Location: Homestead, Florida, USA
Address: 40351 SW 192 Avenue
Date: Aug 2004
It had been raining a lot that day, but we were determined to make it to the alligator farm. As we got closer to our destination, the rain started to let up once again and it looked promising. We were in Florida after all, where it rains like someone pouring a bucket on you and then 5 minutes later the sun comes out and instantly dries up any evidence. We headed past the prison. We headed past the pickup truck with the Confederate flag and two crisscrossed rifles in the back. We pulled into the Everglades Alligator Farm driveway. Wham! The skies unleashed another torrent of rain down on us.
The rain let up just a bit and we made a run for the ticket office. Due to the rain they had halted any airboat rides for the day. An airboat is a flat bottomed boat that is propelled through the swamp by a huge fan at the back. In the swamp a regular submerged propeller would not work due to the very shallow water filled with hidden vegetation and alligators. We were told that maybe if the rain stopped the rides would resume. We waited for a little while as the rain continued and eventually we gave up and ran back to the car. As we headed past the prison the skies cleared up once again. Our day ended up working out for us after all.
We stood near the water's edge waiting to load into our airboat. All the while we wondered just how many alligators may be lurking in the water nearby. Even before our boat ride began, some of the local residents came by to check us out. A softshell turtle poked his head out of the water to see what was going on. Just as our boat moved slowly from the shore, a pair of eyes glided along the surface of the water to let us know that we were in gator territory now.
Once the boat made its way out into the swamp, the driver picked up speed and we skimmed across the water propelled by the giant, noisy fan. He then killed the power to the fan and turned sharply so that we spun about 180 degrees. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as he repeated this stunt several times. We never once feared that we would tip and end up in the murky water hiding who knows what.
At one point our guide handed out some food and it wasn't long until every outstretched hand contained a hungry boat-tailed grackle. The male grackles have a bluish black hue to their feathers while the female is brown. After about a half hour or so, our airboat ride came to an end and the huge fan fell silent. We jumped back up onto the bank and away from the water just in time to head over for the alligator feeding.
A green moss covered the alligator pond. As we looked closer we noticed that the pond was filled to the rim with alligators. Every little bump you see sticking above the water was part of a gator. A staff member of the farm came through the crowd with a bucket of chicken. This was not a KFC dinner, this looked like beaks and feet and all. He went in through a gate and stood just behind another little fence that separated him from the alligators. The alligators knew what was about to happen and more and more of them crawled out of the pond and up onto the bank, the moss still covering their bodies. Some of them started to let out a slow hissing sound.
Then the birds began to fly as the staff member threw a chicken into the mass of alligators. As the chicken landed near or on a gator, they quickly snapped their mouth shut with a thud. Then all the gators next to them instinctually snapped their mouths. The wave of snapping jaws rippled out from the epicenter deep into the pond. The excitement in the crowd and in the pond began to increase as more and more gators crowded up onto the bank. Again, another chicken was thrown and the snapping thud of jaws passed like a wave around the pond. Some of the gators started to push up against the wire link fence in front of the staff member bending it in towards him. He finished off his bucket and joined the rest of us behind the stronger protective fence.
The Everglades Alligator Farm also has other reptiles like snakes and turtles. They also have a growth area where the small gators (like those below) dream of being large enough to join the adults in the pond. As we left the farm we were glad the rain had stopped and that we didn't need an airboat to get us up the road, past the prison and back to our hotel.
Map of Our World
Everglades Alligator Farm
Post # 28