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Massive bodies, green scales and a mouth full of sharp teeth – Florida’s alligators and crocodiles are truly an impressive sight. Nowhere else in the USA can you observe these reptiles better than in Florida. We will give you all the important information about alligators and crocodiles, tell you where they live and which places are especially worthwhile for alligator and crocodile fans.

Alligators and Crocodiles – important Facts

Alligators and Crocodiles might look similar. At closer inspection, however, one can easily distinguish these species: Alligators, for example, have a thicker snout and darker skin than crocodiles. Due to their dominant upper jaws, you cannot see their lower teeth. What is more, they are mostly found in freshwater habitats: Unlike crocodiles, they do not possess salt- excreting glands.

Both members of the “Crocodylia” family are highly efficient hunters who have evolved in Millions of years. Fish, snakes, tortoises, birds and even mammals the size of cows make up the diet of alligators and crocodiles.

On average, the animals measure 10 feet in length and can weigh 500–1.000 lbs. Their size alone commands respect and careful handling. Neither alligators nor crocodiles hunt humans for food. However, accidents do occur when people walk too close to riverbanks, go swimming in restricted areas or provoke the reptiles on purpose. Florida’s crocodiles are slightly more aggressive. However, their number is so small that they hardly ever come in contact with humans.

Alligator and Crocodile Watching in Florida

It is almost impossible to go on vacation in Florida without stumbling over alligator attractions. However, the question remains: What are the best places to see the reptiles?

In Captivity

Anybody who has ever tasted the famous “Gator Bites” knows: Alligators are raised for their meat in Florida. The biggest alligator farm is located in Homestead and harbors a whopping 2.000 individuals. Here, you can watch the reptiles being fed and enjoy an “Alligator Wrestling” show – if you dare. The trainers perform dangerous stunts, and even touch the animals’ mouths – nothing for the faint of heart.

In Florida’s zoos and aquariums, alligators do not have to fear for their skin. Instead, they can lazily lie in the sun and enjoy a meaty treat every once in a while. In many places, visitors can feed them with bamboo poles – an exciting experience, especially for children. The reptiles are kept in 9 zoos of the state: among them ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Naples Zoo and ZooMiami.

Many zoos in Florida also offer fun, alligator-themed activities for the whole family: Do you want to pet a cute baby gator? Then, Orlando’s GatorWorld Parks is a worth a trip. Or how about a zip line ride over the crocodile enclosure? No problem at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. There, you can also see the remains of Gomek – a record-breaking 16.4 feet saltwater crocodile. For a game of minigolf with views of a crocodile-filled lake, visit the attraction Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf in Fort Myers Beach.

In the Wild

Zoos and aquariums are perfect for learning more about the reptiles. However, if you want to study alligators and crocodiles in their natural habitat, you should take a trip into the wild. Animal fans all around the world know the Everglades National Park. A whopping 200.000 alligators live here, so sighting them is almost guaranteed. Airboat tours are very popular in the Everglades. On these trips, expert guides will take you to the best alligator spots. With a bit of luck, you might not only see alligators, but also the rare crocodiles. Both species share the same habitat in the Everglades.

You can also spot the reptiles on hiking paths like the Tamiami or Anhinga Trail. For some watery fun, explore the River of Grass on a boat ride. Many visitors launch their kayak on the Nine Mile Pond near Homestead to go looking for alligators and crocodiles – from a safe distance, of course.

There are more places in Florida that are perfect for alligator watching – among them:

By the way: Guests in Cape Coral should take a trip to the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. The island’s mangrove forests are a refuge for alligators that hunt in the water or regulate their body temperatures on riverbanks. However, you should not wait much longer: Due to an increase in saltwater, the reptiles’ habitat on Sanibel Island is constantly dwindling.

Crocodile Watching in Florida

Do you want to see Florida’s crocodiles in the wild? Then, you will need patience and a lot of luck. It is estimated that only 2.000 crocodiles remain in the Sunshine State. They predominantly populate the warm south of Florida. In addition to the well-known Everglades National Park, the following spots are worth a try:

Despite their threatened status, the crocodile population in Florida has been growing in the last years. Thus, in the future, it is likely that we will see the reptiles more frequently in other parts of Florida.

