When you think of Orlando, the first thing that comes to mind is typically not animal encounters. Although Orlando is considered the “theme park capital of the world,” it’s a great place to come face-to-face with hundreds of different species both native and exotic, as well as big and small. If you’re planning your next Orlando vacation, take a walk on the wild side of Central Florida and experience these top animal encounters.
1. Zip Line at Gatorland
Gatorland, known as the “alligator capital of the world,” is in itself a one-of-a-kind animal attraction where guests can tour the 110-acre theme wildlife preserve that is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles. Along with the free-flight aviary, the animal shows, the petting zoo and the alligator breeding marsh, their newest attraction, the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, brings a thrilling twist to one of Orlando’s best animal attractions. At seven stories tall and 1,200 feet long, the Gatorland Zip Line offers breathtaking views of the park and above the tree tops where you can soar across the alligator breeding marsh for the best view of the alligators below. This unique adventure is a must-try if Gatorland is on your list of places to visit in Orlando. If it’s not on your list, it should be!
2. Airboat Rides at Boggy Creek Airboat Rides
If you want to experience Florida at its finest, an airboat ride is the way to go. Nestled at the head of the Everglades, Boggy Creek Airboat Rides provides a unique look into the natural beauty of wild Florida as it zooms you across the waters and through the swamps at speeds of up to 45mph. The unaltered territory is home to a variety of plants and animals, and every airboat tour is unique! With the help of a certified U.S. Coast Guard Captain, you’ll be able to spot lurking gators, high-flying birds, cypress trees, and a variety of other natural wildlife that calls the swamps of Boggy Creek home.
3. Dolphin Swim at Discovery Cove
Swimming with dolphins is definitely something to write home about, which is why the dolphin swim experience is on our list of top animal attractions. This one-of-a-kind experience puts you in the center of the action where you’ll be able to swim with bottlenose dolphins, and snorkel with thousands of tropical fish and rays within Discovery Cove’s coral reef. The park also contains a free-flight aviary containing over 250 tropical birds like parrots and toucans, and over 30 other species of exotic birds which you can hand feed, and encounters with otters and marmosets at their Freshwater Oasis.
4. Dolphins Up-Close Tour at SeaWorld
SeaWorld also offers a more affordable and less in-depth hands-on dolphin experience. This one hour tour will give you the chance to pet and interact with bottlenose dolphins while learning some of the hand signals that the trainers use to communicate with them. With this trainer-guided tour, you’ll be able to use what you’ve learned to ask the dolphins to perform some behaviors while getting as close as possible to the dolphins without actually swimming with them.
5. Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens Tampa
This open-air tour at Busch Gardens Tampa transports you to the plains of the Serengeti, where exotic animal species roam free throughout the countryside area. You’ll get to see fascinating animals including zebras, rhinos, elephants, giraffes and more while your tour guide speaks to guests about the animals and the habitats in which they live. Photo ops are abundant, so you’ll definitely want to keep your camera ready. Guests will also have the opportunity to come up-close to giraffes throughout the tour to feed and even touch them.
6. Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of Animal Kingdom’s most popular attractions and is a unique safari experience that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the African savanna as you travel through the area in an open-air safari vehicle. This 18-minute adventure through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve takes you on a rugged expedition through wetlands, open plains, and lush forests. Not only will your tour guide teach you about animal habitats, but you’ll get great views of roaming animals like black rhinos, gazelles, crocodiles, hyenas, African wild dogs, cheetahs, lions and a variety of exotic birds.
7. Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
This privately guided expedition at Disney’s Animal Kingdom takes you to areas not traversed throughout Kilimanjaro Safaris, where you can get an in-depth look of the safaris from a different angle. You’ll be strapped into a harness and provided with an earpiece where your guides provide information about your journey throughout the tour. You’ll be clipped to a safety line as you cross bridges and overlook the edges of animal habitats including the hippopotamus pool and the crocodile overlook. You will also be provided with a meal prepared by Tusker House as you observe the Harambe Wildlife Reserve below.
If you’re an animal lover or you’re looking for something a bit more on the wild side to experience during your Orlando vacation, check out these animal encounters in Central Florida. Don’t forget, discount tickets to Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, Gatorland and Busch Gardens Tampa can be purchased at Tickets2You.com!