One of my hopes for my first-ever trip to Florida was that I’d get a chance to take a photo with an alligator; so I was not disappointed when we arrived at Gatorland, known as “The Alligator Capital of The World”. After starting my visit with a heart-pounding ride on the Screamin’ Gator Zipline, we came back down to Earth and got up close and personal with some new friends!
Gatorland is home to the Rookie Wrestlin’ experience, where you too can sit on an alligator for just $10. This was my chance to cross another item off my Florida bucket list!
After Rookie Wrestlin’ finishes, it’s time for the main Gator Wrestlin’ Show; or as they refer to it, “Cracker-style wrestling”. Oh, Florida!
The Gator Wrestlin’ Show is part alligator rodeo, part educational talk and part comedy skit. There were a lot of regional jokes poking fun at different parts of the state; when the trainer stuck his head into the alligator’s mouth, he prefaced it by saying: “The things we do in Florida for minimum wage…no, really!” One of the things I found entertaining about Greater Orlando is that it’s not really the deep South, per se, but they play up the “Southern Redneck” image for the tourists. I certainly couldn’t think of a more Florida way to start my first full day in the Sunshine State than by visiting Gatorland!
But that wasn’t the end of gator experiences by any means. We also got a VIP tour similar to the “Trainer For a Day” package that Gatorland offers, and one of the activities was getting up close and personal with Chester. We were taken into his pen and, with the door shut behind us, stood mere feet away from those jaws with no divider between us. After I came home, I learned just how famously aggressive Chester can be – there’s a number of videos online about good old Chester, including an episode of a reality show called “The Pet Psychic” (!!!), where his trainer comments that “Even getting close to him can be dangerous” (!!!!!!!).
My trip to Gatorland was an interesting lesson in fear in many ways. It struck me how I was so frightened of the zip line, but didn’t feel scared when I was in a pen with Chester. It just goes to show that sometimes our brains really aren’t that useful when it comes to the things that make us anxious. Fortunately, Chester didn’t eat us while we had our heads buried in our phones trying to Instagram photos of him. 😉
After we met Chester, we were introduced to a rare leucistic alligator for a photo-op:
Leucistic alligators are somewhat akin to albino alligators, except they have blue eyes and some variation in coloring. They are rare, as you can imagine, with this guy being one of about 14 in the world. Our tour guide told us the legend that if you look into this alligator’s eyes and make a wish, it’ll come true, so I made eye contact on my way out. What I wished for is between me and the gator. 😉
But there are many, many more creatures at Gatorland than just its namesake animal. We got to meet some of the stars of the Upclose Encounters Show – behold, the photo that gave everyone on my Facebook friends list fits:
Yes, that’s me holding a giant snake! Snake don’t bother me so it was no big deal. I apologize if you have now lit your monitor on fire.
Honestly, my only worry was making sure I didn’t poke the snake on accident – I wasn’t worried for me!
Strangely, no one was anxious to cuddle with this little guy:
I was proud of Kristy, who has major arachnophobia, for being so brave and holding the tarantula:
If you haven’t thrown your monitor out the window yet, here are photos of some cute little guys to make you feel better!
This is a Blue-Tongued Skink!
This Bearded Dragon was a sweetie!
Gatorland truly packed an incredible amount of experiences into our short visit – and I haven’t even shown you the rest of the park/zoo, which I will save for another article so that you aren’t scrolling for miles and miles!
For More Information:
14501 South Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, FL 32837
Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM, Monday-Sunday
Admission: $26.99 for adults, $18.99 for children ages 3-12; children under 3 admit free.
Rookie Wrestling: $10 (Photo not included)
“Trainer For a Day” Experience: $125
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