Florida’s Gatorland Zoo

One weekend, we had no pressing plans yet didn’t want a long road trip.  Where to go, where to go, hmmmmm………….…………Gatorland Zoo!

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It has been years, probably at least a decade since we’ve stopped at one of Florida’s oldest attractions and Adrienne had never been.  We have a plan for the weekend!  Also, they have a zip-line which is a big draw for me – but more on that later.

Gatorland Zoo has been around since 1949 when Owen Godwin and his wife founded the Florida Wildlife Institute on cattle land they purchased south of Orlando.

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What began as a road-side gift shop giving passersby an up-close look at reptiles has turned into a fun-filled adventure park. It remains privately owned and run by members of the Godwin family.  Now that’s some history that most attractions cannot claim!

For years, walking through these concrete jaws was the entrance into the park.  Definitely cheesey, but no doubt there are millions of photos out in the universe with these teeth.

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Unfortunately for Gatorland Zoo, in November 2008 there was an early morning fire  and the entrance – used for years – was destroyed.  They rebuilt the entrance building, shifting to the north,  while also refurbishing the former entrance for a photo spot – yeah!  I had to wait patiently (okay, maybe not so much) to capture a shot without any other guests.

  • Paid for our tickets √
  • Walked past the turnstyles √
  • Head out onto the boardwalk √

What’s the first thing you see………………..gators!  There are a bunches and bunches of pens.  These guys are 2-4 years old and approximately 3-4 feet long.  They’re just hanging out on this raft, probably making fun of the tourists with these ‘square-ish’ things  pointed at them.

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But there’s way more than gators, like these giant tortoises (sorry – you only see one in the photo).

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Or this panther…….…………taking a nap in the heat.

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Loved this sign at their habitat.

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Or these nesting birds……………

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If you look up close, there is a little hatchling in the nest.

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But right underneath was this guy, waiting for a snack.

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Gatorland Zoo is also about education and gator safety.  Signs with animal factoids are sprinkled throughout the area.

Gatorland Zoo also plays a part affecting the surrounding communities.  Nuisance gators are brought here by trappers, instead of being destroyed.  Yes, that is a real gator in the shot below.  I could not have planned it better.

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Interesting shot…….there are at least 7 gators in this photos.  Can you find them all?

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There are also crocodiles, both saltwater and fresh.

Here’s another sign I loved…………

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There’s this ‘thing’ that has been done at Gatorland Zoo, which is definitely ‘kitschy’……………Gator Jumparoo.  Waaaaay at the far right of the sign is a prop, which plays into the naming of the show.

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The gators are trained.  They know when it’s time to gather.  They don’t need a watch!

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The MC (seen at the far right) is letting these two ‘potential’ employees ‘audition’ to see if they have the right stuff to work there.  At one point in the show, these two are trying to get the gators to jump for raw chicken – hence the prop with the sign.

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Eventually the show morphs into raw chicken on these clotheslines and they’re competing against each other to see whose chicken disappears first.  Watch and see.

Nope, the first gator doesn’t get his snack.  But this one does.

Earlier I mentioned a zip-line.  Gatorland Zoo installed this in 2011.

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While this looked ‘really cool’ to do, it was also two hours long and (ugh) we’re in the middle of unprecedented hot spell – with no rain in sight.  Its just way too hot to wear the harness and headgear that long.  Turns out, we had an option of doing 1 zip, for a much smaller price and time commitment.  Score!

I was able to get a panoramic shot of our zip.  This is the end of the zip, going over a pond of gators.

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You start by getting suited up.  Luckily we read prior to coming you must wear closed-toe shoes.  Otherwise, we probably would have all failed to meet the first requirement!

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We walked up to the tower, our group of eight.  There was a little girl named Riley in our group that got scared.  Her older cousin went first but she wasn’t too sure.  We talked a bit and before you knew it, she went down the zip.  Brave soul.  Not sure I would have done it at her tender age (I’m guessing 7 years old).

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I was able to get this shot of Adrienne.  She tells me when as we’re waiting our turn in the tower, she’s never done this before………but she did it!

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A successful end to any experience is food and today was no exception.

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A short drive  to St. Cloud and we experienced another local favorite – The Catfish Place.

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Found this other nugget of info in their menu.  If all of these famous faces have eaten here……………it must be good.

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Yes, we ordered catfish – all of us, but not before starting with fried okra and fried pickles – yum.

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I got the fried catfish fingers while Eric ordered whole small catfish.

Going to end with one more factoid gleamed from their menu.

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So if you’re in the area, this is a fun way to spend a day, soaking up Florida lore.

Ginny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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