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Where to See Wild Alligators in Orlando – Natural Attractions

A post earlier this year sparked many inquiries on where to see wild alligators in Orlando. Many people traveling to this area are curious about our natural attractions, and no other animal peaks the interest of tourists as does the gator. With fewer and fewer natural places in Orlando, we thought it a good topic to cover. So here are a few sight-seeing adventures you may want to consider if you want to see wild alligators in Orlando.

See Wild Alligators in Orlando – Guaranteed!

Of course the best place to see alligators in Orlando is Gatorland. It is guaranteed to see an alligator there – many, many gators. It isn’t exactly an Orlando natural attraction and neither is it free. There are several places to see alligators in Orlando which are not free. Many airboat tours lure tourists into spending money to see these ancient creatures. Unless they have a cage near the dock with an alligator in it, there is no guarantee of seeing a wild alligator just because you are on an airboat. Other paid attractions featuring alligators include Fun Spot Orlando, Wild Florida, Central Florida Zoo and Gatorama Alligator Farm (several hours south of Orlando). There are several Florida nature sight seeing tours as well. Many provide an opportunity to see wild alligators.

So where should you go to see wild alligators in Orlando? Look out the window! Well, maybe not exactly. Alligators are not everywhere, but you might be surprised to see them in some places. After all, it is believed that there are approximately 1.3 million wild alligators in Florida!

Wild alligators in Orlando

Gator Sightings

My alligator sightings include:

  • On the tram ride from the airport terminal, I’ve seen an alligator sunning on a bank of a pond.
  • Friends staying at several of the resorts have photographed alligators in the man-made water bodies they are located next to.
  • On the way to the Space Center, I’ve seen several alligators in the water-filled ditch outside the theme park’s entrance.
  • Traveling over Toll Road 417, I’ve seen gator noses dotting Lake Jesup. Speaking of this area, check out Black Hammock. While they do offer airboat tours hoping to see these creatures, I’ve seen alligators in the water within yards of dining outdoors there.

My most memorable sighting of an alligator happened at Lake Baldwin in Winter Park. Back when the Navy base there, I saw an alligator snatch some lunch while on the golf course just yards away from me. Feathers from a duck, one instance were floating on the water (intact), burst upon the water flying everywhere. A little thrashing and the event was quickly over with, and the water was still again. The memory still remains.

Vacation homes that back up to bodies of water may offer a great place to see wild gators in Orlando. If you will be staying a few days, relax in a chair outdoors and watch the water for their heads. On cooler days, alligators often sun themselves on the banks. Retention ponds and man made canals through neighborhoods are often home to alligators. Many resorts feature these types of water bodies. Watch and listen. Alligators make a very distinct sound (almost like a frog’s croaking only longer and deeper), often heard at dusk. Some resorts, such as the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orange Lake Resort often bring in an expert from Gatorland to exhibit an alligator for their guests (there is a fee).

What Type of Water Do Alligators Live In

Alligators can live near almost any body type of water, so it goes without saying, BEWARE! These are not pets! They are to be feared and not taken lightly. ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: During mating season (summer) alligators tend to be a little more aggressive. Do not go near a body of water that is known to contain alligators, especially in the evening. Do not take your dog near these bodies of water that have gators. That is like inviting an alligator to dinner (which you are supplying). Another TIP: There is no basis to the myth that you should run in zig-zag patterns to avoid a charging alligator. If you do find yourself in the extremely unlikely position of avoiding a lunging alligator, you should run in a straight line away from the alligator and its habitat. Gator attacks in Florida are very rare. You are much more likely to be bitten by a shark in the ocean (more on that some other time).

Planning a day at the springs? These are great natural resources and fun places to visit, but keep your eyes open. Alligators do live in the springs. With all of the beauty to take in, it might be easy to miss a gator-sighting. Even the folks at Silver Springs admit, gators are unusual and not the main reason for tourist to enjoy their natural attraction. Still, there is no swimming here, only in their sectioned off water park. Hum…

Most alligators fear humans and will flee when sighted. Most. Some gators may lose their natural fear of humans, especially if fed by humans. Under no circumstance should you feed a wild alligator. It is against the law. ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: If you come across an aggressive alligator (and live to talk about it), report it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by calling 1-866-FWC-GATOR. If the gator is less than 4 feet in length, don’t bother. They are not considered a threat…still, do not try to handle them!

