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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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: