” Gators Gajillions! by Pam and Harry Shucker”

Florida’s GATORLAND, the alligator capital of the world, in Orlando is a “must see.”

It provides a home to over a hundred alligators and several crocodiles, many of whom have been injured in the wild and brought here to be nursed back to health. GATORLAND also includes a natural wetland filled with towering native cypress trees and other cohabiting species, adjoining a lovely bird sanctuary lake. A system of shaded, interconnecting paths, meandering boardwalks, quaint bridges, and overlook towers allow pleasant and safe access for wildlife viewing for all ages, although children should be accompanied by adults. Most areas are easily handicap accessible too.

Families will love the excitement and entertainment of the ‘gator and other wild animal experiences. While providing fun, GATORLAND also teaches. Showmen are very knowledgeable of their animals and gladly answer questions as well as offer information during their fascinating presentations, including ‘gator shows, snake and bird shows, and scorpions!

A quieter self-directed experience awaits the visitor who ventures beyond the shows. The tower and walk by the lake, accessible by both ramp and stairs, includes informative signs interpreting the animal behavior.
Hundreds of ‘gators loll in the water or rest on the shore, often camouflaged, while dozens of species of birds fly, nest, call, and fish all around. Behavior and characteristics of species clearly emerge through a few moments of careful observation. Be sure to look for the resident bald eagles’ nest.
An even more serene experience awaits through the swinging gates of the bridge to the Cypress Swamp.

The silent coolness of the fern and moss-covered wetland beckon the entertainment-overloaded, hot Florida visitors to peace and quiet contemplation. The tall cypress trees, surrounded by their nutrient-supplying knees, form a leafy canopy of green strung with gray Spanish moss against the blue sky. Other plant species offer seasonal variations of bloom and leaf throughout the mile long boardwalk. The observant and respectful visitor may glimpse native bird and animal inhabitants in daily life routines in this their natural habitat.

An owl calling to a mate, a motionless heron eyeing its swimming lunch, a hawk deftly dodging through ancient tree tops to arrive at its nest of chirping offspring…each routine activity a memorable experience when captured by human eye or camera.

No virtual experience can equal the connections created when nature and humans meet in the natural environment. GATORLAND offers this in a uniquely appealing way.

*Pam Shucker is a freelance writer and an instructor at Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville, SC, and assistant director of Furman University summer learning program for children.

Do you have any ‘gator stories? Did you ever buy a baby alligator for a pet when in Florida in the ’50’s & ’60’s? Tell us about it. I wanted one so badly when I was a child, and I planned to keep it in my sandbox, but my wise parents said NO!