good luck.  

Check out the colorful parrots and peacocks.  Is that a blonde raccoon?  Go for a train ride around the park.

Bobcats cuddle together, grooming each other, looking more like house cats that vicious killers.  They look cute and cuddly, but these are not your average house pet.  They, along with their panther friends on the other side of the park, may languish in the sun taking a cat nap, but they will perk up at the slightest unfamiliar noise, serving as a reminder that they are predators that know their surroundings.

In the petting zoo, pet and feed a goat.  Feed the flamingoes, and other birds will swoop by, hoping to catch a bite.  Wander over to see the emu, the big bodied bird will gladly be fed, but the squirrels will be scampering around, hoping to pick up the crumbs.

Hike up to a tower, feeling like a character in a fairytale, and catapult over to the next tower via a zipline that will make you feel like Batman whisking into action.  Dangle high above the trees, zipping over gators and other animals.  Feel the wind whipping through your hair as you hang and glide.

After you’ve worked up a sweat, splash into the water park.  Run through water hoops and have buckets of water splash on your head.  Climb on top of gator friends while splashing around in the sun.

Ride the train, pretending you are conducting Thomas through the wild.  Zoom from one side of the park to the other on an exotic train ride.  Take in all the wondrous creatures along the way.
Hoof along the breeding trail, and count the different types of birds.  From egrets and herons to turkey vultures and ducks, the scenery is ever changing.  Birds nest along the trail, so keep an eye out for eggs.

Yes, it is called the breeding trail for a reason.  At first, you might think, aww, look at the two birds in the nest, but when one hops on top of the other, and their wings start flapping, think quick.  Tell the kids the one is just trying to catch a ride on the other…

Is that a bird perched on an alligator’s back?  Indeed, the birds are known to eat any bugs that might try to hitch a ride on the gator.  Though gators can be vicious, they don’t seem to mind a bird friend helping to eat the bugs that venture into those hard to reach places, like on a gator’s back.

At the top of the watch tower, it is possible to take in the whole park.  Creatures below look small, not so menacing.  This is a great place to try to find any friends that may have ventured in a different direction.

A stride over to the boardwalk allows an up-close view of those alligator teeth.  Groups of gators sun themselves, seemingly undisturbed by the people staring at them.  Pokes of their bumpy back are barely visible in the water, along with their eyes, just breaking the surface of the water, the rest of their long body remaining hidden below the surface.

For anyone who is curious about alligators and Florida wildlife, take a trip to Gatorland.  There are up close and personal shows that are fun for the whole family.  Eat or be eaten, so don’t forget to try a bite of gator where they serve it up fresh.

For more information, visit  Marisa Williams earned her Master’s in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University.  For more by Marisa, visit and

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