What You Should Know About Alligators: Instructions at Gatorland

Want some advice about alligators?

#3 Orland0 Florida

Don’t come to me. I’m visiting here in Orlando, Florida with my California neighbors, Carmen and Taliah and friend, Janice from Tennessee. And we’ve come to Gatorland to see and learn about alligators.

GatorlandDo you love Strange Inheritances? This is not Gatorama, but Gatorland is farther north,  18 miles or 30 minutes from Orlando, also a family-owned business.

Gatorland

When to Visit Gatorland

I’ve been to Florida in August, and I don’t recommend it. However, going to Gatorland in March is perfect. There weren’t many mosquitos. The day I wore body lotion, the bugs loved me, but as long as I didn’t smell, the bugs didn’t bother me.

It’s warm in the sun, but walking through the covered pathways is pleasant even in mid-afternoon.

Gatorland

The covers provided some shade to the alligators as well. Unlike dolphins, which you will read about in another post, alligators don’t have sensitive skin. Their black coloring makes them almost invisible in the water.

The next gator would have been tricky to see if he had been cruising underwater.

Gatorland groups gators by age and color. The young ones are first in line.

Bigger than Life

Towards the rear of the walkway lives the Brutus of Gatorland, Chester. Just as I was closing in to take pictures of Chester, Carmen swooped in and shooed us down to the Gator wrestling show, which was well worth the rush. Poor Carmen, she had to mother all of us to keep us on track to see everything.

When we came back, Chester was pooped. Here is Diego Centeno’s YouTube video of Chester.

Real Gator Wrestling

Sure, it’s easy to wrestle a gator if you watch the actor. No sweat. He chose a volunteer to come out on the sandy platform with him to pick out a lazy gator. The youngster refused. So the youngster pointed to a swimming alligator instead of the sleepy sunbathing gators.

Mr. Gator Wrestler grabbed that little gator by the tail and dragged it ashore. Kicking the other gators aside, he began his show.

Gatorland

Miss Gator seemed to be dragging her feet a bit. She was not the shining star that Nicholas is. You’ll see him in another post.

The G-Wrestler asked the crowd to name the most dangerous part of the alligator. Some poor soul shouted, “Tail.”

Probably the respondent was a plant in the audience. Either that or he didn’t watch Mr. G-Wrestler drag Miss Gator out onto the sandy stage.

Mr. G-Wrestler proceeded to show us how easy it was to lose fingers and hands in the G-wrestling business. He somehow pried open the gator’s mouth and withdrew as it snapped shut.

Gatorland

It doesn’t take much pressure to hold a gator’s mouth shut. The trainer held it with his chin. I hope the gator smelled good.

Other Animals that Repulse and Intrigue

The next actors thrilled the audience by letting volunteers participate, usually with their eyes closed at first. The rest of the audience responded with appropriate scared noises, which didn’t seem to bother the volunteers. They had probably checked out someone’s blog post before going to Gatorland and knew what was coming.

Gatorland

You can’t see what he’s putting on her hand. It’s a tarantula.

Gatorland

Taliah’s favorite, though not venomous, was the snake. We saw the same snake curled up in his house, and we could have crawled into the house with him if we had chosen to do so.

Gatorland

White Alligators Are Rare

Three of only twelve leucistic gators exist here at Gatorland.  Apparently, they are not personable.

Gatorland

It was hard to get up close, so I let Taliah take the first shot at him. She got a little annoyed with me taking pictures of her taking pictures, but it was fun watching her quickly manipulate the image with her thumbs before saving it.

GatorlandUp close, he didn’t look too scary since there was a glass wall between us and he had his eyes closed.

Gatorland

Birds Kicked at the Gators

A gator could snap a bird’s leg off in a second, but that fact did not seem to worry any of these feathery creatures. We saw one bird kick her spindly leg at a gator swimming towards her with his mouth open. The gator turned and swam away. That was not the response I expected.

This mutton-headed bird dared to bark orders to the alligators on the feeding deck. Don’t you love its geometric shadow?

Gatorland

Gatorland rated lower than Bloggy Creek but higher than most of the Animal Kingdom on the Entertainment Scale.

