Florida is teeming with life: bugs, birds, sharks…and the infamous alligator.
The Gator and Lake Jesup
For Floridians, it’s nothing to walk out your back door in the morning and find a “gator” in your pool. The locals here assured me that gators are much more scared of us than we are of them. Somehow, I find this hard to believe. Maybe I’ve watched too many nature shows of people revealing their gator-mangled arms, legs, etc…
Despite our fear of gators, in true Short and Hat style, we visited the most densely gator-populated lake in the world, Lake Jesup, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Orlando. The locals told us that Lake Jesup is the place everyone takes the gators they find around their properties. As a result, the lake was a gator metropolis with an estimated 100,000 gators living in its foreboding waters! People, there are practically more gators there than water!
What shocked us was that some people actually swim in the lake! Here’s the thing: if anyone ever found an alligator in the Colorado River at home, they would shut down half the town trying to find the thing. I could see the river being off-limits until the threat was found, and the locals vowing to never stick so much as a toe into the river again.
We went to Black Hammock, a restaurant, bar, gift shop, and viewing area on the south side of the lake. If you don’t see any gators in the lake (which, given the large population, is unlikely), you can always check out the viewing area where you can safely visit several resident gators including “Hammy,” a 12-foot, 675 lb. giant.
The airboat ride at Black Hammock is probably the best ways to see gators in their natural habitat. $25 ($21 for kids) will buy you a 30 minute ride out on the lake. If you don’t want to take an airboat, the best time of day to see alligators is evening, as the sun is going down.