There are so many different ways to meet animals in Orlando, for all ages and groups, and some are more ‘tame’ than others…
1. PENGUINS UP-CLOSE TOUR AT SEAWORLD
Photo credit: Helen Wright
This is one of the cutest animal experiences in Orlando, as well as being hugely interesting and educational. At SeaWorld, guests have the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes in Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, where you will get to meet one of the little guys up close. They can be very friendly (especially if you have a bucket of fish) and if you’re lucky, you might even get to cuddle a real life penguin! The walking tour also educates guests on the history of penguins in the wild, the unique way they live and how SeaWorld treats and cares for the five different species of penguin who live at the park. Suitable for any age. Children under-three go free and all guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a fee-paying adult.
2. GIRAFFE SERENGETI SAFARI AT BUSCH GARDENS
Although not technically in Orlando, Busch Gardens is one of the best theme parks in the USA and is near enough that it should definitely be included in your Florida theme park itinerary! As well as thrilling roller coasters like SheiKra, Cheetah Hunt and Tigris, Busch Gardens also has some of the most unique animal attractions in Florida. For budding vets, the Animal Care Center Tour takes you behind the scenes at Busch Garden’s fully operational animal hospital and veterinary surgery. Sick animals from inside and outside the park are treated here and you might even see an operation being performed in the operating theatre, which has a floor-to-ceiling glass wall.
However, the most popular animal encounter at Busch Gardens is the brilliant Serengeti Safari. Head off on the back of a safari jeep with an expert guide for a 30-minute tour and spot exotic animals including zebras, ostriches, rhinos and several antelope species. The highlight of the tour is stopping to hand-feed a giraffe, which is so much fun as well as being the perfect Facebook photo opportunity. Suitable for guests five and older and best to book the hugely popular tour in advance. Click here to book tickets (general admission also required).
3. UP CLOSE WITH RHINOS AT DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM THEME PARK
There aren’t that many opportunities to go ‘backstage’ at Walt Disney World, but for animal lovers, this is one of the best animal encounters in Orlando. During the hour-long guided adventure, the rhinos’ keepers will introduce you to these incredible and massive creatures. The experience allows you to meet the white rhinos up close, which not many people will ever get a chance to do. The tour is also packed with information on how rhinos survive in nature, their behaviour patterns and the modern challenges that threaten populations in the wild. Suitable for guests age four and over. All guests under 18 must be accompanied by a fee-paying adult.
4. GATORLAND AND ZIPLINE
Photo credit: Helen Wright
At Gatorland there is a huge range of animal encounters for all ages, including Animal Hour, where you get to feed a pack of hungry alligators at lunchtime and get a rare up-close photo. However, if you are looking for a more tame experience, you might want to opt for the more laid back opportunity to feed a giant tortoise instead.
Also at Gatorland you will find, probably, the most exciting and unique animal encounter in Orlando; the Screamin’ Gator Zipline – voted the best Zipline in the USA by AOL Travel. Adventure seekers will love the zipline, which soars over an alligator pool that is home to 130 alligators as well as Cuban and Nile Crocodiles. You will also whiz along 1,200 feet of high wires to towers standing over seven stories tall. This is definitely not for the faint-hearted. There is no age-minimum for the Screamin’ Gator Zipline, but guests do need to be over 37 inches tall. Adventure Hour is suitable for all-ages.
5. THE GRAND REEF AT DISCOVERY COVE
You probably already know that Discovery Cove is the best place to swim with dolphins in Florida and the Discovery Cove Package includes a dolphin interaction and all-inclusive access to the park all day. As well as the dolphin experiences, Discovery Cove has a range of other animal encounters, including feeding tropical birds and an underwater Seaventure diving experience.
However, included in your admission price is access to Discovery Cove’s Grand Reef, which you can visit as many times as you want throughout the day. In this pool you can snorkel with tropical fish, stingray and even a surprise shark! At various times of the day, you can also feed the stingray and watch in amazement as these incredible creatures gather around you. Entry to Discovery Cove and use of the Grand Reef is suitable for all ages. Seaventure is suitable for ages 10 and older. Dolphin interactions are suitable for ages three and older.
6. BOGGY CREEK NATURE AIRBOAT RIDE
If you want to see some of central Florida’s natural inhabitants in the wild, the most fun way to do it is on an airboat ride across the everglades. As your boat twists and turns through the long reeds and winding creeks, keep your eyes peeled for tropical birds, turtles and wild alligators chilling out in the cool water. The boats can travel at up to 45-miles an hour and an expert guide will tell you everything you need to know about Orlando’s natural landscape and its wildlife. Boggy Creek also has an exclusive Native Experience with demonstrations on cooking, tool making and primitive weapons, providing an insight into the indigenous lifestyle. Suitable for all ages.
Want to experience some of these amazing animal encounters for yourself? Click here, to view our full range of Orlando attraction tickets.
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