We were in Orlando last month and although most days were brilliant, the day we spent at Wild Florida was probably one of my favourites. Before the holiday I spent time looking for different things to do in the area and trying to schedule things in on different days. I found Wild Florida through Trip Advisor and booked an air boat ride with them because that was one of the few things on my husband’s wishlist.
When I booked the voucher mentioned something about being able to go into the wildlife park after the boat ride and I presumed it was something that wouldn’t take all that long to get round before we were on our way home. The hour long boat ride was booked for 10am so I reckoned we’d be on our way home by lunch time.
We arrived in good time and were greeted by one of the friendliest, most welcoming people I think I’ve ever met. The lady on reception/in the gift shop was so helpful, patient with the children as they worked out their money, chatty and so enthusiastic without being overbearing. She really made me feel like we were in for a great day.
We were led down to the jetty where we met Captain Geoff, our pilot for the trip. Geoff was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable bloke who was great with the kids and was able to answer everyone’s questions with confidence and in detail.
It was a really hot day and so the kids had their hats and suncream on, and had bottles of water. I was certainly glad we chose the first trip of the day as a lunch time boat ride would have been almost unbearable for the boys. I had taken ear defenders for the baby but had underestimated the noise levels – the boats are so loud. Wild Florida provide ear defenders for all passengers anyway though so I needn’t have worried. They also require all passengers under the age of five to wear life vests. Unfortunately, E hated wearing his and cried! I worried that he would spoil the tour for everyone on board since I couldn’t take the life vest off and we had already left the jetty. I shouldn’t have worried though because after five minutes this happened…
Despite all the noise, E had managed to fall fast asleep! I lay him on the seat next to me where he stayed for the duration of the trip. Aren’t babies funny!
The air boat ride
We saw lots of wildlife during the hour long trip. The first thing we saw actually was cattle which really surprised me! Geoff told us that the herd are here all year round and that it’s quite common for them to be in the path of the boat.
What we really wanted to see of course were ‘gators. I was worried we would be unlucky, especially given our track record with wildlife spotting tours (two hours dolphin spotting in Wales and all we saw was an otter) but we were really fortunate! We saw quite a few smaller alligators and a couple of larger ones too. They’re quick in the water though so it isn’t easy to get a good shot of them. I did manage one of two quick snaps (get it?!).
The Everglades houses an abundance of creatures and we saw all kinds of birds too alongside the ‘gators and the cattle.
The ‘Gator Park
Once the boat ride was over we tipped Geoff ( worth every cent) and went to have a look at the wildlife park area of Wild Florida. As I say, I didn’t expect this part of the day to take too long at all.
What I found was a much larger park than I had expected! We did the obligatory green screen photos on entry and wandered in. We found not only a plethora of ‘gators but also birds of prey, exotic birds, sloths, a petting zoo with goats and alpacas and more.
I think the highlight of the boys’ day though was ‘Gator fishing’. Using a rod-type tool to feed pieces of hot dog to the ‘gators in the park. They loved doing this!
The park also had a play area, handling sessions, feeding experiences and handling experiences on offer.
It also had toilets that six year olds get themselves locked inside of, but that’s another tale!
A special mention
When we visited the Wild Florida gift shop, R bought himself a soft toy sloth and named him Slowy. Slowy went everywhere with us and quickly became a part of the ‘leaving the apartment checklist’. That was until the last day. We got home to the UK and he wasn’t with us!
He was lost!
I emailed Virgin Atlantic, the Disney park we had visited the day before we left Orlando. I also contacted the car hire company and Wild Florida. Out of all of those companies, only Wild Florida replied. I explained the issue and although it isn’t really a service they offer, they shipped us a new Sloth out to the UK. Of course I paid for the new toy and for the shipping, but I still felt it was great service from them. So a special thank you to Cindy who arranged it all!
We had an absolutely brilliant day at Wild Florida, and would recommend it to anyone visiting the area. It’s about a forty five minute drive from Disney but so worth it!