I have been so incredibly excited to share this specific day out from our holiday. By this point in our holiday we had done A LOT of fun things but I remember a moment during this specific day where my Mum and I turned to each other and said “this is my favourite day so far”.
Gatorland was so much more than we expected it to be, in every photo we was genuinely smiling rather than the posed stuff. I wanted to share the video from our day as this includes so many fun moments including the sound of an alligator snapping. I hope you’ll take the time to watch, then read on afterwards.
If you read our Kennedy Space Center you will know that we had a hilarious experience with an Uber driver. To Hubby’s annoyance, we had been paired once again with our eccentric non-English speaking Uber driver for our Gatorland driver. Our journey to Gatorland was so funny with Google translate and loud music the entire way.
Gatorland is a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve in Florida. It’s South of Orlando and is said to be Orlando’s best half day attraction. Meaning they suggest you’ll be there for half a day rather than a full day. It was founded 70 years ago by Owen Godwin.
As our tour was book ahead of opening time, Gatorland was really quiet. They have a great sized car park and you are greeted by the iconic Gator mouth. We made our way to the office rather than the entrance gates, as these were obviously closed and checked in for our tour.
We had been booked to meet Brandon Fisher for our tour. We had been booked on to a few of the activities at Gatorland but other than that, I didn’t really know what to expect from our day out and whether the girls would be interested at all. Because let’s face it, alligators are definitely not cute and fluffy animals you usually see at an animal park.
In the office area there is a tank with a few of the baby gators. The girls took an instant interest in them as usually you’d find fish swimming in a tank. Brandon greeted us and straight away had Freya and Eva, and my Mum, holding a baby gator. The gators were about six months old and really tiny compared to the adult ones you see. I was so proud of them both for having the courage to hold one, I definitely didn’t.
Brandon then took us through into the park. It was already very hot despite it only being 9am and that is most likely because of all the surrounding water. Brandon explained the different pens or areas that they keep the alligators in as we walked past them.
The first activity we had booked was to experience the Screamin’ Gator Zipline. Initially it was booked for four of us but sadly Freya got too nervous to do it so she stayed with my Mum and Elsa. Freya actually was on photography duties whilst my Mum filmed us.
The zipline experience was incredible. Due to our heights and weights (Eva and I anyway) we was only able to do a couple of the lines. I did want to zipline over the main swamp area but the staff advised that if you are too light, you could end up stuck in the middle. Instead we went over one smaller enclosure. It was terrifying! My legs went to jelly and I felt pretty proud of myself for doing it. Eva was the fearless daredevil she always is and didn’t even hold on during the second zipline we did.
After settling our feet on firm ground, Brandon took us round to see the tortoise encounter. Usually you would have to pay to enter but this was part of our experience. He took us inside the enclosure and we was able to touch the giant tortoise. The girls were in absolute awe of the giant creatures, asking so many questions to Brandon which was so sweet. Brandon was more than happy to answer them and was very knowledgeable in the animals.
He then took us to see the baby gators, constantly telling us stories and facts about them and about Gatorland. I think it says a lot about an attraction when the staff are enthusiastic too. There was a fantastic story about two Florida Panthers, Neiko and Lucy who were born at a Florida rescue and rehabilitation facility. In 2013, they came to Gatorland to help educate visitors about the importance of protecting the species. I loved how they came up to us when called by Brandon.
After our tortoise encounter it was time to encounter something much more dangerous. The alligators. I had a lot of anxiety leading up to this, so did my Mum. You hear so many horror stories about alligator attacks, now we was willingly putting ourselves inside an alligator enclosure.
Brandon went through some strict guidelines and safety warnings ahead of opening up the cage. We then nervously entered and stood along the railing as instructed. Brandon had brought with a bucket of meat with him and then began to shout for the gators. Instantly up popped a ridiculous amount of alligators out of nowhere. It was unbelievable and slightly terrifying.
This was the first time we’d seen the big boys (and girls). Once the gators were in position, we was allowed to begin feeding them. Eva and Freya had no fear as they threw the meat towards the alligators. Hubby stood back with Elsa who was clinging on tightly to his neck. My Mum got involved with the feeding too.
I must say, that we got a few odd comments on social media when we posted about being this close to the gators. I want to really drum in to you that at no point did I feel worried. Brandon had marked out a safe line that we was not allowed to cross, he also had a pole that he could use if they got too close which they didn’t. Although we was within a few metres of the alligators, it was still quite a distance. Luckily, these big guys were used to the feeding process and not once did they behave badly. They just enjoyed the feeding as much as we did.
