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Gatorland was certainly a high point for the trip. Between you and me, my young guests said they liked it better than Animal Kingdom!

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Gatorland gets you up close and personal and if you are into big lizards there are certainly enough gators and crocodiles to satisfy all.

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Besides the gator wrestling show you have a chance to sit on a real gator in the ring just as if you were doing the wrestling. Of course your gator has his jaws taped shut for safely.

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There’s also the feeding frenzy where handlers hand feed the big gators and even a few crocs. They send chicken carcasses on lines out over the gator pond to encourage the animals to jump for their meal.

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Other gator ponds are open to feeding by the guests. You buy a package of hot dogs and break off pieces to throw into the ponds near the gators.

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You try to get the hot dogs close to the gators because the birds  will steal the bits right out of the gators’ mouths. They seem to have no fear.DSC_0773 copy

Somewhere North of the Everglades

It was stepping out into a watery wilderness a mere 7 miles from the headwaters of the River of Grass. Anyone local will tell you that you are too far north for the Everglades. They think of the southern end, near Fort Lauderdale, Shark Valley, Holiday Park, but the shallow waters start somewhere and East Lake Tohopekaliga is a good a place as any to explore if you are near St. Cloud, FL.

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We tried a smaller airboat ride than I’ve done before. We floated out with Wild Willy’s and it was worth the effort to get there. Located in a RV campground on a dead end road, Wild Willy’s uses 6 person airboats, smaller and more personal than the bigger airboats I’ve been on on the past.

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Our captain said he was the one and only Wild Willy. I’m not sure if that’s true or just what they all say but he was a crusty fellow who did his darndest to give us a fun and educational ride.

Without a word he used the airboat to coax birds into the air or drift quietly past them so I could get the best possible photos. Big difference from the frustrating experiences trying to get photos on some of the big airboats.

Willy pointed out an eagle nest with two eaglets while Mon and Dad perched in the tree tops a few trees away keeping a close eye.

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Baby alligators chirped for mama gator and birds were everywhere.

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One of the first we spotted was an osprey with a fish for lunch half as big as he was.

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A great blue heron “photo bombed”  some smaller wading birds…just because he could.

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We scared up a flock of white pelicans.

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We spotted quite as few Purple Gallinules.

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I got a predator bird in flight. It was hardly more than a spot in the sky when Willy pointed the airboat toward it. I heard him say it was very rare and that he’d taken birder’s out days at a time looking for one. But I didn’t catch what he called it. So here’s my mystery bird. Any idea what it is?

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Beautiful Bellagio

I don’t know Vegas well enough to say what is the most beautiful or the most sophisticated or the most anything. Everything we’ve seen and experienced so far in Vegas has been over the top but I did love everything about the Bellagio, from it’s dancing fountains to the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

I have a video of the fountains but so far have not been able to complete an upload so until then here is a still photo to share the experience with you.

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Chihuly in the lobby

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The Gardens decked out for Chinese New Year.

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