While alligators definitely do exist around ponds and lakes of people’s backyards and there are definitely alligators on golf courses, it is not very likely that a traveling tourist will hap-pen upon one just by accident. At one point in the time of the 1960s they were all over the place, but since have been confined mostly to farms and zoos for commercial benefits.
The first alligator farm opened in St. Augustine in 1893 where the tenders simply put a few dozen alligators into a pit with each other. These individuals of course captured the alligators for commercial reasons but unfortunately they were quickly let down, as gators, besides being creepy looking , rarely even move. Sometimes they even lay overlapping each other and don’t flinch. One can also see live alligators at Tampa’s Busch Gardens amusement Park, though not a ton because there are many other animals to make room for there as well. These too are for the most part dormant.
So in actuality alligators can be quite boring to watch and most people simply do spend time staring at them just in hopes that suddenly they will do something miraculous, like move.
The most popular gator farms in Florida are the Gatorland Zoo in Kissimmee/Orlando area and Native Village on the Semino0le Indian Reservation and the Everglades gator farm in homestead. All have struggled in the past with attracting or entertaining tourists with bored sun basking gators so it seems they have attempted to make the experience more active and exciting, not to mention dangerous and some might say, crazy?
One way is by wrestling the alligators as a spectator sport. Some farms are more intense with this then others but it is a fad designed to excite tourists. Apparently those who wrestle alligators see it as a great art and talent and have even attributed nicknames to the various moves one must make to win the “wrestling” match. The sequence and nicknames are as follows:
1) “The Florida Smile”- Entice gator to open mouth.
2) Bulldogging- Tuck gators head against your neck
3) The Face Off- holding its mouth open with only your chin while your arms are outstretched.
Many times straddling the alligator is required indicating that one must have a lot of strength to win this gator wrestle. Almost all long time wrestlers claim to have been severely injured but they keep at it. It’s a big accomplishment for them.
A subject of controversy that has arisen with Gatorland Zoo, in Kissimmee one of the more prominent gator zoos has actually begun to allow little kids into the pit at ten bucks a pop to ride on the back of a gator. The gators’ mouths’ are taped shut but this still seems a bit scary.
While there are certainly more places in Florida to spot an alligator, these exhibits are sure to entertain and satisfy your gator wanting needs:
1)Gatorland:14501 South Orange Blossom Trail, Kissimmee, FL
Hours: Daily 9 am – 5 pm. Phone: 800-393-JAWS)
2) Native Village: Gator Wrestling: 3551 N. State Rd 7, Hollywood, FL
Seminole Indian ReservationPhone: 954-961-4519
3)Everglades Alligator Farm: 40351 SW 192nd Ave., Homestead, FL
4) Indian Gator Wrestling: US 41 Tamiami Trail, Miami, FL
Miccosukee Indian Village Phone: 305-223-8380
5) Billie Swamp Safari:Home of Stuffed Superman: Clewiston, FL
Big Cypress Seminole Reservation.Phone: 863-983-6101
6) Parrot Jungle Island: 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami, FL
Hours: Daily 10 am – 6 pm.Phone: 305-400-7000
7) Gatorama Wildlife Park: 6180 US Hwy 27, Palmdale, FL
Hours: M-Sat 8:30 am – 5:30 pm, Sun 10 am – 5:30 pm. Phone: 863-675-0623
8) Everglades Wonder Gardens: 27180 Old US 41, Bonita Springs, FL