I don’t think anything could ever top the experience and memories we created during the alligator feed.
The Adventure Outpost was a brilliant place to get cool as it was an air-conditioned building with a gift shop too. However, the fun didn’t stop there, our next adventure was on the Stompin’ Gator Off Road Adventure. This is a relatively new experience for Gatorland.
You climb on board a huge off-road monster vehicle for a 15-minute off road adventure like no other theme park ride anywhere. Despite us all deciding we would ride together, Freya had one of her panic attacks when boarding. We managed to get her on and hold her tightly but she was terrified.
This ride/experience is full of new Gatorland characters, singing tour guides and lots of alligators. I won’t lie, the ride was much more extreme than I had expected it to be. My Mum and I had to really hold onto Freya as we bounced along. Elsa loved the ride up until the guide said that we would be crossing a broken bridge and then she panicked. Eva was laughing and screeching in happiness the entire time, it was up her street!
After our bumpy ride, Brandon took us round to the swamp to see Gatorland’s biggest alligator, Buddy. This big guy has his own territory area and came when he was called. Brandon even made him jump for the bucket which was amazing to see.
It was a non-stop adventure at Gatorland as we took a walk around to the White Gator Swamp. These beautiful white alligators are extremely rare and because of their differences have to be kept separate to the “normal” coloured alligators. Gatorland have both albino and leucistic alligators in this swamp.
Brandon explained that the different between albino and leucistic is that albino is the lack of pigmentation in all of their colouring including eyes. Whereas leucistic animals have rare genetic condition that reduces the colour pigmentation in their skin, meaning that some areas like their eyes and parts of their skin is coloured. Out of the 5 million American alligator population there are thought to be only 12 leucistic gators and two of those live at Gatorland.
We had the privilege (if you can describe it as that) of getting to enter one of the enclosures to have our pictures taken. This was actually rather scary as we wandered past the huge alligator towards its tail. Brandon was obviously there to keep an eye on things and you can see this experience in the video I filmed. Oh and look how brave, or stupid, Brandon is stroking the gator!
The last part of our fun with Brandon was to hear about Chester. He was a rescued gator. He was labelled the “dog killer” because when he was in the wild he kept killing people’s dogs and became a nuisance. Gatorland was made aware of the situation and rescued him from a trapper (these are who people call to exterminated the alligators). He now lives in his own pen as he’s very territorial.
Brandon allowed us to enter his enclosure and he showed us the incredible power behind an alligators jaws. I filmed this as it’s not something you can photograph. You can hear Chester hiss, his hiss was actually used in a famous film as the sound of a dragon. You can also see and hear the snap. It was definitely a once in the lifetime experience!
Our entire tour and experience took about three hours with Brandon. It was probably the best three hours we had spent in Orlando so far. We said a huge thank you to Brandon for allowing us this opportunity. He left us with some train wristbands, the map and a timetable of other activities going on that day.
Gatorland is set our around a huge alligator swamp. However, there’s other animals to see there too like a selection of farm animals and some really pretty birds. There’s also wild animals wandering around that have grown to like the environment at Gatorland, including little reptiles and huge dinosaur looking birds. We decided to take a slow walk along the bridge to see some of the other things Brandon hadn’t shown us.
We stumbled upon a little attraction where you could sit on a younger alligator for a photo. I know this part is quite controversial as the gators have their mouths taped for safety. I want to reassure you that the tape they use is flexible and easy to be removed so it doesn’t harm the gator at all. Eva and Freya were very brave stepping forward to have their photos taken.
There’s different shows that go on during a typical Gatorland day. The Jumperoo Show is a classic that has been running for many years. We managed to catch the end half of the show but could barely see anything as it seemed to attract all of Gatorland guests and was crowded! It was a funny show and more for entertainment than education, if that makes sense. I’d recommend arriving early to it so that you can grab optimal viewing points.
All the heat, excitement and adventure had made us all quite hungry. You aren’t allowed to bring food into Gatorland so we had no snacks for the day. There’s a couple of places to eat or at least grab something to eat and the prices are not too bad for an attraction. We headed for Pearl’s Good Eats. This places serves things like hot dogs, sandwich, chicken tenders and the famous Gator Nuggets.
