Saturday, April 29, 2017

Orlando Day 8

Today was our last full day in Orlando, and it was just as full as the rest. We started the day with an awesome airboat ride to see the alligators. The water was only a few feet deep, and the fan was so loud that we had to wear noise-blocking earmuffs. That meant we couldn't talk while the boat was at high speed. We slowed down to see quite a few things along the way, though. There were many alligators, of course, but we were surprised to see several babies. Some were last year's brood, and they were around two or three feet from snout to tail tip. We even some of this year's babies, which were no longer than Dad's foot. We also saw many cool birds. One was sitting on a nest that had eggs in it, and the driver said it was a purple gallinule. We got within a few feet of the nest, and she was not very happy. Later on, we saw a large tortoise sitting on a patch of weeds. We even spotted a 25 inch gar fish in the clear water. This trip was right up our alley, so the boys were having the time of their lives. Mom was having so much fun that she didn't even get sick on boat.
We made it to the boat with the Ferlans and Webbs, but Grandpa and the Pooles were at another airboat location.
The boys had fun feeding the fish while waiting for the ride.
Seth didn't mind wearing a life jacket.
We had the boat pretty much to ourselves.
This mother alligator had a few babies near her.
Seth has been wanting to see alligators in Florida for a few months.
The babies were less than a foot long.
The airboat driver didn't even want to stop for a turtle.
We were pretty close to the gators. Can you see the babies in the bottom left corner?
This one was about a year old.
We'd never heard of a purple galinule.
Dad loves this kind of stuff. It is beautiful out in the swamp.
Mom's hair loved the ride, too.
Dax is an excellent spotter.
Mark is always excited to see animals.
The boat was really loud, though.
Katelynn didn't seem to mind the loud noise.
After our 30 minute ride, we headed over to a park called Gatorland. Our first activity was feeding the gators. For $5, each boy got to hold a stick baited with a fish over the side of the platform. Huge gators would lunge out of the water to grab the fish. We had a great time fishing for the alligators. Next, we went to a show. The alligator wranglers were tossing meat and holding chicken halves up for the gators to grab. Some times the gators got half their bodies out of the water grabbing at chicken parts. There was a bird encounter, too. Hundreds of colorful parakeets would fly down and land on you to eat seeds off a popsicle stick. Seth was asleep for this adventure, but Mark and Dax thought it was great. They would have fed the birds all day. Perhaps the best part of Gatorland was the alligator wrestling show. A guy pulled a ten foot alligator out of the water by the tail. Then he straddled it and opened its mouth. He even turned it over and put it to sleep. Dax kept saying, "That guy is crazy!" over and over. The show was pretty funny, too. Finally, we went for a swamp stroll. There was a boardwalk that wound through the swampland. The trees and ferns were thick, but we had a great time spotting nesting birds. We saw great egrets, cattle eggrets, great blue herons, tricolored herons, little blue herons, black crowned night herons, storks, and other birds, too. The birds love to live by the alligators because no other predators come around to bother them. The boys even spotted seven cottonmouth snakes (also called water moccasins) along the way.
Gatorland was a great adventure.
We had to wait outside for a little while, but the kids made the most of it.
There were probably close to a thousand alligators at Gatorland.
Seth made sure we didn't miss anything on the map.
It was totally worth buying a few fish to feed the gators.
Dax wanted to fish for gators all by himself.
The alligators would lunge right out of the water for the fish.
Grandpa managed to catch a big one.
The kids sat behind the window for the alligator show.
Alligators really like half a chicken on a rope!
This huge gator had a prolem with his mouth, but he could still eat.
The show played up the yokels, who fed the alligators.
The birds were wild, but knew enough to hang around and pick up scraps.
We saw a gator wrestling show, too. First, he pulled the gator out of the water.
Then the gator tried to get back in the water, and hissed quit loudly at the wrestler.
He did win the wrestling match, though.
He held the alligator's mouth open with his chin. Look, no hands!
Then he put it to sleep by flipping it over.
This is a real thing. He walked away and the alligator just laid there. It woke up when he nudged it.
We had so much fun with the Ferlans on this day. The boys loved playing with Katelynn.
Mark ended up in a gator stew.
Dad thought this sign was pretty funny for some reason.
We were in bird lovers' heaven. The egrets were everywhere. You could get really close.
On the boardwalk, we even some a nesting egret with eggs.
We'd never spotted a tri-colored heron before.
These fledglings were still in the nest. They were so cute and fuzzy.
The birds aren't too worried about the gators.
Dax took a picture with a genuine smile!
Feeding the birds was a highlight of Gatorland.
The kids liked the birds sitting somewhere other than on their skin.
The birds were not shy at all.
It was fun feeding the birds all together.
Mark is not afraid of birds.
Mom was probably the most excited to feed the birds!
Katelynn and Dad saw a peacock while everyone else was feeding parakeets.
We've seen a lot of white-faced ibises in Utah, but this is a white ibis.
There were other animals at Gatorland, like turtles and bobcats.
The boys liked the snake-necked turtle.
This was our swamp walk. We were glad for the boardwalk when we spotted seven cottonmouths!
It was so cool to be in the swamp. We were surprised at how much beauty we saw in the swamp. I don't normally think beautiful when I think of swamps, but it was a gorgeous walk through the swamp.
Sometimes they are called water moccasins, sometimes cotton mouths.
It was so thick. I don't think anyone could cross this area. And I would be afraid to--what's in there? Who knows!!
We spent about four hours at Gatorland and then headed over to the Aquarium. It was small, but there were some nice exhibits. The best part was a diver in one of the tanks with the fish. She was wearing a microphone, and you could ask her questions. She'd answer from underwater. She even took a picture with the kids. We only spent about an hour at the small aquarium, but it was nice to be in an air conditioned building. Florida has had record heat this week, and we heard that it snowed in Utah last night!
 Dax got up close and personal with a lobster.
The scuba diver answered questions for awhile.
Seth's second favorite thing after gators is sharks.
There was a pretty cool tunnel, too. Here's the whole crew crossing through.
It was fun to get some family pictures on this trip.
It looks like the fish are attacking the boys.
The boys were super excited to tell me that this was a dad holding onto the babies until they hatch. 
Seth insisted that I take this picture of him.
The boys liked living in a yellow submarine.
The boys liked the small touch tank even though Seth did not want to touch anything. Dax and Mark were fine with it.
Here's Mark touching a starfish. 
Finally we ended the day at a southern restaurant called Sonny's Barbecue. Mom's sister Melanie had been begging us to go, and it turned out pretty well. Mark and Seth had hotdogs and fries that they actually ate. Mom ordered a pulled pork sandwich that she couldn't even finish. And Dad had all-you-can-eat ribs, which he couldn't finish, either. (Every time he did finish, they brought him more!) On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Disney Outlet store. Since we haven't spent too much money on this expensive trip, we decided to treat ourselves to a few souvenirs. We all got Mickey shirts except for Dad. His has Donald Duck on it. Then the boys each got something specific to them. Dax got a Star Wars hoodie because he is always freezing. Mark got a 750 piece puzzle because he loves to do big puzzles. And Seth got a Peter Pan hat. Since Mom bought him a hook at Magic Kingdom, he was calling himself Captain Peter or Peter Hook all the way home! We even got home by 9 o'clock tonight. That's good since we have to be to the airport around noon tomorrow.
Here are Mom and Dad sporting their souvenirs.

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