Gatorland

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Why You Don’t Want to Overlook the Boggy Creek Airboat Ride

How Far Ahead Do You Plan Your Travel Activities?

#Orlando Florida #2

Think you need to plan activities months in advance of your next trip?

Think again.

My neighbors Carmen and Taliah (mother-daughter) from California and grandmother, Janice, from Tennessee, and I  started planning our trip to Orlando, Florida months ago. We bought tickets to Disney World and Universal Studios for several days (a mistake for us!)

Though I’m glad we went, the enormous crowds and hype at Disney World overwhelmed even Taliah, (12) the youngest of our all-girl travel party.

Boggy reek Airboat tours

Finding the Perfect Activity

Taliah lights up when she talks about anything with big nasty-looking teeth or venom, so Carmen found a couple of activities that looked promising.

First, she booked the Boggy Creek tour at  2001 E Southport Rd, Kissimmee, FL 34746, a mere twenty-four miles away from our resort. We packed sunscreen, and snacks, and headed out from Orlando to Boggy Creek.

Thanks to my expert driving and Carmen telling me to quit gawking and speed it up a bit, we arrived right on time to walk on to the boat.  Instead of standing in 120-minute lines for a three-minute ride, we enjoyed a relaxing half hour or more trip into alligator territory. I lost track of time, and we never felt rushed.

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours

The day was a perfect 82-degree March day in Orlando, ideal for spotting alligators.

Heavenly!

Boggy Creek Airboat tours

Once on the boat, we all donned our protective ear muffs. Across the channel, you can see the big fan thingy behind the driver that makes all the noise.

Boggy Creek Airboat ToursWe couldn’t see through all the plants, but our guide recognized animals bopping up their noses in the bog from miles away. We zoomed towards them in our noisy airboat.

Helpful Florida Swimming Tip: Learn to Recognize Alligators From a Distance

“How did you see alligators from so far away?” we asked.

“You learn to recognize them from a distance when you swim with them every day. I grew up around here,” he said.

Yikes, swimming with alligators. There’s an adventure you probably haven’t considered. Unfortunately, this park doesn’t offer a guided tour of swimming with alligators. Sorry!

Soaring Over Boggy Creek

Have you ever taken the Disneyland ride, “Soaring over California?”

Boggy Creek Airboat toursSoaring over Boggy Creek felt about the same.  You thought you would stay in the watery pathway, then suddenly the driver plowed the boat through various plants growing wild in Boggy Creek and Lake Tohopekaliga. Unlike “Soaring over California,” we actually felt the spray as we soared – best ride ever!

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours

This shallow freshwater lake, covering 22,700 acres reminded me of what early settlers must have experienced on Tulare Lake in Central California where we live. The difference is that California settlers drained the shallow 13,670-square-mile Tulare Lake in the 1800s to farm it.

Like Lake Tohopekaliga, Tulare Lake once housed thousands of turtles and fish. Unlike this lake, there were no alligators, or were there?

Boggy Creek Air boat tours

Remember I told you how noisy the boat is?  Apparently, the noise doesn’t bother the alligators. They didn’t budge when we approached them. We also did not get too close.

Gator and Snake Sighting

boggy creek airboat tours

Taliah wanted to see alligators and snakes. Maybe you can see the alligator here, but it is too hard for me. Taliah got a better picture of it.  She took a picture of her screenshot, which enlarged the photo.

And there he is, Mr. Al I. Gator.

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours

Do you think you’d want to swim in Boggy Creek and Lake Tohopekaliga?

Snaking  Our Way Through the Lake

Our trip didn’t stop there. After oohing and ahhing over Mr. Gator, we zoomed off and came across this black snake.  Again I marveled at our guide’s eyesight.

Can you imagine seeing this little guy from a half of a  football field away?

Despite humans being his biggest enemy, this black racer didn’t move a muscle as the boat clamored down on him, Nor did he squirm away when we parked inches away.

Would you want to kill this sweetie?

Boggy Creek and Lake Tohopekaliga.

Notice, he posed agreeably for pictures. His lack of venom disappointed Taliah. If he had white inside his mouth instead of on his chin, then we would have been looking at one of Florida’s most venomous snakes.

