Epic Encounter – Amazing Animals in St. Cloud, FL

I’ve spent my entire life as an animal lover. I’m raising our daughter, Avery, to be just as caring and loving towards animals as well. Our evenings and weekends are often spent outdoors looking for critters to study and learn from, catching toads and raising caterpillars. 

When we heard about a place offering a chance to meet some animals that we have only seen from afar at the zoo or on TV, we were thrilled! Amazing Animals in St. Cloud is a privately-owned wildlife sanctuary that offers tours of the facility, with meet and greets of some of your favorite creatures along the way. 

Amazing Animals, founded by Brian Braitsch, began as a small reptile rescue back in 2009 that toured schools, nursing homes and other community organizations with educational programs. As more and more animals needed their help, the rescue quickly grew and is now a 2.5-acre private facility in a rural neighborhood of St. Cloud that is home to over 100 exotic animals. 

Dill the Three-Banded Armadillo

This isn’t your typical zoo where you stroll by sleeping animals and read informational signs. All of the tours are private to your group, allowing for a completely unique one-on-one experience with the animals. Tours are about 1.5 hours long and are given by Kylie Reynolds, who runs the sanctuary full-time and cares for the animals each day. 

Avery pets a miniature donkey

Private Wildlife Tours at Amazing Animals in St. Cloud

Kylie did a wonderful job with our extremely excited toddler by asking and answering tons of questions and explaining the animals in a way we could all understand. Kylie’s love for the animals shines during the tour, and she gives you insight into each animal’s personality and background. These animals aren’t just property, they are beloved family members. 

The majority of the animals here have been surrendered by owners after they realized they were in way over their heads with a wild animal they thought could be a pet, or found themselves unable to care for them. Others have been retired from zoos and educational programs where they interacted with people. Some of the animals, like wild-caught boa constrictors, have been removed from the lands they are invading and rather than be destroyed, find a new life here. Many of the birds and other native Florida species have been hurt or orphaned and are deemed unable to be released by the state. 

Our tour started just like the roots of Amazing Animals – with the reptiles! Avery has been absolutely in love with snakes for a long time now and went wild over this experience. Not only did we meet several snakes (all non-venomous) and a tiny baby alligator, but we got to hold and interact with a Savannah monitor and a small boa constrictor.

Avery and Kylie with a small boa constrictor

I wasn’t surprised at all that she jumped at the chance to hold the snake and squealed with delight as it crawled in her arms. She couldn’t stop giggling when it crawled over my shoulders and through my hair (pictured below). While Scott is also an animal lover, he’s not so much on-board with the reptiles. He prefers to save the holding and petting for soft and fuzzy creatures, so he sat this one out. If you feel the same about creepy crawlies, don’t worry! This is just the start and there is so much more to meet. 

Our tour continued with marmoset monkeys, and brown greater galagoes. We pet a three-banded armadillo and met a very sassy mountain coatimundi. We watched with delight as Kylie played with a small Geoffroy’s cat, the most common wild cat in South America but only around five pounds when full grown. Kylie explained that this facility features animals they hope the public will fall in love with just as much as she and Brian have, and thus have a vested interest in protecting the animals and their vital habitats in the wild. 

Geoffroy’s cat

While other sanctuaries in Florida specialize in larger animals and big cats (sorry, no Tiger Kings here), an Amazing Animals tour gives you facetime with creatures that aren’t already getting the world’s attention for funding and conservation, even though they need it just as much. Both Brian and Kylie have extensive backgrounds in exotic animal care, including training dolphins and consulting and managing other zoos. Some animals, like those that are susceptible to human diseases and ones that may bite or scratch aren’t available for petting. Don’t worry though, you are in for a ton of exciting interaction with plenty of furry and scaly creatures. 

Hand feeding a large capybara

Scott’s favorite stop (and my close second) on the tour was our encounter with the capybara, the world’s largest rodents. Weighing in around 100 pounds, these goofy things resemble massively overgrown Guinea pigs, but behave much like silly puppies. We had a blast rubbing their bellies, scratching their chins, feeding them snacks and watching them get the zoomies all over their yard and drag their water hose around to squirt each other in the Florida heat. 

Avery pets Penelope the capybara

Keep in mind that while you’ll feel like you’re visiting an exotic land with all of these beautiful creatures, you’re still in the hot Florida sun, so dress appropriately and slather on the sunscreen. Tours happen rain or shine, so come prepared and be ready to get down and (a little) dirty with the fun-loving animals. 

Scott, Avery and Kelsey with the sloths (photo by Kylie)

The highlight of the tour for me was our stop with the sloths. I very much identify with any beastie that spends its time napping and snacking. You may think that sloths are boring given that they move slowly, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We spent quite a bit of time with Lilly and Luke, who gleefully ate our lettuce snacks, posed for selfies and loved being pet. 

We all learned loads of interesting information about some of our favorite critters as well as a look into their adorable personalities and behaviors. For me, this trip felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would gladly sign up for all over again, and one that we won’t stop talking about anytime soon. 

Amazing Animals 

4235 Rambler Avenue, St. Cloud 34772 

(407) 719-6269 

AmazingAnimalsInc.org 

FB: @AmazingAnimalsInc // Insta: @AmazingAnimalsInc 

Info@AmazingAnimalsInc.org 

$40 per person – reservations and $40 deposit required. Email or call for reservations.

Kelsey Walters is the publisher and one of the co-owners of East Coast Current, a professional photojournalist with a BS in Photography from the University of Central Florida. Her work focuses on travel and documentary photography.  Scott Walters is Kelsey’s husband of three years and Avery’s proud father. He is originally from Connecticut and has lived in Florida since he was 11 years old.  Avery Walters is Kelsey and Scott’s 2-year-old daughter. She loves to tag along on their monthly adventures throughout the state and play with her dog, Kodi.

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