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Re-Visiting Gatorland

There is a lot to like about Gatorland, beginning with the admission price for Florida residents. Admittedly, they are nothing like the "new kids on the block", Sea World, Disney and the like, so they can charge less, but $10? You can't go wrong. Plus they don't charge a thing for parking, a practice I am fully on board with; parking charges are highway robbery in my book.

Arriving at 9:40, I discovered they did not open until 10, so I stood in a very small line with mostly British tourists. Maybe ten minutes later, after finishing their preparations, two friendly women opened their windows, took our money, and welcomed us to Gatorland with a smile. Imagine that.

The first thing you see is a whole pile of gators, mostly who look like they may not really be alive. Perhaps it was the slightly cooler weather, but a few of them seemed downright lively:
Of course these are the youngsters, the big boys mostly hang out in the water. Because I was lucky enough to get an awesome gator shot on a previous visit, my mission was to see the new panthers, or at least new to me. I made a beeline to their freshly built area, previously home to some sandhill cranes.
Although the glare makes it a bit hard to read, what you really ought to know is that they are rescued cats, a brother and sister. Here's Neiko looking very serious:
In case you are wondering, there is a window that you have to shoot through to get shots of them. There was a mixture of sun and clouds, which at times made it easier to put my lens directly on the window to avoid the glare, but not entirely. This is Florida, after all...bright sunshine is the rule. So, Neiko followed Lucy over to the pond area, and I spent some time watching him groom her:
They are such beautiful big cats, so clean! Here's Lucy keeping it cool under a palm a little later:
Because the exhibit is new, the glass is not scratched, making it ideal for photographing. This was the highlight of my short trip, but I did see some other cool stuff because for the first time ever, I RODE THE TRAIN!
For the bargain price of two dollars you may ride it as many times as you'd like. Why haven't I done this before? The young man driving the train doubles as a gator wrestler, when he's not narrating the park's history. Every single visit I am impressed with how genuine the employees seem to be, and how much it appears that they like being there. He took me around the back side while telling me how the founder used to take a big alligator in a trailer up the Eastern Seaboard in the early 50's, charging a dime to see the gator. Seems like a brilliant marketing plan to me. Apparently it worked because here it is more than 60 years later and they are still growing. I had the train all to myself!
Mostly undeveloped, but there are some white tailed deer, whose pictures did not turn out, and two "cracker cows".
Following my ride, I walked on the boardwalk over the gator breeding marsh:
Along the way there are loads of snowy egrets protecting their nests. My driver mentioned that the birds have been laying more eggs than usual this summer.
I'm pretty confident it was my first time seeing this great horned owl, who pretty much stared at me  during my attempts to take the photograph.
A stop at the petting zoo area which is always entertaining:
I can't decide just what kind of animal this is, because it looks like a cross between a cow and a donkey.  Any ideas?
That is some tongue isn't it?

I always make a stop to see the flamingos who are getting an upgrade in their living quarters, or so I learned from another friendly employee.
Hanging around the flamingo area:
If Bruce were here, which he is not, he'd be able to identify the fish for me. Mostly I haven't seen him all week as he was in Houston for two days, home for the meeting on Wednesday, and back to Houston until later tonight. Fish in the water are mighty hard to photograph so I was pleased to get something on that shot.

I wanted one last look at the cats before leaving; Neiko was resting inside, while Lucy remained under the palms. Adjacent to their area is the housing for several Python Reticulatus,  better known as big huge snakes!
That mouth looks seriously scary to me!

Just the opposite in temperament, nearby there are three giant tortoises, one of which was on the move, albeit slowly, while I was there.
For less than the price of a movie I was able to see life in action, thanks to our good neighbors at Gatorland.
Did you enjoy your virtual visit? I hope so. Because the price is so low, and it is so close, spending two hours there is very convenient, and guess what? They gave me a pass for a return visit for free! Crazy, huh?

Speaking of neighbors, the movers just left with the packed truck. 909 Appleton is officially now a shell waiting for the next folks to make it a home once again. I sure hope I like them. :)
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