at the St. Augustine, Florida
Alligator Farm “Climb, Clip, Zip !”Heading south on I-95 South towards St. Augustine is a large billboard broadcasting ” Zip Lines Over the Alligator Pits! Come to the Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in St. Augustine Beach.” Well, you certainly didn’t have to ask me twice if I’d be interested in taking on the challenge course over alligators. Now that I’ve managed to conquer my fear of heights, I was ready to kick up the thrill a notch.
Taking Exit # 318 for State Route 16 to head east into historic St. Augustine and across the Bridge of Lions to St Augustine Beach, the Alligator farm is quickly reached. Once arriving I walked into the separate entrance for Crocodile Crossing to reserve a spot for the challenge course. I was in luck ! There was a cancellation for the 3:00pm group departure. There are two courses that you can choose from. The Sepik Course takes approximately an hour and has over 25 challenges, including two zip lines. The Nile Course takes just about two hours and has around 50 challenges that fly over the entire 7 acres of the Alligator Farm. High in the tree canopy, the Nile course has you flying high over the Land of Crocodiles, and the Birds of Africa. It zips over Alligator Lagoon, and has views of the Red Ruffed Lemurs habitat. The Alligator Farm and Zoological Park is one of the oldest zoos in the United States. Founded in 1893, this zoo has 23 species of alligators or crocodiles from throughout the world. Special mention goes to the two Albino alligators found in the Bayou of Louisiana. Since I was really supposed to be heading to Gainesville to visit family, I chose to do the shorter Sepik Course. Getting fitted for the harness and getting oriented for the course takes about a half an hour. The group is lined up along the fence and coached through the do’s and don’ts along the course. One of the “don’ts” is that there are no cameras allowed on the course whatsoever. No cell phone cameras – nothing. So alas, there is no true photo evidence that I did the course. But trust me – I really did ! Starting on the course, there are several obstacles that quickly follow one after another. Carefully clicking the two safety carabiners one at a time ensure that one is continually secure throughout the challenges. Going through this course entails a full body workout. Your balance and lack of fear of heights gets you through the course successfully. There were three people in the initial group that chose to get off the course because of their fears. For some strange reason, traversing the course creates a sense of serenity. Concentration of mind and body help sooth the spirit. The views of the alligators and other wildlife throughout the park are unparalleled. The course I took has two zip lines, and the remaining are obstacle challenges of a truly creative nature. The one that challenges your balance the most is the floating surfboard. While others had someone to hold the rope so that they could get on the board. I had to get on the board by myself. I thank all those years of horse back riding lessons that have taught me to lean forward and find my balance as I was able to successfully do the floating surfboard. When I had returned to the base, one of the safety guides asked me how I did on the surfboard. Of course, I said just wonderfully. His response..well, I failed the first time I tried it ! After completing the course, I really wanted to get some photos of what I could of Crocodile Crossing’s obstacles and zip lines. So with a separate entrance fee I entered into Alligator Farm by land. It was the end of the day, and things were starting to wrap it. After taking a few photos of those who were still on the course, two loud Macaws caught my attention. The first one is a female Blue and Gold Macaw that is over 50 years old. Her zoo keeper Tonia came to get her to bring her in for the night. Tonia was kind enough to ask her to do some tricks for me and answered a few questions. Tonia then went to the Scarlet Macaw named Ricky who had begun to preen for the Blue Macaw who wanted nothing to do with Ricky. She decided to show Ricky just how much bigger she was by stretching out her wings in a demonstration of strength. I spent my last few moments at the Alligator Farm walking around the other alligator pits. There is such a wide variety of alligators and crocodiles that I wished I had more time to spend getting to learn all that I could about them. I left the farm pondering as to why these alligators sat there with their mouths wide open, completely motionless….weird…..