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Key Largo with Kids: Day Trip to the Everglades Alligator Farm

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Honestly, I cannot tell you what made me shudder more — watching a congregation of alligators float lifelessly in the water with all eyes seemingly pointed in the direction of succulent looking human beings or the sight of a single gator emerging from the muck of a watery hiding place and embarking on a slow creepy stroll into the shade.  One thing I do know is that no matter what the creatures were up to in my reptilian nightmare, my kids thought that the Everglades Alligator Farm was an awesome adventure!

ALLIGATORS, SNAKES AND CROCS ABOUND

Located about an hour’s drive from Hilton Key Largo Resort, on the edge of the Everglades National Park, the farm is home to more than 2,000 alligators, a large collection of gross slimy snakes, crocodiles and a few other animals including a jaguar shacking up with a dog! (Yes I know strange bedfellows indeed!)

CRINGE WORTHY SHOWS

Some of the farm’s residents participate in shows. We watched an expert handler wade into a pool and drag a gator out by the tail before proceeding to show the audience the jaw extension and length of the beast. (YIKES!)

In another show a snake was draped over the shoulders of a visitor pulled from the audience. I have never been around so many creatures that were fascinating yet made my skin crawl at the same time, two measurements by which my kids determine the awesomeness of anything!

AIR BOAT RIDES

An air boat ride at the Everglades Alligator Farm is an experience not to be missed!  Powerful air boats quietly depart from the farm regularly and sail down the channels running along its grounds before letting loose across the grassy surface of the everglades. The boat driver does an amazing job of building suspense and making passengers wonder what could be hiding in the grassy knolls of the glades.

Word of warning: If you are riding in the front boat, you will get wet. You will get really, really wet! The boat glides through the glades narrow clearings into a wide almost circular opening where the driver must spin the vessel to drive it back. It was fantastic! Sure the entire front row of the boat (where we happened to sitting) washed over with water! I slid right off the bench and into the thin strip between my seat and the boat’s bow sending my family into uncontrollable fits of laughter as I struggled to right myself.  Honestly, I get no respect!

Personally, I think our air boat pilot may have been an extra adventurous type.  He was missing a hand and when I asked if this was the result of an occupational hazard, he replied with a rather enthusiast and jarring laugh. Hmmm…

BIG CHOMPERS IN ACTION

We topped our visit off by attending the afternoon feeding at the alligator pond. Somehow, the gators know when food is being delivered.  The way they subtly align themselves in the same direction, bodies lined up perfectly like a team of synchronized swimmers is both unnerving and eerie.  Not a single sound emanates from the water as they float at the surface like bumpy logs.  All eyes are trained longingly on a large bucket toted to the fence line next to them.

Suspense hangs in the air. The handler then reaches into the bucket and produces a large dead rat which he hurls into the water. Several swift thrashing movements determine which gator gets nourished. Then the water quickly becomes still again soon afterwards, and I’m thinking that this must be where movie makers get their inspiration for gruesome creations like, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” (Again…shudder!!)

If you’re traveling to Key Largo with kids and there are reptile lovers in your crew, then you should definitely add the Everglades Alligator Farm to your itinerary!

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Kristine lives in Mountain View, California, where she is the mother of a gifted girl athlete and a special needs charmer. Like almost everything in her house,…

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