Where can you get a grip on gators? Gatorama Alligator Farm and Crocodile Adventures! Cupped in the palm of my hands was a latex-like white egg and when I held it to my ear, I heard a little chirping sound. Inside was a baby alligator, called a hatchling, and within seconds, the little guy pierced the interior membrane and exterior egg shell with its egg tooth. My job, with the assistance of a volunteer, was to help the hatchling out of his shell. Soon enough, I was holding a baby gator in the my hands he was so dang cute!
Gatorama, a Slice of Old Florida
Back in the 1950s, many Floridians believed Yankees from the North drove to the Sunshine State for three things, to see a beach, to see an orange grove, and to see an alligator. Mr. Cecil Clemons made it easy for those tourists to see an alligator, he opened Gatorama in 1957 on U.S. 27, then a two-lane road in Palmdale, Fla.
When Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, there were about 70 roadside attractions in Florida. Today, there are less than a dozen of those original attractions operating with Gatorama and Crocodile Adventures being one, thanks to Patty and Allen Register, the current owners. Patty’s father David Thielen purchased Gatorama in 1987 from Mr. Clemons and the Registers joined the business in 1989.
Over the decades, it has evolved from a basic roadside attraction to a working alligator farm, American crocodile breeding facility, and popular attraction with hands-on activities and entertain generations of families. Gatorama’s goal is to educate the role of alligators and crocodiles in the environment.
Co-owner Patty Register said Gatorama has a “reputation of being the most hands-on alligator farm in the state because we offer so many opportunities with an alligator with your hands.”
Depending on the time of year, there are between 2,000 and 5,000 alligators with many raised and sold for their meat and hides. The rest are used for breeding and in the attraction’s programs.
Get a Grip on Gators at Gatorama!
One of the popular interactive activities is Uncle Waders Catch a Gator Pond. Juvenile alligators between 2– 3 feet long with wrapped mouths are placed in shin-deep water and visitors can kick off their shoes, roll up their pants, and wade with the gators. Feeling adventurous? Go wild and wrangle an alligator. This is especially popular with children and helps them conquer their fears.
A popular activity for adults is Fast Hands or No Hands Gator Feeding under the supervision of one of the attraction’s feeding experts. Participants learn how to properly feed some of the resident alligators and become the star of feed show which can be viewed from the main boardwalk. As a spectator, it’s quite the thrill watching how high an alligator can jump from the water.
Don’t Miss the Gatorama Hatching Festival. Really. Don’t!
The most unique activity is the annual Hatching Festival where participants can watch life emerge in the palms of their hands. Gatorama has permits from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to harvest American alligator eggs from public wetlands. This is supervised by an FWC biologist. Eggs are also harvested from the farm. Each egg is carefully marked to indicate which side is up so when it is placed in an incubator, it’s right side up. Otherwise, the embryo will die.
FWC regulates how many egg-harvesting permits are issued (currently, only 30 alligator farms are permitted to harvest wild eggs) and how many eggs can be harvested. Gatorama pays the FWC $5 per egg which goes into a general fund which is used for education, conservation and purchasing of land.
Egg incubation is between 60 – 72 days and the Hatching Festival is held the last two weeks of August. Each participant is given an egg to hold. Listen closely to the chirping hatchling which is signaling to its mother he’s ready to hatch. The hatchling uses its egg tooth to break the inner membrane and crack the outer membrane (the shell) of the egg. After breaking out, participants carefully tuck its tail and shell underneath his little body, making him photo-ready for social media and an experience you’ll always remember.
The 2019 Hatching Festival is scheduled for Aug. 17 – Sept. 2.
Alligators are apex predators and should be respected and not feared. The best way to learn and wrap your head around something is to get a wrap your hands around it. For understanding and appreciating alligators, Gatorama is one of the best place to learn.
Plan Your Visit
Gatorama and Crocodile Adventures
10665 N. US Hwy 27
Palmdale, Fla. 33944
Tel: (863) 675-0623
General Admission (Everyone over 5’): $20
Junior Admission (5’ or less) $10
Children Under 3’ are free
Discounts apply for Seniors 65+.
Hands-on activities such as Uncle Waders Catch a Gator Pond, Fast Hands or No Hands, Face to Face, and Hatching Festival (2019 Pricing: Adult general admission with incubator tour and hatching is $45, those under 60” are $35), are additional fees.
Fees subject to change and were accurate at the time of publication.