Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Walt Disney World Side Trip: GATORLAND? ...GATORLAND!



   When I was a kid, growing up in the southeast Los Angeles area, we would often go down to Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park.  One thing that sticks in my head is the memory of driving past a place called "The Alligator Farm" (or something like that).  It was across the street from Knotts, and I always planned to go check it out, but never made it.  Now, many years later while searching around for things to explore on our Walt Disney World trips, I found a place in Orlando just 20 minutes away from the WDW "City Limits" with all of the Gators you can handle!

   We hopped in the rental car with our 2 dear friends that were spending the trip with us, and headed out to breakfast before moving on to Gatorland.  When we pulled into the parking lot, it looked like nobody was there.  I thought, "Oh this poor little sideshow will be easy to see in an hour or two, and we'll be on our way."  THINK AGAIN!  About 4+ hours later, we were heading out the door to a pretty full parking lot, and already talking about the fantastic things we saw there.

We were ready to explore!
   
    We walked in and were immediately thrilled by Gators... everywhere!  There were gators swimming, sunning, sleeping and we were drawn into their world right away.  Little gators, big gators, they are such fascinating creatures I could not help but to think of them as small, modern Dinosaurs.
Here come my "Little Dinosaurs"!

    Gatorland is not some backyard sideshow, but is actually a 110 acre park.  Not too shabby when you consider that Disney's Hollywood Studios is only 25 acres bigger at 135 acres!

  There is plenty of space to stroll your way around the exhibits.  Pick up a map/guide and check out the different shows.  The Gator Jumparoo show was a hoot,  They send out whole raw chickens on a line and the huge Gators actually jump up out of the water to snag a meal!
The "Gator Jumparoo" show.  These guys actually enjoy their work!
 
Kids, don't try this at home!
No Flying Elbow Drops or Spinning Body Slams, but Gator Wrestling was still fun!
   The other can't miss show is the "Gator Wrestling" show.  It's a small arena with a Gator pit and the handler does some daring feats including resting his chin on the open mouth of an Alligator!  Again, this one was a hoot.


We rode the "Gatorland Express" train, walked the Swamp walk trail, checked out the breeding marsh, and had lunch which included Gator Nuggets.
Everyone loves a train ride
A walk on the wild side


Gator nuggets from the smokehouse

   There are White Gators which are not albinos, but are actually white Alligators , they must be kept in a covered area because they can get a very bad sunburn due to their lack of skin pigmentation.



 And it's not just Alligators.  There are Giant Tortoise, Florida Panthers, Turtles, Birds, Pythons and Snakes of all kinds, even some Deer and other critters.

Not just Gators
No, it's not the Enchanted Tiki Room


  

   If you ever get out to Gatorland, be sure and find "Chester".  Who is Chester?  Well, he's a 13 foot, One thousand pound Alligator that was rescued.  He had eaten several dogs (he seems to favor German Sheperds) in the wild, and was caught, but Gatorland took him in and gave him a home.  He doesn't get along too well with the other Gators, so he has his own special place in Gatorland.  Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of ol' "Chet", but here is a 1 min. video of the big guy:

video  

   It was a solid half day experience, and while it doesn't qualify as "Disney World's fifth gate", it is a very fun place with lots to see and do.  I never made it to the Alligator farm in Buena Park, California and now that place isn't there anymore.  But I found Gatorland, and I'm already looking forward to our next visit!

This guy loves to use Turtles for pillows!


 For more information visit:    GATORLAND WEBSITE