Hunting Alligators

Locating (notice I didn’t say hunting) alligators is a natural thing to want to do in Orlando, and can be very exciting when you see them. Most alligators are smaller than tourists think. While there are some monsters out there, most gators are less than 6 feet long, but 8 – 10 foot long gators are not uncommon. Males are usually larger than females. Hunting alligators is a different matter. You must be a licensed trapper with a permit and tags. Most hunters are only allowed a few tags per season, but do offer tourists to hire them as a guide service. It is not cheap, nor does it guarantee seeing or harvesting a wild gator. It does make for an interesting story about your vacation though!

Seeing Wild Alligators in Orlando

With Orlando’s many natural attractions and manmade features appealing to alligators, your chances of seeing a wild alligator when visiting are fairly good – IF you are trying to. Entire theme parks are set up for wildlife encounters in a safe environment. These theme parks are your best bets if you really want to see an alligator during your Florida visit. Regardless, keep your eyes open near our waters and don’t become ‘gator bait.’

A New Spot in Orlando to See Alligators

Many tourists are fascinated with seeing alligators in Florida. They can be seen in the wild if you know where to go (and have a little luck). Go on an airboat ride offered outside Orlando or Kissimmee and chances are you’ll be able to spot a few alligators. Some commuters even see them while driving over the bridges and overpasses near retention ponds, swimming in Lake Jessup and sunning on the banks of surrounding bodies of water. However, if you want to be guaranteed to see a live alligator while visiting Florida, the best place has always been Gator Land. However, now there is a new spot in Orlando to see gators on International Drive!

Gator Land and Fun Spot America have teamed up and have created a new attraction called Gator Spot. The new attraction opened in March of 2015. It showcases alligators up to 12 feet in length, and the new attraction also is home to some birds and other unique animals. The 15,000 square-foot reptile oasis allows guests to see a wide array of alligators, an extremely rare “white” alligator, numerous crocodiles and more.

Gator Spot coming to Orlando

ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: This is a great place to have an up-close encounter with an alligator AND a perfect photo opportunity to share with your friends. However, if your goal is to see wild alligators (without paying for rides you will not go on), be sure to spend a day at Gator Land. They offer up-close encounters and a whole lot more. If seeing alligators on your Florida vacation is a priority, don’t miss out! While the airboat rides are great, you are not guaranteed to see any gators, nor will you be able to have your photo taken with one.

Admission to the new Orlando attraction at Fun Spot America costs $6 per person. Already known as a 1-day attraction, this new addition at Fun Spot offers another reason to spend a day at this smaller, lesser-known Orlando theme park. Even if you only have a half day, this is a great place for families with teens and younger children to get out and play for awhile.

ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: If you are choosing a place to stay during your Orlando vacation, keep in mind that Gator Land also partners with Gaylord Palms Resort. Resident guests at this Orlando resort include 15 juvenile alligators and 30 native species of turtles. They are part of the “Best of Florida” exhibit.

Alligator at Gatorland Orlando

Florida’s Springs

Blue Spring Run at Blue Spring State Park

While Central Florida is the theme park capital of the U.S., and people also flock here to visit our many beaches, most people do not realize there are other great things to see and do, such as our natural springs.  The springs are an excellent way to keep cool in the summertime because the temperature of the springs never gets above the low 70s in the summer.  Florida actually has over 700 springs, most of them in the northern regions, but there are several right here in the Central Florida area, some just an hour from the theme areas.

These refreshing springs may be just the vacation you need, away from the hustle and bustle, and enjoying nature.  You can enjoy Florida’s natural beauty by checking out the activities at the springs, such as nature walks, manatee watching, kayaking, tubing, canoeing, snorkeling, glass-bottom boat rides, scuba diving, picnicking, camping, and more.

Here is a listing of the top 10 springs in the area:

Blue Springs State Park – Orange City, FL – manatee refuge, water activities

Silver Springs – Ocala, FL – features glass bottom boat rides, and a water park

Rainbow Springs State Park – Dunnellon, FL – 4th largest spring in FL offers popular water activities

Silver Glen Springs – Ocala National forest, features small caverns and schools of striped bass

Juniper Springs – located between Ocala and Ormond Beach, features camping and trails and hundreds of tiny bubbling springs

Alexander Springs – Ocala, FL – extraordinary clear water that feels like a tropical paradise; offers camping and water activities

Wekiwa Springs – Apopka, FL – features water activities, and 13 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding

Rock Springs – Sorrento, FL – ¾ mile tubing run and only $1 admission per person

DeLeon Springs – De Leon Springs, FL – water activities and shady picnic ground; guests can make their own pancakes at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant

Salt Springs – Salt Springs, FL – features hiking and camping, along with water activities

Orlando Tourist tip:  If you are planning on camping, make a reservation.  And, even if you are going just for the day, get there early, the parks fill up quickly, especially on the weekends.