I will tell you a funny story, I saw the word nuggets and said that would be great to my Mum who’d kindly offered to pay for lunch. We ordered them as well as some hot dogs and fries. We had all had a nugget when an American lady beside us asked us what we thought. We got into conversation where she informed us that they were the gator nuggets. As in real alligator made into nuggets. I just assumed it was a chicken nugget labelled “gator” because we was in “gator”land.
So it turns out I ate, and kind of enjoyed alligator. They are definitely more chewy and have a very odd taste, but they were quite nice. I felt a little weird having known I’d eaten it and probably wouldn’t have knowingly tried them myself if I’d realised.
There are different ticket packages, a single day pass or a Gatorland Grunt Package. The day passes are $29.99 for an adult or $19.99 for a child. The Grunt Package costs $36.99 per adult and $27.99 per child. I would highly recommend buying the Grunt Package as it includes the following:
The Alligator meet n’ greet. This is the bit where the girls sat on the alligator. There’s a staff member who takes a professional photo the photo isn’t included but you are able to take your own.
Unlimited train rides on the Gatorland Express train throughout the day. This is worth $2 each a time.
Gator Chow. Being in Gatorland is the only safe place to feed an alligator. They give you little hot dog sausages to feed the gators which is worth $3 each.
It is a great value entrance ticket and this is what Brandon had given us to enjoy for the rest of our day with Gatorland.
After our lunch we headed for the Gatorland Express Train. We happened to be first in the queue. There was a short wait where we all had a quick drink before we was able to board. Eva and Elsa wanted to go in the front of the train and the rest of us piled in behind.
The train takes you around the main alligator swamp. There is more animals to see which I never expected. The train driver also talks through the speakers and tells you loads more about Gatorland. It was a really lovely experience.
As you can tell from the above photo, we got caught in our first ever Orlando storm. It was the weirdest experience I’d ever had. One minute it was glorious hot, we was sweating in places I never knew possible and the next the skies opened and we was drenched within seconds. I’m not even exaggerating.
The storm lasted for about half an hour, possibly longer, and we was stuck on the bridge that goes across the main Alligator Swamp. We had alligators popping up around us watching and probably thinking how stupid we all was. During the storm there was lightning, thunder and torrential rain. The girls were terrified.
Eventually it passed and we took our wet bodies back round to the main areas to watch the Upclose Encounters Show. We arrived early enough to get some good seating. As we waited we watched various staff members mopping away the water. Orlando is definitely prepared for stormy wet weather and they usually have it daily. They are full on electrical storms but up until this point we had experienced dry sunny weather all day long and every day.
The show was brilliant. Despite the animals being deadly snakes, the staff got the audience engaged with it and even had a group stand to hold a giant python I believe. We all loved the show and it was a nice opportunity to sit down for a bit.
If you have got this far down in my blog post, then you will remember that right at the beginning I said about Gatorland being Orlando’s best half day attraction. By this point in our day it was about half past three in the afternoon. Gatorland opens at 10am and closes at 6pm. We had been there since 9am. At this point of the day, we had started to get grumpy kids that were tired and drained from the heat.
We decided that the last thing for us to do at Gatorland was to feed them with the corn dog sausages. We each had one, and we decided to feed the younger and smaller alligators nearer to the entrance/exit. We broke smaller pieces off and threw them over the fences. You are allowed to feed almost all the alligators at Gatorland, but have to be really careful of the giant birds that like to attack you for them.
I loved hearing the girls laughing as they fed the gators. It’s like music to my ears hearing them so happy. We spent a good bit of time feeding the gators before making our move through the gift shop. Like every tourist attraction, they like to put gift shops by the exit. We had already treated the girls to an alligator teddy each when we was waiting for the Stompin’ Gator Off Road Adventure.
We left Gatorland feeling so incredibly happy. It was a one of a kind adventure day and there was memories created that we will never ever forget. I would highly recommend visiting if you travel to Orlando, it’s a great way to mix up the usual theme park adventures that Orlando attracts.
Hubby took a separate Uber to us girls as he needed to pick up all of our luggage from the Cabana Bay hotel. Us girlies went to check in to Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa. The queue was really long to check in and I had a facial booked. Instead, I sent my Mum up to enjoy it.
When Hubby returned with all of our luggage, we headed down to the amazing pirate ship pool (do check out my full review to see photos of the pool). We then went for a hunt for some food. Due to the pretty high prices of the convenience store, Hubby and I took a walk to the local Walmart leaving my Mum with the three girls.
Somehow we ended up having a pretty late night despite needing an early one for our next big adventure… our first day at Disney ever!
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.