Friday, December 4, 2015

Everglades Holiday Park

Our first full day in Ft Lauderdale, we drove about 45 minutes west to the Everglades Holiday Park.

My mother had no idea what to expect aside from my father constantly repeating, "It's a Holiday Park. Probably for Christmas."

He knew full well we'd be seeing live alligators, but he knew even better my mother would have never agreed if she knew the truth.

So we arrived around 11:30AM to the Park and the parking lot was quite empty, save maybe 7-8 cars. We had our pick of parking spots and went up to the main building.

The ticket office was located inside the Gift Shop. It looked like a rustic old fishing bait & tackle shop that my grandfather would frequent on his days off. But at least they had flat screen monitors and signs for the Airboat rides.

Having an AAA membership card saved us 10% on our tickets, which cost $28/adult and $15/child (ages 3-11). As you can see, the ticket gave us an hour airboat tour through the Everglades where we'd see animals in their natural habitat, and then the 15 minute Gator Show where an expert would handle alligators in captivity (usually rescued after being found in someone's residential backyard).

The next airboat was scheduled for 12PM, so we decided to walk around a bit. Unfortunately, there's not much to walk around and see aside from the main building, the parking lot and the boat docks.

When it was time for our boat ride, they called us all to meet by the gazebo by the dock. I was first in line, so I followed the guide down the pier towards our airboat.

We boarded with about 8 other people and we were on our way down the wonderous canals of Florida. Venice, you shouldn't be threatened.

Pretty soon, we saw our first alligator floating along to us. This one was about 8 feet long and was missing a back leg after being in a fight with another alligator. With only 3 legs, they nicknamed this one "Tripod."

We also saw some lazy iguanas hanging out in the tree branches.

There were plenty more of those iguanas and other local birds, but I was fascinated with the green leaves along the water's surface. Apparently, these are not lily pads, but I can't remember what they actually are.

We were able to do a few fast runs down the wide canals and get some wind in our hair. After seeing about 3-4 more alligators, we started our way back to the dock as it was almost time for the Gator Show.

The "show" was less of an entertainment spectacle and more of a tutorial about how they rescue these alligators and care for them in captivity.

Apparently, alligators have a natural fear of humans and stay away from populated areas. But when a human feeds an alligator, it associates humans with food and starts moving towards populated areas, including people's backyard swimming pools. When the authorities are called to remove these "pests," the protocol is to put them down (since they no longer fear humans and now pose a threat).

So when these Gator Boys are called, they capture the alligator alive instead of allowing the authorities to kill them. Since the alligators cannot be re-released into the wild (they'll just return to human populated areas), they keep them contained on site and care for them.

The Gator Boys also do "tricks" with the alligators, though they claim that none of the alligators are trained. They just know that these humans are not threats to them.

I'm not sure if the alligators are happy living like that, but I suppose it is better than being put down. They're kind of sweet when you get to see them up close...though I still prefer baby tigers.

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