Spotlight: Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens

At the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, there is so much to do!  Of course, the main attraction is the 400+ animals, some of which include cheetahs, kangaroos, leopards, and Maude, the long-time resident Asian elephant.  This zoo also contains the Southeast’s largest collection of venomous snakes and non-venomous reptiles in the Herpetarium.  You can even learn some things about bugs at the Massey Services Insect Zoo.

There are several demonstrations offered on the weekends including a bird show, elephant demonstration, bug encounter, and primate feeding program.  They also have a special behind-the-scenes elephant encounter where you can learn more about this fascinating animal and even get to find out what an elephant trunk feels like, with all its 100,000 muscles.  (Elephant Encounter is an additional purchase, weather permitting.)

Along with the amazing animals, this zoo boasts beautiful, lush botanical gardens. You can also bring your bathing suit and cool off in the Wharton-Smith tropical splash ground.  Included with regular admission, everyone will enjoy cooling off on those hot summer days at this watery, animal-based playground.

You may even try ZOOm Air Adventure Park, which is an aerial adventure course featuring zip lines and rope bridges, so you can experience the zoo from an animal’s perspective – in the tree tops!  There are three tree top courses available; including a kid’s course (must be 36” tall, separate admission).  There are even night-time aerial adventures available.  The zoo also offers Battlefield Live Orlando Laser Tag, summer camps, birthday parties, volunteer opportunities and more!

This zoo was originally opened as the Sanford Zoo in 1923 with a collection of donated animals held by the Sanford Fire Department.  It was relocated later and has been at its present site since 1975 and it continues to grow as Seminole County’s premier recreational and educational attraction.  The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens’ most visible role is to provide its guests with recreation and the opportunity to observe and learn about its unique and interesting animals. One of the Zoo’s most critical functions is to provide a refuge for animal species that are threatened in the wild.  You even have the opportunity to adopt an animal!

Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens is located at 3755 NW Hwy 17-92 Sanford, FL, approximately 32 miles from the Orlando tourist area.

For more information about the Central Florida Zoo, visit their website, or type in ‘Zoo’ in our search (top right) to read more articles about this attraction. Feel free to leave a response below about your visit to the Central Florida Zoo and share your tips and experience!

Spotlight: Silver Springs

Explore the natural beauty of Ocala at Silver Springs, a natural spring that pumps out 550 million gallons of natural water daily.  Surrounding the springs are animals and foliage unique to the area.  There are several river cruises you can check out, including the Lost River Voyage, Fort King River Cruise, and Glass Bottom Boats.  The Lost River Voyage takes you back to ‘untouched’ Florida, the way it was thousands of years ago.  See wildlife such as osprey, turtles, and alligators in their natural habitat.  The Fort King River Cruise is a historical journey that includes displays and interactive exhibits such as a late 1880s train depot and riverboat dock, 1830s Fort King Army stockade, a Seminole Indian village, and more.  The glass bottom boat tours give you a view only scuba divers could have – clear views of underwater life such as crawfish, shrimp, snails, clams, turtles, and 70 million year old shells.

There are several wildlife exhibits including the World of Bears, the largest bear exhibit of its kind in the world.  You can also check out Big Gator Lagoon, a swamp habitat featuring some of Florida’s largest gators.  Ross Allen Island showcases many other animals native to Florida, such as turtles, otters, snakes, and spiders.  Don’t forget to visit the Panther Prowl and the Kritter Korral petting zoo.

There are also rides, shows, shopping and dining.  You can witness the alligator and crocodile feedings, a non-venemous snake show, and reptiles of the world.  The lighthouse ride takes you up 80 feet above the springs for a panoramic view of this natural spring area.  Other activities include Kids Ahoy Playland, where you’ll find mini motorboats, a ferris wheel, slides and crawl tubes, and more.

Exotic and native plants are featured at the beautiful Botanical Gardens, where you can see more than 138 varieties in floral sculptures and flower beds along the river.

While you’re there, cool off at the Wild Waters water park. You can soak up the sun and cool off in the 450,000 gallon wave pool or on the many water slides.  (Seasonal – check website to make sure they’re open.)

Orlando Tourist Tip: Like music concerts? Check Silver Springs’ web site before planning a day there. They have a great concert series and many performances begin in the middle of the afternoon. Go early to the park and enjoy a relaxing concert in the afternoon. Tickets are additional, but a great way to spend an entire day!

For more information about Silver Springs, visit their website, or type inSilver Springsin our search (top right) to read more articles about this attraction. Feel free to leave a response below about your visit to Silver Springs and share your tips and experience!