Florida has plenty to do, especially in the city of commerce-Orlando. There are plenty of amazing theme parks in Florida, however, I searched for something different. Gatorland offered a wide range of experiences from rare animal shows to a thrilling zip line. There were alligators everywhere; 1,800 to be exact. I couldn't wait to interact with the opportunity to get up close and understand the large reptile.
I was introduced to the smallest gator in the park. He was about 1.5 years old and fit nicely in my two hands. The alligators firm, cold skin had yellowish stripes across his back. I later learned the stripes would fade with age. His pupils were dark, vertical slits reminding me that the cute little predator would soon become a giant monster.
I attended a "gator wrestling" show that was truly impressive. A trained staff member sat on the back of a gator holding its strong jaws together. I couldn’t look away when he opened the alligator’s jaws exposing its razor sharp teeth. Suddenly, the gator's jaw snapped shut, I thought for sure the staff member's fingers were appetizers. Luckily, he got to keep his digits. I had to applaud in celebration he didn’t lose any body parts. It was now my turn to closely meet an alligator in the wrestling pen. I musterded up the courage to kneel beside the creature when it decided to move. In a split second, I was on the move as well but in the opposite direction. Although the alligator had tape on its mouth, there was no holding the critter down. Once the alligator was calmed by the staff I knelt down again but this time courageously held the animal’s jaws. For whatever reason, I trusted the cold-blooded critter not to move again. I smiled at the crowd nervously and while walking away from the alligator, I finally exhaled.
I continued to keep my brave face on signing up for the "Screamin' Gator Zip Line." All geared up, I climbed a seven-story high tower. I could see far beyond the treetops of the breathtaking terrain. As if soaring through trees at 1,200 feet in the air isn’t intimidating enough, below me was over 100 alligators and a few cranky crocodiles. I've done a few zip lines before but nothing like this! Now all I had to do is jump off! With extreme hesitation, I pushed off the launch pad. I flew fast through the trees forgetting about my fears and embracing the exhilarating adventure! I was actual gator bait dangling on a rope and survived to tell the tale! Most zip lines are fast but are over with before I can process what happened. At Gatorland there are six ropes to glide across. With each zip line I got more relaxed and enjoyed the Florida view.
No theme park could have given me this unique participation. Never did I think those prehistoric looking creatures would have been so entertaining. I wanted an exotic experience with memories to last a lifetime. Gatorland gave me all that I needed and more!
Andrea Albino is a freelance journalist, contributor at In The Know Traveler and Editor in Chief at The Luggage Tag, where she documents her recent travels and explores the greater Houston area. She believes families should not wait to travel and the time is now! Andrea is married with two active little girls. When she is not writing or planning adventures she is an active member of the community as a school volunteer and youth sports coach.
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