Coming from California we had the creme de la creme of Zoos. Needless to say my expectations were low coming to Gators and Friends. To be completely honest alligators creep me out and I was worried it might just be a stinky petting zoo with sad looking animals. I’m so glad to say I had it all wrong. Aria is obsessed with dinosaurs so alligators were akin to seeing the dinos in person. I was utterly surprised by the size of the place and the size of the gators. We conveniently made it 10 minutes ahead of the first feeding time. We made our way onto the bridge overlooking the gators. A few stand out at first but you don’t really understand the magnitude of how many gators there actually are until the staff guy with the bucket comes out shaking protein pellets. The alligators know the drill and before you know it there’s a gang of them right underneath your feet. They hiss. The gnash their teeth, they climb on each other to get to the food and because the guy with the bucket knows his stuff he got at least one gator to jump up out of the water for food.
Now I have seen my fair share of alligators at the San Diego Zoo. I usually breeze right by them because they rarely ever bat an eye, much less move. These guys were very impressive and we hadn’t even held a baby at this point. After several minutes of feeding frenzy and alligator facts (did you know a group of alligators is called a, “congregation”?) we made our way over to the baby gator holding bench. This is where I directed my unsuspecting Dad to sit with our daughter and hold a baby alligator so I could take pictures. The expressions on both their faces say it all. Yes the baby’s mouth is taped shut. Yes I had a moment of feeling a bit bad about that. Then I remembered all those news articles about Florida gators eating folks while they were simply out walking their dogs and I got over that real quick.
We had purchased a cup of feed that was good for all animals except gators and lemurs. We started out by feeding the deer. This was a treat for our daughter because like cows, deer are still very much a novelty to her. The herd in our hood don’t let you get too close without bounding off into the brush. We have heard rumors of a buck but have never seen him so imagine our surprise when we saw bucks of 2 different deer species. The deer will eat right out of your hand.
The Capybara is awesome and may have been my favorite. It’s like a Texas sized guinea pig. In fact, it’s the world’s largest rodent. I always loved seeing these guys at the Zoo but I never got to get close to one, or actually feed one! He was very mellow and cute. I was jealous of his/her eyelashes. I had to admit I was having as much fun as our daughter and we hadn’t even made it halfway through. I was also ready to adopt a Capybara.
They had the obligatory goats and my 2 favorites were crazy blue eyes and a baby goat that kept getting bullied away from the food by the big goats. Highlight alert: kangaroos!! Again, something I have seen but never got to see up close and personal while they ate out of a cup I was holding. The camel didn’t get up while we were there, but the other animals were active and hungry for food. Especially the mini horse that would stomp to draw attention to the injustice of his empty snack tube. The lemurs didn’t wake up either but we could see them draping their striped tails around each other like scarves while they slept.
We were about to leave when the next feeding time was announced. This time the big gators in a separate area were about to get chicken pieces from the end of a long stick. They had marshmallows for dessert. Naturally. Something tells me they aren’t too picky. The gift shop had some reasonably priced alligator trinkets and our daughter couldn’t live without an alligator tooth. She has been talking about our trip there and she loves the reactions she gets when she tells her family about holding a baby alligator. We ended up getting the annual passes. Who knows, maybe I’ll get brave enough to zip line over the gator pit. Yeah, probably not and I have been zip lining, it’s awesome. There’s always the Go-Karts.
So if you have never been to Gators and Friends, with or without kids it is worth the trip. They even host parties. You could invite your whole “congregation”.
Website: Gators and Friends
Phone: (318) 938-1199
Location: 11441 US Hwy 80, Greenwood, LA 71033