Wild Florida Airboat with Captain Mark
Walk Or Drive Through The Adventure Of Your Choice!
The Wild Florida
attraction in Kenansville, Florida is worthy of the hour's drive southeast of Orlando to experience an Airboat ride, explore alligators in their natural habitats, and drive through their animal-packed safari.
For best time management, you're going to want to go early and get on the first AirBoat ride you can. The roads to Wild Florida go down to two lanes and many parts are under construction so be sure to leave yourself adequate time to get there.
Choose between the 30 and 60 minute Airboat. Both have advantages. I don't know that you can ever be out on the water for "too" long and the boats during our visit went in two different directions. If you're not a fan of "bumpy" water or of noise (despite headphones), take the shorter trip.
Wild Florida's Airboat Tours, 30- or 60- minutes
Wild Florida's primary attraction must be these delicious Airboat Tours. They offer airboat rides, day and night, that offer a true view of untouched wild Florida. It could be 1923 or 1823, it is that protected an area around Lake Cypress.
Captain Mark knows this area well and is great at spotting the local wildlife. He found us a nest of baby alligators almost immediately and taught us that the baby gators may stay in the nest for up to 3 years as mama protects it from predators like the blue heron, bass, and even other alligators. At 3, they're more likely to eat their new siblings, so mama will push them from the nest and if they refuse? She may eat them herself to protect the babies.
Wild Florida Airboat Tour Lake Cypress
The blue heron is beautiful, the bald eagle majestic, and the nest of alligators hard to see and endlessly fascinating. It's a not-to-be-missed adventure.
But what do you not expect to see on an airboat ride on the southern lakes in Florida? Cattle.
That's right, cattle.
This whole area once belonged to the ranchers and cowboys. In order to confirm that this waterfront property could never be sold to become lakefront homes, the state of Florida bought the land with the ranchers receiving the right of passage to let their cattle graze along this area. Two caveats. One, to round them up, it had to be on horseback "the old-fashioned way, never with a motorized vehicle" and two, if the ranch land ever sold, the boundary became a "hard" one with no continuation of the access to future non-ranch owners. There will never be a beachside resort with the current restrictions in place.
The vegetation lush, the trees scraggly, the airboat fast and bumpy and loud, it ended all too quickly with a return to the dock and backing in.
Airboat in waiting
Captain Mark did a great job from the safety explanation drill to the steering of ship to setting our expectations to spotting the animals.
Wild Florida Check In Building
Inside their "Gator Park," Wild Florida offers a variety of unique animal encounters. This wildlife area is like a fun, exotic zoo focused on alligators. Walking along the dirt path, it was important to stop at each hut to see what was contained there. I'm glad I asked about how to best see the shows.
First Alligator You "Meet
From the 10 am Airboat ride, the 30-minute one, you can exit the gift shop and head into the Gator Park and find the 11am show to the left, an 1130 show further down to the left to feed the gators (one staff member's top pick) then right for the exotic pets and Fluffy the alligator.
Animal Wrangler and Fluffy, The Alligator
Pro Tip: Keep your phone set to video after the show where you'll meet Fluffy. I really wish I'd videoed the "See you later, alligator" the animal handler did to end the show. It'd be a cute meme. (and if you catch it, please send it to me!)
Alligator Feeding Show
When you watch them feed the alligators, you'll see how alligators are blind to things in front of them with an eye located on either side of their head so they use the senses of sound and touch from the snout to leap for the food hovering above them.
Young Alligator Pool
The alligators, from Fluffy to the albino alligator to all of those involved in chasing the chicken during the feeding show, were majestic and the species older than dinosaurs. I'm glad the instructors and guides teach people avoidance. Know that alligators are afraid of humans, too. As long as you don't approach or provoke them, there's no reason for them to come after you.
Albino Alligator Enclosure
Away from the shows, they've created enclosures that mimic the animal's natural environment and developed activities that keep their minds stimulated. You may be amused by or even envious of the creatures chilling out in their hammocks.
Wild Florida Bird Enclosure
Or enjoy the birds and spend time just sitting amongst them. I like that the birds are not fearful. They may decide to join you if you're still enough long enough. It's wondrous.
Take the time to walk out along the planked trail over the Hawk Swamp. But apply your mosquito repellent before you enter. The cypress canopy prevents many sun rays to get through so sunburn isn't as large a concern in this part of the park but the mosquitos thrive here.
The Drive Thru Safari Park.
Following my Tanzania safari last March, what I really loved about the 170-acre safari park was the easy access, relatively "low-bump" ride, and availability of so many animals without predators. I'd heard the hyenas (they said they were hyenas) while visiting one of the alligator shows but never saw them.
Having the animals relaxed within the Park, not fearful of predators like lions and leopards and hyenas, made it a more peaceful existence for them. They certainly didn't fear the cars.
Wild Florida Drive Thru Safari Ostrich
They have a variety of gazelle, ostrich, watusi (long-horned cattle), Zebu (bumpy backed cattle), and even one camel in a feeding pen. The zebras, wildebeest, and a large, funny-looking hog congregated around the feeding areas during our mid-day visit.
In late February and March in the Serengeti, the animals will have migrated for the nutrient-rich grass. No obviously pregnant animals were seen during my visit to the safari. One zebra appeared about a year old, though, so they must be reproducing here in this idyllic state.
Giraffe Feeding Tower
In addition to the wildlife seen on the drive-through safari, you also have the opportunity to hand-feed our tallest residents at Wild Florida from a platform high above the Safari Park. After the long 5 mph drive, I enjoyed climbing the steps (there's also a wheelchair-accessible ramp) of the two-story tower to photograph others feeding the big guy his romaine lettuce by the bundle.
The giraffe is a majestic, handsome fellow. No longer in danger, he remains impressively sleek despite being fed 9 hours a day.
It's worth driving to the "middle of nowhere" to see this wonderful land that "time forgot." It's nice that part of it is alive and well and ready for viewing.
It's busy, too. When I arrived, the parking lot was maybe 10% full. Before I left, it was packed.
Wild Florida's Chomp House Grill
The one and only place to eat, should you not think to bring a picnic (there are plenty of tables, so consider it) is the cafe. Made to order, there's nothing particularly fast about the cafe, but there are comfy rocking chairs and plenty of items to peruse in the gift shop. If you haven't eaten alligator, try it here. They serve them as nuggets (yup, tastes like chicken), and offer a variety of treats.
What I was most tempted by? The chocolate-covered frozen bananas. Just like at Disney World. Their varieties include plain chocolate, nuts, and even sprinkles covered or coconut.
Remember Your Wild Side
Go. See. Do. It's a wonderful place to explore and you'll be most impressed, I think with the quiet, serene beauty, of this ancient lake and the pre-dinosaur existing alligators that reside within her.