Gatorland – Thursday, Jan 21, 2010
Earlier in the day I had been a the Community Center in Poinciana assisting the Florida State Coordinator, Janet, teach two Leave No Trace Awareness Classes to some 4-H students. On the way to the location I saw a sign stating Gatorland was only 10 miles away. I could not pass up the opportunity to go! It was a beautiful day and the weather was very agreeable. It being mid-week, I knew it would not be crowded and I was correct! There were more gators than people in the first 2 pens.
When you arrive you see the new “gators mouth” replacing the original that burned to the ground just a few years back. IT is wonderful that the owners really tried to keep the original feel of the park by replacing it. I was also please that they offered a Florida resident discount! I purchased my entry and the train ride and off I went to see the reptiles.
As you enter the park, there are many pools holding many young alligators. All are placed with similar sized companions and they were all gladly sunning themselves and were easy to photograph. There are 2 nice sized lakes for the “big ones” and let me tell you, they are huge! There is a nice selection of American and Cuban Alligators and even Crocodiles. The breeding marsh is a must see stop and can be seen well from the large 3 story tower in the center. The park rangers collect the eggs after each breeding cycle and incubate them in safety as the larger males are known to eat the young.
There were many birds on-site and it was just wonderful watching them hang out with the big reptiles. The cormorants and egrets were beginning to nest and soon would be raising their young in the safety of the alligator filled ponds. Apparently their eggs are much safer there as the reptiles keep the raccoons, snakes and other nest robbers at bay.
The train ride was filled with information and was a great opportunity to see the back side of the park George was a wonderful engineer and I was great speaking with him after the train came back to station. Not only was he an engineer, but also an alligator wrangler/wrestler!
By now I was hungry….and yes they serve alligator on the menu. I enjoyed some fried gator tail bites and BBQ gator ribs. I had never had the ribs before – yummy!
After a bite to eat I enjoyed part of the snake show (well done) and made a visit to the gift shop. Something for everyone for sure! They offer a lot of educational items as well as the stuff tourists love to pick up when traveling.
For me this stop is one I had wanted to make for over 20 years and I am so glad I went. The roadside attractions of old Florida are passing away with time and I am sad to see many of them go. I encourage you to stop in and visit Gatorland. There is a lot you can learn about these wonderful creatures and their other Florida neighbors. If you get by there let me know your thoughts. I hope you enjoy the visit as much as I did!
See you on the trail,