4580 West Irlo Bronson Highway, Kissimmee 34746
Admission: Adults $14.95, children (3 to 11) $9.95,
seniors (55+) $12.95, all plus tax; AAA, AARP, and military discounts
Hours: Daily 9:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m.
Location: 6 miles east of I-4; 2 miles east of SR
The 120-foot plaster alligator outside might make you think this
is a Gatorland clone but, while Jungleland has a first-rate gator
show, it is primarily a small zoo specializing in exotic
animals, including a number of big cats who have their own show.
Plan your visit around the schedule for the shows which begin
at about 10:00 a.m. and end around 3:00 in the afternoon. The
latest you can arrive and see all the shows is 2:00, but the schedules
can vary, so call ahead. The Bushmasters Gator Show takes place
three times every day. This 25-minute display is first-rate edutainment
and well worth the price of admission. Jungleland compresses all
its gator lore and trivia into this single show, whereas Gatorland
spreads it out over your entire visit. Otherwise the shows are
very similar, although Id have to give the edge to Jungleland.
The show takes place in a 300-seat outdoor amphitheater with
shaded seating areas. If you drop by early, you may be able to
see the gator wrangler lasooing a likely looking co-star from
the nearby gator pond. Once inside the arena, the wrangler puts
the uncooperative gator through its paces, showing off its teeth
and gaping maw. He also holds the gators jaws shut with
his chin, the piece de resistance of every gator wrestling show.
This show offers a different version of the origin of gator wrestling
from the one I heard at Gatorland, attributing the practice to
the Seminole Indians who hunted gators in this fashion for their
skin and meat. Hunters usually worked in pairs, with one getting
on the gators back and clamping its jaws shut while his
partner tied the jaws shut for the trip back to market. The trick
of pulling back the gators head and holding its jaws with
the chin was developed, according to this version, by lone hunters
who didnt want to share the sale price with a partner. By
holding the jaws with their chin, they were able to free their
hands to tie the gators jaws shut single-handed. All in
all, the Jungleland version has the ring of truth to it.
Every bit as good as the gator show (better, if youre a
big cat fan) is the Cat Show, which takes place in a wooden arena
toward the back of the zoo. Here a trainer shows off several tigers
and a gorgeous puma, putting them through paces that are similar
to a circus act, except that here the show biz razzle dazzle is
replaced by fascinating facts about these magnificent creatures
and a somber warning about their odds of surviving in the wild.
The same trainer doubles as a magician in Magic of the Rainforest,
which takes place in a small, dark theater near the food stand
in the middle of the park. Its fairly standard magic show
fare, with a variety of birds, monkeys, and other forest critters
appearing and disappearing in a succession of clever tricks, as
the host cites ominous statistics about the worlds disappearing
rainforests. In addition to the shows, there are three primate
feedings each day.
Between the shows, stroll along the half-mile looping path through
Junglelands zoo which houses some 300 specimens. You can
get closer to the animals here than at most zoos, and Jungleland
is far less concerned about your feeding the animals than many.
In fact, there are 50-cent food dispensers dotted along the route
just for that purpose. There are some lovely members of the big
cat family here, ranging from African leopards and lions, to brother
and sister Bengal tigers, to an older Siberian tiger. The North
American cats cougars, lynx, and bobcats are also
represented. There are some unusual felines, too, like the African
caracal with its distinctive ears and the dog-sized serval, once
the house cat of Egyptian royalty.
Primates are another well-represented family. My favorite is the
orangutan, Radcliffe, the zoos only large primate. Radcliffe
will respond to simple hand signals waving your hand over
your head, placing it on your forehead as if you have a headache,
sneezing with your hand over your nose. He also seems to respond
to the verbal command, Smile. Like any good actor,
he performs more willingly if you bribe him with food.
Most people seem to spend about two and a half hours at Jungleland
which is just long enough to see all the shows and visit the other
animals. Dont forget to take a family snapshot by the big
gator outside before you leave. A helpful sign tells you the best
place to stand.
Nearby: Kartworld, Medieval Times.
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