Just off the North Eastern coast of Florida, lurking in the green murky waters of Anastasia Island, are terrifying creatures with sharp teeth, armored skin and nasty attitudes.
The terrifying creatures I’m talking about are crocodilians (crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharial) of course, and they can be found in abundance at the “Alligator Farm & Zoological Park” on Anastasia Island just a hop, skip and a jump from St. Augustine.
There are 7-acres of lush tropical wilderness at the Alligator Farm, a wooden bridge snakes its way over the network of waterways and swamp-like ponds allowing visitors to experience these creatures up close and personal. This is the only park in the world that contains every living species of crocodilian on earth, so it goes without saying that you will be immersed in everything gator.
First a Bit of History
Way back in 1893, two men started collecting gators on Anastasia Island and would let people look at them for free. Noticing the potential for a profitable business, the two men – George Reddington and Felix Fire, opened the first Alligator Farm later the same year. The business burnt down a few times over the years, but has been at its current location near the Lighthouse since 1921. The Alligator Farm is one of the oldest continuously operated attractions in Florida.
There’s so much more than just alligators and crocodiles to experience at this top-notch park, come with me and we’ll have a look around and see what they have to offer…
Crocodile Crossing Zipline
In 2011 the park installed a zipline system over most of the park so visitors can get a birds-eye view of all the animals down below. They actually have an aerial obstacle course in the trees above, it’s a challenging course so be prepared to climb ladders, balance on rope bridges and zip across the sky.
They offer two different courses, one is longer and much more physically demanding than the other one. There is an additional charge for the zipline, and as of Sept. 2014 the prices are: 45-min course $35, the 90-min course is $65 and you reach heights of 90’. You can even zipline at night here at the park, the cost is $75 and you get to keep the headlamp they provide you with.
You can come face to face with the legend himself! – Maximo! This monster of a crocodile is the largest living animal at the park coming in at 15 ft. 3 inch long and 1,250 lbs. Maximo was collected by aborigines in Australia as an egg back in 1972 and was hatched and raised in captivity, he’s been at the Alligator Farm for 10 years now. You get to see him in his underwater habitat through a glass enclosure.
The world famous Gomek was billed as the largest crocodile in captivity at the time of his death in 1997. He was captured as a youngster in New Guinea during the 1950’s and was eventually sold to the Alligator Farm in 1990 where he lived for the remaining 7 years of his life (he was between 60 and 80 years old). The park stuffed him and put him on display so all can still be amazed by this behemoth croc.
How many times do you get to see a living albino alligator? Look at this guy, looks like he’s been bleached! He’s very rare indeed, in fact there are two of them here and they both came from the Louisiana bayou as eggs. They are located in a roofed structure to assure they don’t get sunburned.
Land of Crocodiles
The Land of Crocodiles is a section of the park that houses all the crocs. You get to see all kinds of crocodilians here, including the small Chinese Alligator, the very rare Indian gharial and Nile crocs. There are all kinds of strange and scary looking creatures in this section, be sure not to miss it.
Wading Bird Rookery
The Alligator Farm isn’t just famous for its impressive collection of crocodilians, its “Wading Bird Rookery” is very popular too, especially with birders and photographers. The birds use the crocodilians as protection against tree climbing predators that could eat them. You can find native herons, egrets, ibis, spoonbills and wood storks at the park.
New at the Alligator Farm is the endangered Red-Ruffed Lemurs, these cuddly looking primates are native to Madagascar and on display here at the farm. They have a python exhibit which features a 21 ft. long monster. There is a Komodo Dragon exhibit housed in a hut towards the rear of the park, these lizard-like things are just plain nasty! They drool and stink something fierce, but still cool.
Keep your eyes open for the fossils they have housed in with the Gomek exhibit.
The state of Florida’s bio-diversity is on display, check out some of the creatures that lurk in our very own backyard at the Florida Native Reptile & Amphibian House. Admire the beauty and serenity of the exotic birds and zaniness of the monkeys and mouse-sized pygmy marmosets too.
Catch a Wildlife Show
Every hour you can catch a different wildlife show somewhere in the park, they are really fun and interesting for visitors of all ages.
Realm of the Alligator – This is a discussion about alligators, where you learn some interesting facts and see a few training exercises too.
Florida’s Forest Friends – Learn about the habitats and biodiversity of Florida’s environment and native wildlife.
Snake and Reptile Show – Bet you can’t guess what this one is about?
Rainforest Show – Part bird show and part rainforest information show.
999 Anastasia Blvd, St Augustine, FL 32080
Open 365 days a year! 9AM – 5PM
Adults $22.95 . Children $11.95 (ages 3-11)
Children 2 & under free
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting and fun this park was! I wasn’t expecting it to be of such quality, I came in thinking “Okay, I’m going to see a few gators in a little pond,” and boy was I wrong!
This is a wonderful place to bring the whole family while visiting the St. Augustine area, then after visiting the farm you can take a short walk over to the Lighthouse.
…And who knows, you may be lucky enough, as we were, to witness some other, ummm, extracurricular activities…
So tell me, are you afraid of gators??