We have been busy with Alligator Alliance since 2010 and we recently realized that we haven’t taken a vacation in a VERY long time! When we sat down and started to discuss what we wanted to do, of course Florida was at the top of my list!
In the weeks leading up to our ten day vacation, my Dad kept asking “Do you really want to go to Florida?!” I always answered “YES! What’s not to love about Florida?! They have more alligators than they do people!” He quickly figured out that he wasn’t going to be able to talk me out of going.
Ten days may sound like a long time, but there is a LOT to do in Florida! My husband and I sat down and made a list of the things we each wanted to do. My list consisted mostly of things relating to alligators and shopping LOL. Alligators are my first love and I do a LOT of shopping for clothes now that I’ve lost 140 pounds!
When we combined our lists and started making concrete plans, I contacted Gatorland in Orlando to see if they had anything special they could offer us. I told them about Alligator Alliance and what we do. They e-mailed us back almost immediately and invited us to do the Trainer-For-A-Day experience. We accepted their invitation!
We were allowed inside the park two hours before Gatorland opened to the public. Peter met us and immediately wanted to know all about Alligator Alliance. He has been an employee for several years and we instantly hit it off. The very first thing we got to do was hold two new hatchlings. It was love at first sight for me! I’ve been to Alligator Adventure before and have held a juvenile, but this was my first time holding a hatchling.
As we made our way into the park, Peter introduced us to a beautiful albino Burmese python. I love all wildlife, but I admit, I continue to struggle with snakes. With that being said, I couldn’t deny the beauty of this reptile! I didn’t want to hold it, but I did touch it and have my picture made with it. I am also not a big fan of spiders, but Peter even convinced me to hold a Tarantula! The snake and the spider weren’t the highlight of our visit, but it was still interesting.
When I first looked at Gatorland’s website, I was thrilled to find out that they have not one, but TWO Leucistic alligators! I LOVE Leucistic alligators and was looking forward to seeing them in person for the first time. Leucistic alligators are extremely rare. In fact, there are only twelve known to exist in the world! The two at Gatorland are brothers FERRIS ZOMBIE and TREZO JE. Leucism (the partial loss of pigmentation) results in an animal with primarily white skin and (with reptiles) eyes that are almost always blue. Leucistic alligators tend to be confused with albino alligators, but Leucism is extraordinarily rare. One way to recognize a Leucistic alligator is not only their blue eyes, but they have a few black spots on their otherwise completely white body. It was a dream come true for me to meet Ferris Zombie and his brother Trezo Je! Check out Trezo Je on our YouTube channel!
We got to go into the Gator Wrestling Arena and met a 6 foot female alligator by the name of Elsa. I always thought if I saw an alligator in the road that I could rescue it by pulling it out of harm’s way by its tail. Well, I got that opportunity with Elsa. I quickly found out that it’s definitely not as easy as it looks. With Peter by my side coaching me, I got hold of Elsa’s tail and stood straight up and attempted to pull her backwards through the sand pit. She didn’t budge. Peter told me to lean back and put all my weight into it as I held onto her tail. That didn’t work either. In fact, Elsa started walking me around as I held onto her tail! It showed me exactly how strong an alligator is.
Then it was time for me to jump on Elsa’s back. That wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be either LOL (you can see me doing this on our YouTube channel)! After a few attempts, I finally did it. Elsa wasn’t too happy about me being on her back. She rose up and started to walk off with me sitting on her back. Again, Peter came to my rescue and helped me get her under control. I was so excited just to be touching an alligator, which isn’t something we typically get to do in Alligator Alliance. Even though Elsa was only 6 feet long, I could feel just how strong she was. I could feel her breathing. Her tail continued sweeping from left to right as I sat on her. If I had been standing by her tail, she could’ve easily knocked my feet out from under me.
I have a long “bucket list” (things I want to do before I kick the bucket) and the majority of that list pertains to alligators. One of the things on my bucket list was to kiss an alligator and I got the opportunity to kiss Elsa. I don’t know how much she liked it, but I KISSED A GATOR AND I LIKED IT (remember that Katy Perry song “I Kissed A Girl & I Liked It” LOL). Peter showed me some of the ways to “wrestle” a gator. Then it was my husband’s turn. He was a lot more successful at handling Elsa than I was. He looked like a pro pulling her around by the tail and jumping on her back! When we were working with Elsa, her mouth was safely taped shut. After we were done, Peter removed the tape and showed us his moves. He did it ALL without her mouth being taped and he made it look so easy!
We enjoyed every moment of our ten day Florida vacation, but Gatorland was definitely the highlight of it all! While we were with Peter we found three alligator teeth in various habitats! I plan to have them made into a necklace in the near future. After we were done with the behind-the-scenes tour the gift shop was open. I was like a kid in a candy store with all of the alligator merchandise! Holli and Tina were very helpful as we shopped! Holli even helped us box up our items and carry them to our SUV! We didn’t want to leave Gatorland! The entire experience was absolutely amazing. We want to personally thank Peter and the staff of Gatorland for giving us this amazing opportunity!
We took our custom made extended grabbers with us to Florida and had planned on cleaning some alligator habitats if we saw the need. One thing we quickly noticed was there is barely ANY trash in Florida! We learned that Florida doesn’t give anyone a pass for feeding alligators (you can spend up to 60 days in jail)! Every habitat that we saw looked pristine. We were thrilled to drive by habitats and see alligators basking in ponds that weren’t surrounded by trash!
Another activity on my bucket list was to ride in an airboat. We headed to Wild Florida to do that! We took an hour-long airboat ride and it was a lot of fun! We got to see some huge alligators and several hatchlings.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Orlando without going to some of the amusement parks. This time last year I would have never dreamed I’d be physically able to do that. When I first heard about the new Avatar-themed rides opening at Animal Kingdom, I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to experience them first hand. I am a huge Avatar fan. Losing 140 pounds has given me a new lease on life! We went to Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Sea World. We had so much fun and rode ALL of the roller coasters! My favorite roller coasters were the Mako and the Manta, both at Sea World (I rode them both five times). My least favorite was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket at Universal Studios. I vowed to never ride it again if I made it off LOL!
Now that we are no longer looking for acreage in Brunswick County (NC), I have been longing to look for property in Florida! We operate our organization out of Brunswick County and we will ALWAYS consider it to be our home. But, it doesn’t stay warm year round in NC and we typically only get to see alligators March-October. In Florida the warmer climate would allow us to see them year round. So, we have begun the process of looking for property in Florida, away from the hustle and bustle that is Orlando.
Below we’d like to share some of our vacation photos with you in a slide show. We also took some amazing videos and we will post them on our YouTube channel. We hope you’ll enjoy the photos and the videos as much as we do!
One more thing we’d like to share with you all is, in early March we were contacted by a film maker and producer from Wilmington (NC) who invited us to participate in a documentary about alligators. We have agreed to be in the documentary and will start filming in the near future. That’s about all we can share with you at this time. We are extremely excited about the exposure Alligator Alliance will get by being in this documentary. We will tell you more later on in the summer.
Until then, enjoy the warmer weather and remember, ANY body of water in the Eastern part of our state (NC) has the potential to have an alligator in it. This is the time of year that alligators are on the move … looking for food, mates and new habitats. PLEASE keep your distance from them if you see one! Keep your children and pets away from them. Alligators can be extremely dangerous, especially when they are fed by humans. Please don’t feed alligators or ANY wildlife. They are very capable of taking care of their selves and have done so for centuries!
In the meantime, I’ll be on GATOR PATROL!
Wild Florida - Kenansville, FL