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A group of bison is called a herd while a group of crows is called a murder. What’s a group of iguanas called? A mess. Iguanaland in Punta Gorda is one of Florida’s newest attractions and although it features a variety of iguanas, and dozens and dozens of other species of reptiles, the zoo is far from a messy mess. It’s an educational and engaging destination to learn about scaley, slithering critters at your own pace. For the skittish and squeamish, there’s a safe barrier between you and the residents.
Where the Wild and Exotic Things Are
I’m not alone in admitting that during the early weeks of the pandemic, I binged “Tiger King” on NetFlix. When “Joe vs. Carole,” the fictionalized mini-series launched on Peacock this year and I binged that, too.
After watching, I had an urge to visit someplace wild, a bit edgy, and a tad weird. Knowing Igaunaland recently opened, it was my destination one Sunday afternoon. Located in east Charlotte County, it’s on the way to Worden Farm where I pick out organic veggies during the winter and spring season.
For what seems like years, I’ve heard about some reptile zoo opening up in Punta Gorda. During my trips to the farm, I watched from a distance as Igaunaland took shape.
Now, the rest of the curious world can visit, although the reptile zoo is still building out some habitats. One of the staff told me a grand opening will be sometime in the Fall.
Snakes. Iguanas. Tortoises. Oh My!
What’s there now is impressive. I could have spent a full day watching each animal. One of my favorite courses in college was Ethology, the scientific and objective study of animal behavior in their natural habitat.
Well, I don’t have the time or funds to travel the world, as most people don’t. Iguanaland provides the opportunity to view more than 200 different species of reptiles from various parts of the globe. I was told the goal is to have over 300 come Fall 2022.
Species I saw include Rainbow Jackson’s Chameleon (native to Kenya and Tanzania), Yellow Ackie Monitor (native to Northwestern Australia), Panther Chameleon (native to Northern and Eastern Madagascar), and White-Throated Monitor (native of Southern Africa).
Of course, there are iguanas. A whole mess of them like Exuma Island Iguana (native of The Bahamas), Cuban Rock Iguana (native of Cuba and surrounding islands), and Grand Cayman Blue Iguana Hybrids (native of Grand Cayman Island).
Chameleons: Lizards of Another Color
I probably spent way too much time observing some of the residents, particularly the chameleons. Their colors are stunning and vibrant and their bulging eyes moved while their bodies remained stoic on branches.
Two Grand Cayman Blue Iguana Hybrids had a stare-off, seemingly unphased by the caging separating them. One was significantly larger than the other and after a brief moment of the reptile staring contest, the larger one began nodding her head up and down. Then, she opened her mouth, but I didn’t hear a sound. The nodding continued and the little one was still unphased. The entire exchange was fascinating. See the short video below. (Note: one of the staff told me they were both females.)
Find some resident reptiles indoors but most are living in outdoor exhibits. I spotted lizards that could fit in the palm of my hand to incredibly long snakes and iguanas bigger than my 21-pound cat. There’s an impressive Giant Tortoise and a peaceful koi pond.
Beyond the Reptiles
When the beautiful koi spotted me, they swam up to the pond’s edge with their mouths moving and I think I heard them whisper, “feed me.” So, I did. There’s a fish food dispenser by the pond, the kind where you slide in two quarters for a fistful of feed. Toss it in the water and watch the frenzy. Or, sit on the bench and soak up the Zen moment.
Iguanaland has several colorful murals which make nice backdrops for photos and selfies. These include one featuring frogs, another with angel wings, and another with reptiles representing the residents.
The afternoon is feeding time, at least when I visited. One of the keepers methodically unlocked the cages of each exhibit one at a time and served plates of salad. Well, not something humans would consider salad, but a mixture of shredded leafy greens, carrots, and nutritious meal.
Sure, this reptile zoo may not be for everyone. But, it can help those who aren’t fans of all that slithers and crawls to learn more about these beautiful animals. For those with an affection for cold-blooded creatures, they’ll see how Iguanaland is a one in a “chameleon” attractions.
Plan Your Visit to Iguanaland Reptile Zoo in Punta Gorda
33900 Bermont Rd
Punta Gorda, FL 33982
Tel: (941) 844 – 5350
Open daily (except Jan. 1, Dec. 24 & 25 and Thanksgiving Day) 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Prices range from $15 (children 2 – 12 years old) to $25 for adults. Visit their website for a list of discounts. (Prices valid as of April 2022)
Experiences like a VIP tour and hands-on animal encounters cost extra.