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!
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!
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.’