I had been living in Florida for nearly two years but I'd never been to Gatorland, even though it's just a ten minute drive away from where we live in Orlando. Well, last week we finally made it. One reason was we wanted to take advantage of the special admission fees for the month of August, only $10 for Florida residents which is $15 off the usual rate of $25. Great incentive!

At the entrance there is a giant 'Gator mouth.' We got there before the opening time of 10am, and though it was a weekday, a lot of people were already waiting in line to purchase tickets. We even had to wait our turn to take photos at the Gator mouth!

Although billed as the "Alligator captial of the world," Gatorland is actually a theme park and wildlife preserve. Besides the estmated 3,000 alligators and 90 crocodiles of all sizes, there are also exotic birds, reptiles and other animals at this park. I was expecting the place to smell bad like the crocodile farm in Thailand, but surprisingly I found Gatorland to be quite clean and well maintained. This is very much a family oriented venue. There is also a childrens playground, and plenty of attractions and activities to keep you and your kids busy all day long. You can also watch 3 different shows such as the Up Close Encounters, alligator feeding and gator wrestling. These shows are all included in the entrance fee.

All of the above shows are highly entertaining. In the first show called Up Close Encounters, the two staff/performers kept taking out crawling creepy creatures from boxes behind them and showing them around to the apprehensive audience. Then they asked for volunteers to hold the big long python (see photos). Needless to say, I didn't volunteer as I am basically a coward, LOL!

The next show was the alligator feeding where two of the staff playfully competed against each other to see which one could make the alligators jump highest to catch the chicken they were holding above the water. I was relieved to see that they were not live chickens.

In between shows we visited the petting and feeding area for deer and goats, the aviary (which was really a bird enclosure) to feed the cute parakeets. The Swamp Walk was interesting too. It was going though a long walkway in jungle like surroundings to observe the flora, fauna and other wildlife.

We also took in the Gator Wrestling performance which was really not you or someone from the audience wrestling with an alligator, but sitting on its back. The gator had his mouth tied of course, except when the professional handler put on his act. He must have spent considerable time training and practising with alligators as he was quite good. Not surprisingly, there were many people, both young and old, wanting to have their pictures taken with the alligator. I noticed that all the shows were packed, and by the time we finished with this last show the park was crowded with even more people coming in.

Next, we took a mini train ride through the park which cost an extra $2. This wasn't too exciting as it was only a short ride and didn't cover the whole place. Before leaving we went into the gift shop to browse around. Oh yes, we even bought a book there to give as a present to my young grandson whose birthday is coming up soon.

Oh, I almost forgot, there is zip lining there too. I think the cost is $70, and as the ads say, you soar through the air and above the alligators. However, we didn't do this thrill ride which is fast becoming popular all over the country, as we did it already in Nicaragua last year for only $35.

As mentioned earlier, this park is really a mini-zoo with the emphasis on alligators and crocodiles. Covering an area of 110-acres it is relatively small, but one can easily spend a whole day there for an educational and/or entertainment tour.