I’ve already posted about Orlando’s theme parks – including the fact I got over my allergy to Disney – but I don’t want to leave the impression that Florida is all about mass development. Because, the truth is, it’s a supremely wild place.
When we lived in the Sunshine State, in an apartment complex snuggled in swampland, with a sparkling pool and carpets of thick-bladed grass all around us, a new warning sign was staked into the ground one day. Right by our mailbox.
BEWARE OF ALLIGATORS, it said. And it wasn’t a joke. They’d found a baby gator nearby.
For me, a city girl from London, this served as a reminder that I was now living in a subtropical paradise where alligators turn up in neighbourhood swimming pools and roam the golf courses. It was the first time in my life that getting eaten was actually a possibility.
This time around, on holiday with our boys, I talked up the gators. “Look out for the alligators,” I told them, every time we were near swampy water. “They especially luurrvvve naughty boys.”
We came across a pool of baby gators you could feed
small children to at a crazy golf course in Daytona Beach, and spent a long time peering at a head-like rock in the crystal-clear waters at Blue Springs State Park. But, our one and only up-close sighting came at a rather surprising place.
On a bus tour round the Kennedy Space Centre.
Remarkably, there’s a pristine wildlife refuge right by the rockets with 500 different species, including sea turtles who heave their huge bodies onshore to lay eggs just a short distance from the launch pads.
For my boys, the alligator made their day – and was upstaged only by the black-spotted snake and giant spider’s web we encountered on a walk in the woods.
Who says holidays with children can’t be wild?