You would not want to swim around with cottonmouth snakes also known as water moccasins. Even the venomous snakes rarely bite humans unless they are provoked. I’m not sure if cottonmouths would consider a noisy water boat as threatening to them.

After we left the boat, we stopped to see the other attractions, mostly gators.

Don’t forget to tip the driver.  He was awesome!

Gator Wrestling

This next picture may be too traumatic for you. I wrestled a gator while I was there. I’ve since healed, but it took a while. I don’t think I’ll go into the gator wrestling business like we saw at Gatorland.

Boggy Creek and Lake Tohopekaliga.

Most of the gators sat quietly within a fenced area sunning themselves. These gators look young and healthy, unlike the one I wrestled.

Did you know that some alligators are white? I’m going to show you those in one of my next Floridian posts.

Boggy Creek Airboat tours

Other Native Floridians

There was another surprise for me when I turned around from gator gazing. This man stood almost nose to nose to me. Glad we both brushed out teeth that morning, though I’m not sure I smiled.

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours

After wrestling an alligator, nothing much scared me anymore. I think he was disappointed when all I said was, “Oh, hi,” and moved out of his way.

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours

Voted “Best Activity” By Our Party

We enjoyed our day at the humongous Theme Parks. However, I hope I’ve convinced you to go places other than Disney World and Universal Studios if you visit Orlando, FL

Even my young friend voted this as her favorite activity until we went one more location. I’ll tell you about that one in another post.

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#1 Thrill of a Lifetime

Though this isn’t a walk in the park, it is a journey. For more walks/journeys check out:

 

 

 

Thrill of a Lifetime: How Novice Kayakers Navigate the Mangrove Tunnel of Doom

Kayakers Achieve Instant Expert Status Upon Successful Exit

It was the perfect day to earn our Kayaking Certificate of Achievement. The weather at Cocoa Beach in March is ideal for kayaking and seeing wildlife. Taliah and her mother, Carmen, grandmother, Janice and I celebrated Taliah’s twelfth birthday with a manatee-dolphin party in the mangroves of the Banana River.

Banana River Kayaking

We paddled along the Banana River with our guide on a balmy 70-degree day hoping to catch a glimpse of some dolphins out fishing. Our guide first spotted a lazy manatee cruising along in the canal through a housing area hoping to find some friendly humans.

Meeting Mr. Man-T

Manatees have a terrible habit of approaching boats and befriending people even if the people come via propeller boats. Their backs bear the scars of such friendships.

Today, Mr. Man-T discovered a kindred spirit in Taliah. When she tickled the water with her fingers, he maneuvered himself in place saddling up to her kayak. Somehow he knew she would pet him. You can see his white propeller scars on his back to the right of Taliah’s hand.

If Carmen moved the boat, Mr. Man-T moved too. Finally, our guide had to tear us away from Mr. Man-T to get into the open waters to see dolphins like the ads promised.

Following the Private-Eye Birds

These birds did not read their pelican briefs and led us astray on our first quest to see dolphins. But other birds ran their operation with more precision. Soon we spotted two dolphins on a fishing expedition.

Banana River Kayaking

The result was that during our two-hour tour, we saw the most dolphins our guide had spotted in his thirty years of dolphin  tours. Once we got on the high seas, there were many more dolphins, but they were farther away and harder to photograph.

While that may be a slight exaggeration, I don’t apologize because he had his “best show in thirty-years” attitude, even if it was just an attitude.

Every time he spotted a group of birds sitting on the dock inspecting the water below his enthusiasm exploded. He would lead us through the water towards the next school of dolphins. We paddled towards them as quickly as we could gliding in gentle circles and S-curves through the water.

Entering the Mangrove Tunnel of Doom

Nearing the two-hour mark, our guide thought he could lose us in the Tunnel. Leading us in single file, we battled the barnacle-covered mangroves slathered with barnacles. In spite of a few false starts and nearly losing a paddle or two to the aggressive water trees, we emerged unscathed.

