Fast Hand or No Hands @ Gatorama

 

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I’ve been on the hunt (and I use that term loosely) to see an alligator since moving to Florida last year. I finally had my chance over Labor Day weekend to feed and hatch one (sort of). I was intrigued by the idea of visiting the Alligator Farm, Gatorama, because it was “Hatching Season” and we had the option of hatching a baby alligator in our hands. Yes, I’m afraid of geckos, snakes and anything slimy but I was determined to have a gator hatchling enter the world in my hands!

Tunde’s best friend, Ebenezer, was in town and came to Gatorama with us. I was excited because at Gatorama you can feed the alligators and crocodiles (with specially made biscuits), catch a baby alligator in a pool, sit on an alligator, watch a “professional” feeding and have a baby alligator “hatch-out” in your hands. I was so excited about feeding the gators that I purchased 2 bags of “biscuits”. I don’t think any of us were prepared for the amount of animals or their size. There are over 3,000 alligators on the property, as well as bobcats and panthers. As soon as we entered the boardwalk to the park we were greeted by over a dozen pairs of eyes peering at us through the water. I was curious to see if they were hungry so I tossed a biscuit into the water. As soon as the biscuit hit the water, the eyes started moving towards it. I was happy to be safely on the boardwalk as the huge animals swam over. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I were in the water and saw one of these large animals swimming towards me. Just the thought of it makes me shudder.

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After crossing the gator/croc pond we entered a part of the park where there were smaller pools that held 4-5ft baby alligators, Goliath (a 14-foot crocodile), Cuban crocodiles, tortoises, as well as panthers and bobcats. This was also the area where you could sit on an alligator and catch a 4-foot alligator in a pool. Ebenezer was excited about sitting on the gator, until he heard it hiss (but he still sat on it).

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After seeing Ebenezer sit on the gator, I decided I was going to catch a baby gator. Their mouths were taped and I saw a few children do it, so how hard could it be? I walked up to the table (to pay to hold a small gator) and asked the girls working at the table what the alligators felt like. I was mentally preparing myself for what I was going to feel because I was starting to get nervous. All of a sudden, one of the girls pulled a baby alligator out of a bucket and told me to “feel it.” I was not prepared for the gator to pop into my presence and high-tailed it out of the area. Tunde was standing on the boardwalk, to capture my historic Kodak moment, and I ran to him saying “I can’t catch that thing..You have to do it!” He and Ebenezer helped me build up enough courage to go back and touch the baby alligator. I have to admit, I was freaking out the entire time. I even had the girl turn the alligator around so it wasn’t looking at me when I touched him. With a lot of help and encouragement I managed to touch the baby gator with one finger… and to my surprise he was soft! Needless to say, I did not get in the pool to catch a 4-foot gator. Ebenezer volunteered to catch a couple of them for me (which you can see in the photo below).

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Next, we went to have an alligator hatch in our hands. I wasn’t able to catch a 4-foot alligator but I was able to pet a baby so I thought as long as I had gloves I could have one hatch in my hands. We had a tutorial on how to hatch an egg, by Alan, one of the owners. He demonstrated the process so that we knew what to expect and followed the right process to ensure the babies would survive the hatching. It was an amazing birthing experience to see the little alligator head pop out of the egg followed by the rest of his body. After seeing the amount of time the baby would be in my hands, my mouth dropped in fear and disappointment because I knew there was no way I would be able to do it! I was too scared! We decided that Ebenezer would “hatch” the egg and Tunde and I would catch it on video and with photos. Even though I didn’t hatch the baby in my hand, it was awesome to be in the presence of a life entering the world, even if it’s a life that I’m scared to death of. We would like to give a shout out of appreciation to Ebenezer for catching an alligator for us and having one hatch in his hands!

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