I saw my first alligators in the wild while zipping through the Everglades on an airboat. Sure, I’ve seen alligators before in captivity, like in zoos and at Reptile Gardens in South Dakota, but I had never seen one in its natural environment until my visit to Everglades Holiday Park near Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
My Fort Lauderdale trip was in conjunction with the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) Conference. In addition to meeting up with fellow travel bloggers and attending educational sessions, we had a chance to explore some of the area on pre-conference tours, including the airboat ride at Everglades Holiday Park.
Someone had warned me ahead of time not to take my good camera with me, as it might get soaked on the fast-moving airboat. Not true. The large windshield on the boat keeps you completely dry. Unfortunately, I took that advice, so I only had my cell phone with me to take pictures.
There was a crowd on our group trip, and my husband, Skip, and I were among the last to board. There was only one end seat left. I let Skip take it so he could take the photographs, and I took a middle seat where I could sit back and enjoy the ride.
Gator Boys Alligator Rescue and show
Following the airboat tour, we walked over to the Gator Boys Alligator Rescue area for an alligator show. The alligators in this area were once considered “nuisance” alligators, most likely found in someone’s yard because they have been fed by humans . Authorities will usually kill these animals. They can’t simply be moved back into the wild because of their tremendous homing ability. They would eventually travel back to the area from which they were caught. That’s the reason there is a strict law against feeding the gators, and that’s why the nuisance animals must be killed. That is, of course, unless they’re rescued by the Gator Boys.
Our volunteer host, Christine, walked in the pen with the alligators without them going after her. She explained that’s because alligators are lazy animals. As long as they’ve been fed, they won’t go after a human who isn’t provoking them. It just isn’t worth their energy to attack something as large as a human. In the wild they eat smaller things, like turtles, birds, fish and small mammals.
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As a trained animal handler, Christine was able to open the alligator’s mouth and actually put her chin on his teeth. The secret is that the muscle to open the jaw is very small and very weak. Once she pressed on the muscle, she was able to open the jaw easily. I do not recommend you try this at home. Alligators bite with 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. As Christine explained, that’s the equivalent of a very large truck slamming down on your hand.
If you visit Everglades Holiday Park:
Everglades Holiday Park, located at 21940 Griffin Road in Fort Lauderdale, opens seven days a week at 9 a.m. The last tour that includes the gator show leaves at 4 p.m. The last tour without the gator show departs at 4:30 p.m. Check the website for directions, admission fees or to purchase discounted tickets in advance.
Accommodations in Fort Lauderdale: Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.
Disclosures: Our visit to Everglades Holiday Park was hosted by Everglades Holiday Park and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention, and our admission was complimentary. However, all opinions are my own.
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