Entertainment Editor

Gatorland recently hosted the Osceola News-Gazette for a fun-filled, behind-the-scenes tour. 

The park’s own Brandon Fisher guided us through our day, giving us the chance to hang out with some slithery friends, get up close and personal with some of the park’s biggest alligators, and even take a ride on one of Gatorland’s newest attractions (the “swamp buggy”). 

First we headed backstage to meet some critters in part of Gatorland’s Trainer-for-a-Day package. 

The two-hour long packaged tour — priced at $139.99 per person (seasonal discounts available) — is open to guests ages 12 and up, and gives a glimpse into what it takes to be able to work with dangerous animals. 

Fisher introduced us to a bearded dragon, a blue-tongued skink, a tarantula and a Colombian red tail boa. 

“The Australian bearded dragon is one of the most popular pets in the pet industry,” Fisher said. “She was donated to us. She was somebody’s pet they didn’t want to take care of anymore.” Fisher said she isn’t the only case of pet abandonment. There are several critters Gatorland has acquired due to the pet owners no longer wanting to care for them.

But there are pros to this — as Gatorland takes great care of the critters, and even takes them out on adventures. 

“We use her in our shows and take her out to schools all the time and visit kids and such,” Fisher said. 

Not participating in Trainer-for-a-Day? That’s OK. You can still see these critters in Gatorland’s daily scheduled Up-Close Encounter Show. Times guides are available online or at park entry. 

Other parts of the Trainer-for-a-Day package include a backstage tour, holding a baby alligator and a special look inside the Gator Wrestling Arena. 

Next, we got to participate in Gatorland’s Adventure Hour — where we hand-fed some of the park’s biggest alligators in the Alligator Breeding Marsh, with no barrier in between us and the gators.

Editor’s Note: This is definitely the most wild thing I’ve ever done for an assignment. 

Home to hundreds of gators, the marsh is closed to the public, except for those who choose to participate. The cost is $10 per guest and is offered daily at 1 p.m. Reservations should be made at Admissions prior to 12:30 p.m. The feeding also includes a unique photo opportunity. 

To end our day, we had the chance to experience one of Gatorland’s newer attractions — the Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure ride. 

This unique ride, open to all park guests, takes you even further behind the scenes of Gatorland, into an off-road, open swamp area, all while riding in a 12-foot high, custom-made monster vehicle. There are three vehicles in total, all named after iconic alligators in the park — Bonecrusher, Cannibal Jake and Swamp Ghost. 

The 15-minute ride is full of bumps and turns, and is guided by two hilarious hosts. The tour ends by driving through a swamp of alligators. 

Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure is the biggest addition to the park since its opening in 1949.

To learn more about Gatorland, its Trainer-for-a-Day package, daily shows and other adventures, visit Gatorland.com