Thursday 25 July 2013

Meeting alligators and crocodiles at Gatorland, Orlando, Florida

On our recent holiday to Florida we had a fantastic day out at Gatorland, Orlando with our four year old and nearly two year old. When you first enter Gatorland you come face to face with a big lake teeming with alligators. You walk around on a boardwalk raised slightly above them, and although they kept pretty still they were still very menacing! We had a good look around this area while we waited for the first show to start - the Gator Jumparoo Show. It was a bit cheesy, with chicken hung up above the water to encourage the alligators to jump for it. After the Disney queues, it was refreshing to be able to find a good viewing position just a few minutes before the show started, and there was a nice low glassed window area for children (it's not the best idea to lift them up above the railings!)

Lots of alligators at Gatorland, Florida

Then we headed out onto the boardwalk around the Breeding Marsh. Although the boardwalk is very safe, it is right down at the same level as the alligators and you can get very close! Mainly they were just lying there enjoying the sunshine, and there were plenty of information boards to tell you more about them. There are a couple of observation towers that you can climb for a better view, although the main path is fully pushchair and wheelchair accessible. We also had a good view of the brave souls flying across the swamp on a zip line!

Boardwalk with alligators at Gatorland, Orlando

There are plenty of other animals to see as well as alligators - we chatted with some parrots, learned about some of the local Florida snakes (thankfully only seen by us in enclosures on this holiday) and marvelled at some majestic white alligators. Then we headed up to the station for a ride on the Gatorland Express for a journey around the crocodiles and Breeding Marsh which the children loved. The train ride costs an additional $2 per person.

Then it was time for the Gator Wrestlin' Show which we enjoyed very much, the alligators weren't very large but they could certainly do a lot of damage if they wanted to! We had brought our own sandwiches but we topped up afterwards with some nachos and chips from Pearl's Patio Smokehouse - in future best avoided just after the show as there was quite a queue! The food was quite reasonably priced although not the best selection for us veggies, it hit the spot though.

Alligator wrestling at Gatorland, Orlando

The skies were starting to darken, but we made our way to the far end of the park for a closer look at the Saltwater Crocodiles and the Nile Crocodiles before heading out towards the Swamp Walk - a self-guided tour around a boardwalk through a native Cypress Swamp. It's all completely natural and what the area would have been like before it was developed, which is fascinating. Unfortunately the weather was against us, and it came on to rain quite heavily. There were plenty of small shelters, but a poor, sodden employee was closing the walk and so we had to return to the main part of the park.

We joined other visitors sheltering in one of the many covered areas, trying to decide how long to wait out the storm. We're not used to such dramatic weather conditions, and it really was pelting down! In the end we decided that it was time to make a move. I've never seen rain like it, by the time we had run the very short distance to the car and got everyone strapped in, we were all completely soaked through! It was a bit of a shame, but fortunately we felt that we'd had a good look around and seen everything that we wanted to. It did mean that we missed out on the Children's Playground and Splash Park, which would have been a welcome relief earlier in the day but wasn't needed at the time we went past!

Gatorland, Orlando, Florida

We had a great day out at Gatorland, I would definitely recommend a visit. If you want to enjoy one of the experiences there like feeding the alligators, having a photo taken with them or braving the zip line then do check in advance as there are additional charges and you may need to book in advance. It's definitely suitable for young children, there are all the facilities that you need, and not too much walking for little legs.

Disclaimer - We were guests of Gatorland for the purpose of this review. An adult (over 13) ticket currently costs $21.99 and a child ticket (ages 3 - 12) currently costs $13.99. The train ride is $2 per person. Do check locally for discount coupons on admission, and also on the Gatorland website. 

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