Exiting the Banana River

By the end of the second hour, my wrists hurt, but my heart was full. Our guide started speeding towards our landing spot just as the sky let loose of the future waters of Banana River.

Banana River Kayaking

Weighed down by all the water, it was all I could do to emerge ungracefully from the kayak without going for a swim in the brackish water. Carmen tried to lend me a hand. After nearly pulling her in, I decided to turn and push myself out using the boat as a solid surface. (That’s funny, by the way!)

No picture (hahaha).

By that time it did not matter how wet I got. If the river below hadn’t soaked me, the river above our heads did an excellent job.

Banana River KayakingWhat fabulous activities on one of your trips gave you the thrill of a lifetime?

Though this isn’t a walk, it is a journey. For more walks/journeys check out:

 

 

Biltmore House a 175,00 Square Foot Home

Imagine living in a house with 65 fireplaces.

One of the largest mansions in California, Hearst Castle at 70,000 square feet, is a pittance of the size of the Biltmore House in Ashville, NC.

Biltmore frontVince and I are grateful to our fun Diamond Resorts hostess, Chastity, for the opportunity to see this magnificent home which is still owned by the descendants of George Vanderbilt.

Neither of us had seen snow for a while, so getting up in Gatlinburg, TN to heavy flurries excited us until the cold wind hit.

Gatlinburg

It didn’t bother any of the stylishly dressed mannequins inside the Biltmore Estate. Scattered among the antiques which are original to the home, each room on the main floors is “hosted” by models wearing clothing from the movie, “Titanic.”

Biltmore

As part of our special Diamond Resorts Events package, we also got to go behind the scenes at the Estate. All of us on the tour opted to stay off the roof, which was the tour our hosts had planned for us. Our guide, Ruth Ann, gave us a choice and showed us behind the scenes in the guest bedrooms, storage rooms and staff quarters instead.

BiltmoreIf you are wondering, the cylindrical item on the table is a vacuum cleaner.

In the George Vanderbilt’s era, the women’s guest rooms did not have access to a sink in the bathroom. Would you like to know why?

Of course, you would.

Women didn’t turn on their own water. It was work, so female guests had attendants do it for them. Mr. Vanderbilt wanted his female guests to be pampered and have the water brought to their rooms. Male guests had sinks in their bathrooms.

The guest bathrooms did have toilets and large tubs. Some women of that era did not think it was good manners to have a toilet inside the house. Those guests received a chamber pot instead.  We saw where all they stored all the old pots. 🙂

Since the family still owns this home, all the furniture has stayed with the house, and believe it or not, there’s not enough room to display it all. So some of it is kept in the fourth-floor bedrooms. One of the rooms was also used to film  the movie “Private Eyes” starring Don Knotts and Tim Conway.

BiltmoreWe spent time at the grand staircase talking about the chandelier, which is 50 feet tall and weighs 1,700 pounds. One bolt keeps it from tumbling down on your head.  If you zoom in on this picture you can see that the bolt is not on exactly straight on center.

Biltmore

The reason for that is because the Biltmore is on a fault line. In case of an earthquake or another disaster, the chandelier is able to move around on that attachment.

BiltmoreEventually, it will scrape off all the paint up there, so if it looks like you have dandruff when you walk underneath the chandelier, it is probably just flecks of paint. By the way, all the lights are still replaced the same way they did them in 1895. Brave workers use a whatchamacallit to drop the lights in place. They don’t screw into a socket.

Biltmore

Check out the library on the main floor, with 23,000 volumes all handpicked by Mr. Vanderbilt. Private eye, Don Knotts, discovered a few of the books missing when he got to tour the home. Sure enough, the family found those missing books at auctions and repurchased them.

Biltmore

This is Marsha Ingrao reporting as accurately as my brain remembers the fascinating trivia I learned at the Biltmore Estate. I hope that you enjoyed your brief tour.

For more walks check out:

 

readilearn: Writing in the lower primary classroom – a guest post by Marsha Ingrao – Readilearn

My Blogging friend, Norah Colvin invited me to write a guest post for her two education blogs.  What a thrill. Thanks, Norah. via readilearn: Writing in the lower primary classroom – a guest post by Marsha Ingrao – Readilearn