Newly rebuilt in 2008, the park is really nicely laid out and everything is attractive and well-kept. Your first photo opportunity will be at the entrance which is a giant alligator jaw which you walk into. After exiting the large gift shop and ticket office which has walls plastered with archive images of the park, you come to the two large main lakes which seem to be a mass of alligator bodies. There were different sized gators and crocodiles in various other pools too. The lakes are actually big enough to have islands and one is home to a colony of pretty pink flamingos. It was fun to buy some food and throw it to the alligators to see their snapping jaws.
Along the main drag there are a series of animal exhibits in outdoor displays or aquariums. We saw sandhill cranes, Burmese pythons, a truly giant tortoise and a wide range of other snakes, animals and birds in cornily named areas such as the Very Merry Aviary and Allie’s Barnyard. The nice surprise was that visitors could go into the pen and touch/stroke the barnyard animals and even handle the lorikeets that flew down for food. The snakes, fortunately, were well secured behind glass.
After riding around the park on the Choo-Choo Express we headed for the long raised boardwalk trough the native Cypress Swamp. We then ambled along beside a naturalized lake area. This was the Breeding Marsh and Bird Rookery where 130 adult gators live in the 10-acre wetland environment. Everywhere we looked we could see alligator eyes watching us unblinkingly. The accompanying fact boards did a good job of informing us of the breeding habits of alligators, and actually identified some of them by their territory, size or individual characteristics.
We watched, fascinated, as daring visitors climbed the Observation Tower and strapped their harness to the zipline under careful instruction from the trainer. Then they were off, flying high above the greenery and water going from platform to platform.
The Splash Zone was a great place for youngsters to cool off with many jets, flumes and water features. Finally it was time for the last show of the day, the Gator Jumparoo Show. The entertainment included a routine between a trainer and two sidekicks who were allegedly auditioning as would-be trainers. The alligators circled in the water, clearly knowing food was due and eventually they jumped high into the area to snap at a whole chicken. They made quite a splash!
The other excellent shows which take place throughout the day include Gator Wrestling, where wranglers do a series of stunts, and there’s an Upclose Encounters Show where some of Florida’s curious wildlife is displayed and talked about by trained staff.
All-in-all Gatorland was a really enjoyable attraction that I can highly recommend to families of all ages.
If you enjoy doing off-the-beaten-path activities around Orlando, you may be interested in my book:
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Day Trips Around Orlando Florida