Florida Orlando MCO wildlife

Welcome to Gator Country Florida

My first full day in Florida and the wildlife welcoming committee was out and about to greet me. Last year when I drove from Jacksonville, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia I was on a visual hunt for an American alligator. I did not see an alligator in the wild until the fifth day of my road trip, north of Charleston, South Carolina in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.

I saw about ten alligators on a trip today to the Lake Apopka Restoration Area about 40 miles northwest of Orlando. One of the gators seemed very interested in all the people eating pork and chicken in an outdoor picnic set up for about 30 of us visiting the lake. The gator came close to the shoreline as I snapped photographs from about 25 feet away.

Welcome to Florida

One of the interesting pieces of information I learned is a quick measure of a gator is the distance in inches from the eyes to the tip of the snout gives a rough approximation of the length in feet for an alligator. I estimate this gator to be about ten feet in length.

Do not Feed Alligators

I was on a tour with wildlife biologists. We were told alligators tend to shy away from humans as long as they are not accustomed to being fed. There are miles of bike trails around the lake. Gators on the trail will move when bicycles come around, as long as they don’t expect humans to feed them.

Lake Apopka is a fascinating story of environmental destruction and environmental restoration.

More about the Lake Apopka story to come. It is after midnight in Orlando and a full day of activities starts in about seven hours as I am scheduled to tour Orlando’s luxury hotels tomorrow on a travel industry field trip.

This is IPW 2015 Orlando.

Welcome to gator country Florida.


  • Huy May 31, 2015

    if you need any suggestions on things to do in orlando check out http://www.getlocalfl.com i highly suggest trying the paddle board tour of lake ivanhoe, you probably won’t see any gators but it is a great tour of some of the lakes

  • Ric Garrido May 31, 2015

    Looks like a good site for activity ideas. The deal with the IPW convention is my five days in Orlando are already scheduled with activities from 8am to midnight. This convention is work. Fun work no doubt, but very packed schedule.

    I photographed the lakes around Orlando on the Alaska flight into MCO. There are so many lakes in central Florida. Looks like they might all be surrounded by houses at the rate construction is happening. Lots of housing developments seen from plane too.

  • Mike May 31, 2015

    I’ve been to Florida several times but never really ventured off from the main tourist areas in Orlando or the cruise ports. Definitely looks I need to take a drive to see some gators in real life next time I’m in the area! I’ve never seen one in person.

  • Jamie June 1, 2015

    I grew up in Jacksonville and there is certainly plenty of wildlife and tranquility in Florida. Probably not far from all of the craziness (often wonderful craziness) of Orlando. Enjoy you exhausting fun-work in Florida. Hope you get too see more wildlife.

  • Ric Garrido June 2, 2015

    Bird sightings are fantastic. Even in the populated area of International Drive there have been some large birds flying by.

    My objective is to come one of these years in the winter and go to Crystal Springs about an hour southwest from Orlando to see the manatees gather in winter. I met with park representatives from the area yesterday and the photos and description were amazing. They said about 1,000 manatees gather there for warmer waters when the ocean water temperature drops in winter. Silver Springs northwest of Orlando about 90 minutes offers glass bottom boat tours in clear water. Florida State Park representatives sold me on that destination too. There are places with great wildlife viewing opportunities all around Orlando.

  • Jamie June 2, 2015

    When my sisters and I were kids we used to go on field trips to Silver Springs and go on the glass bottom boats! We would also see lots of gators there.
    Another place that manatees gather in the winter is Blue Springs State park. It is more like northeast of Orlando, roughly on the way to Daytona. I’ve never been there early enough in the year to see more than one manatee, but they do get hundreds in the winter. And you’ll almost certainly see some gators.
    When I was a kid, we were at some friends’ house who lived on one of the inland waterways and I was sitting at the end of their long dock musing about something, I’m sure, and a manatee surfaced right there, did that wet exhale thing they do, and then disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared. Amazing.
    Going to Florida in the winter, renting a car and driving around seeing swamps and sleepy little towns, sounds like a wonderful idea. There is just no end to beautiful parks in the state as well.
    (PS – sorry about the typos in my previous comment… ugh)

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