On Saturday the sun was back out. Originally I was supposed to be attending an all day photography seminar at Busch Gardens but thanks to my budget I didn’t get the registration fee into them in time so I found myself a bit more flush but with time on my hands.
Once again I turned to my friendly concierge. They are an absolutely awesome resource. They are familiar with the area and attractions and even have discounts on tickets if you get them through the resort instead of on your own. I had already searched the internet and had some idea what I wanted to do so now I turned to them to set it all up. I handed over my credit card and gave them my available times and what I wanted to do and they handed me back the tickets and brochures and the itinerary. Couldn’t have been easier.
For the morning I wanted to go to Gatorland. I hadn’t been to a place like that in a long time..years actually…and alligator sanctuaries are big on TV right now with shows like Gator Boys and Swamp People and Operation Wild. I plugged in the coordinates and was off.
I didn’t expect to spend a lot of time at Gatorland. After all, they all look-alike except for the individual’s size but I was sure wrong. I could have spent the whole day there.
The first thing you see when you leave your car is a building with a huge mural meant to look like an old post card from Gatorland.
As you turn the corner there a big “gator head” that makes a great photo spot!
Once in you follow board walks between gator pens, big one, little ones, medium-sized ones but what really hit me was the birds!
There were a ton of them and they showed no fear.
They sat on the decks right under the alligator’s noses.
Obviously these alligators are well fed and the birds know it.
They had a small petting zoo and some parrots.
In another enclosure were white alligators.
Each enclosure had educational material posted by the exhibit. In the White Alligator section it was explaining the difference between an Albino alligator and a Leucistic Animal. This was educational for me. I knew about albinos but I had not heard of leucism. I’ll let you look it up. 🙂
In back of the pens and enclosures there was a little train.
Riding that was an additional charge but it was only a couple of dollars so I bit. It was a short ride around the grounds. the narrator pointed out more enclosures with animals like Florida cows and emus. There was a salt water enclosure for some crocodiles and well as more alligator pens. They also have a Zip Line over the farm. Keep your feet up over the alligators!
Back from the train ride I hustled back to the main enclosure for the alligator feeding show.
Here the keepers, I hesitate to call them trainers, were tossing raw meat out to the alligators. The black headed vultures were hopping up and down for scraps. One actually went right up to a big ‘gator and plucked the meat right out of its mouth.
That gator never made a move.
The the keepers tried hand feeding them, teasing them over to the side of a platform and the reaching down as the ‘gator jumped up.
Another way they encouraged the ‘gators to jump was to slide raw chickens down a rope suspended above the water. The ‘gators would swim over and then leap up and grab the chickens. Chomp chomp and it was all over.
I’m sure it sounds gruesome but it was actually pretty interesting. After that show I went back out to one of the many trails that crisscrossed the park. This area was a bird breeding area. The birds love to make their nests near the alligators because the alligators protect them from predators.
Yes they lose a chick here and there that falls out of a nest but the birds seem to feel it’s a good trade-off. It is breeding season now and the Egrets are all fledged out in their breeding plumage. Just beautiful.
By now it was almost noon and time to head to my afternoon appointment in St. Cloud. I wished I’d reserved more time so I could walk the other trails. On my way back I spotted swans and pink flamingos in a pond that seemed to be ‘gator free”.
Some really ugly birds were lined up along the railing. They were big white birds but they had heads that were black and scaly like a vulture. A passing keeper said they were storks. Wow, somehow they didn’t look like I imagined when we used to say the stork brought the baby.