Manatees – also known as sea cows – are found in the tropical waters of West Africa, Central America and the Amazon. In Florida, Caribbean Manatees live in shallow coastal waters. However, these animals are also known to swim upstream for hundreds of miles.

Manatees are herbivores that graze on water plants such as seaweed. They mostly live alone – except during breeding season when multiple males fight over one female. The cows have a close relationship with their calves, feeding them up to 2 years.

Florida-Manatees can reach 13 feet in length and weigh up to 550 lbs. Their maximum life expectancy is 60 years. Like dolphins, manatees are very intelligent creatures that possess a remarkable long-term memory. The best time to observe Florida’s manatees are the winter months from November to April. Then, the animals are seeking shelter from the cold in shallow coastal waters.

Threats and Conservation

Manatees hardly have any natural predators. We humans, however, pose a real threat, as we are invading their habitat more and more. Peoples as far back as the Native Americans hunted manatees for their meat and fat. Manatee bones were regarded as medicine and ground into special tinctures. Fishermen also used to kill manatees, accusing the animals of stealing their catch. Manatee hunting was officially banned in 1893.

Today, motorboats are the most common threat. Manatees are slow swimmers that often get injured or even killed by boat propellers. What is more, wastewater in Florida’s rivers causes algae to spread, which leads to diseases of the central nervous system. The animals also get trapped in man made constructions like fishing nets and floodgates. Today manatees are listed as threatened species and protected by law in the US. In addition to the remaining 6.000 animals in the wild, manatees are often kept in zoos around the world.

The best Places to see Manatees

Guests in Florida have ample opportunities to observe the iconic Caribbean Manatees – not only in aquariums like Sea World. Especially during the winter months when the ocean gets colder, manatees retreat to the warm Florida coast. Here, they can be observed on land, from boats or underwater.

If boat trips are not for you, then you should visit Blue Spring State Park with its wooden boardwalks. Here you have a good chance of spotting the animals in the crystal-clear water. The Three Sisters Springs nature park is famous for attracting large gatherings of manatees. Groups of up to 100 animals have been observed here. At the TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, you can watch the manatees from a 50 feet tower, while the visitor center sheds light on the behavior of these sea grazers. Guests in Cape Coral should book a boat tour at Sirenia Vista Park to see the animals up-close. But of course, you can also rent a kayak in Manatee Springs State Park. Paddling next to one of these aquatic giants is an unforgettable experience – especially for children.

If you want to swim with manatees, there is no better place than the Crystal River with its extended waterways and hot springs that attract the animals. Nowhere do you get so close to these gentle mammals than in the warm waters of Kings Bay. Multiple companies are offering trips, and the best time is early in the morning when the animals concentrate around the hot springs. First, your guide will take you to the river by boat and scan the water for ripples that indicate the presence of manatees. Then, you put on your snorkel and dive right in. Manatees are curious creatures that often swim close to humans – especially if they are not moving. Getting kissed by a manatee is definitely an unforgettable experience. And do not worry: Despite their huge size, manatees are completely harmless. They just have very poor eyesight and thus prefer examining unknown objects with their mouths.

Important Rules for Interacting with Manatees

Manatees are listed as threatened species. To protect them, safety zones have been created in Florida’s coastal waters. Boating and swimming is not allowed there. The same rules apply to reserves where guests observe manatees from boardwalks or on kayak rides. Swimming with manatees is only allowed in Kings Bay. Even there, however, visitors should never chase manatees or make hasty movements, as this could stress out the animals. Feeding manatees in the wild is also forbidden. Willfully injuring or harassing a manatee is illegal and can result in a hefty fine or even imprisonment.


Hello, I am Sascha the owner and manager of GCV – Gulf Coast Vacation. I welcome you to our website and hope that you like at least one of our beautiful houses. Together with my team we make sure every day that our guests feel comfortable in our vacation homes. If you have any questions please write us a message! If you would like to make a booking request you can use the booking form quickly and easily. We try to answer your request as soon as possible.We would be very happy to welcome you as our guest soon, until then we wish you all the best, your Sascha.