Photos by Kelsey & Scott Walters
Florida is home to a number of wild creatures. Although animals like alligators, bobcats and the elusive Florida panther may be plentiful in our state, they can be a challenge to spot in the wild (and from a safe vantage point).
Wild Florida – Kenansville, FL
Wild Florida offers the chance to see not only native Florida wildlife, but exotic creatures as well, in a natural environment as well as up close and personal with a variety of activities and experiences.
Airboat Rides in the Florida Everglades
Our family’s adventure began with an airboat ride, where Wild Florida began. The 30-minute or hour long rides take you through the winding backwaters and canals of massive Cypress Lake. If exploring the Everglades is on your bucket list but has been just out of reach, this ride is the experience for you. Cypress Lake is the northernmost access to the Florida Everglades and is just as packed with gators as you’d imagine.
We ventured out on the coldest day of the winter (ironic, considering Florida hardly has any cold days). The whipping cold wind was barely noticeable after a few minutes compared to the exhilaration of flying across the marshes and swamps. Even though it was very chilly, we saw quite a bit of wildlife. We were able to spot countless birds, including four American bald eagles, as well as three large alligators, one of which was about 10 feet long sunning itself on the grassy wetlands.
Drive Through Wildlife Safari Park
The relatively new drive-through safari park, which opened in summer of 2019, takes you through a natural landscape with over 100 exotic and native creatures. This safari is a much slower pace compared to the thrill of an airboat ride, but is just as exciting as enormous ostriches and emus, massive water buffalo and camels stroll along with your vehicle.
Since there are no aggressive animals in the safari, you are free to take stops along the way and really admire the animals. Wild Florida seamlessly blends the African savannah with a more familiar American forest landscape for a beautiful adventure.
Like many young kids, Avery has an imaginary friend. In keeping with her goofy, fun personality, her unique buddy is a massive bison named Cuppy that lives in our garage and invisibly crashes through our house (a convenient scapegoat for toddler messes). She squealed with joy as we came across a small herd of American bison, which she explained must be Cuppy’s family. The chance to come within a few feet of her favorite animal was the highlight of all of our day.
We also spotted a hilarious duo of troublemaking camels, that poked their heads into car windows from time to time and made their way around the safari as if on a mission to rile up the rest of the animals and stir up mischief. The variety of wildlife in the safari makes it easy for everyone in your family to spot one of their favorite animals along the way.
Giraffe Feeding at Wild Florida
At the end of the safari is a large elevated platform for feeding one of my favorite gentle giants, the giraf fe. Here you can purchase giraffe snackies and take to new heights as the platform brings you face-to-face with the loveable long necks to feed them lettuce leaves. Avery still can’t stop talking and giggling about how one of them wrapped its long tongue around her tiny hand and licked her.
Wild Florida’s Gator Park and Animal Exhibits
Admission to the Gator Park is included with the safari and is the perfect way to stretch your legs after your car ride. The Gator Park is home to countless alligators and crocodiles from around the world, including the resident star, Crusher – a 13-foot beast with his own daily show highlighting the American alligator’s brute strength and intelligence, as well as their importance to our ecosystem. You can also purchase food to feed either baby gators or larger gators from a platform over a cozy alligator lagoon.
While the crocodilians are really the main attraction of the park, there are a ton of other animals here to round out the experience. From a cuddly petting zoo to sleepy sloths and a stunning Florida panther, there’s no shortage of wild encounters here.
Wild Florida made major headlines this past August when they became the first attraction in the world to successfully hatch baby albino alligators. You can find proud parents, Snowflake and Blizzard, in the park, and the little hatchlings are now on dis play in their own little “nursery” in the gift shop. Make sure to stop by to see an animal you truly won’t be able to find anywhere else.
With a restaurant on-site, you can easily spend your entire day at Wild Florida. No matter what experiences you choose to build your exciting day, whether it be an airboat ride, socially distanced safari or a private tour and animal encounter, you are sure to have an absolutely WILD time!
Hours and Pricing:
Mon – Sat: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Closed Sundays
Airboat Rides: starting at $31/adult, $28/child (price varies b y length of ride)
Drive-Thru Safari Park: $22/adult, $17/child (Florida resident pricing) – Gator Park admission included