Jungle Adventures and Fort Christmas

February 10, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Meet Swampy. He’s the World’s Biggest Gator, according to the sign out front. And here’s Liam doing his best NOT to pose for a photo. And there’s Mandy trying to coax an even less cooperative Nicole into posing, too. Friday we met for a play date at Jungle Adventures, one of those old-school theme parks full of gators, assorted warm and cold blooded animals, and a shop full of kitschy souvenirs. This is the taste of Old Florida that I love, before Disney and Universal and Sea World arrived. This place was dirty. And it smelled. Y’know, like how a swamp is supposed to smell, because this was the Real Deal.

IMG_1497Liam, of course, didn’t want to participate in the guided tour. So we wended our way along the multiple bridges and wooden walkways, peering into cages and over short walls at alligators, cougars, snakes, monkeys, and parrots. After a picnic lunch, where we said hello to Mr. Peacock and his flock of hens, Liam perked up and started running around. We saw on the map they had a replica Spanish fort, but the gal at the front told us it was on the other side of the swamp and not open for the kids to climb around on. However, just down the road was Fort Christmas, and we could pop over there if we wanted to and check that out. By that time we’d pretty much covered the entire park, the next Jungle Cruise wasn’t for another hour, and the sulfur smell was starting to get to me. Plus Liam really wanted to climb on the fort, probably because of our recent trip to Tom Sawyer Island. So, off to Fort Christmas we went.

And what a gem that turned out to be! Turns out Historic Fort Christmas not only has a huge fort with tons of artifacts and ramps for the kids to climb on, but also a bunch of old farmsteads, an old school house, and an awesome playground to explore. We were sad we only had an hour to kill. We didn’t have time to explore the homesteads, but I’m sure my parents will love to see this when they’re here in a couple of weeks.

Back at Jungle Adventures, we hopped on the Jungle Cruise with a handful of passengers and an adult ball python. Her handler agreed to sit in the back after some ruckus from a few of the young girls on board. I guess they’d had enough of snakes for one day. I, for one, didn’t mind, fondly remembering my sister’s pet ball python in her St. Louis apartment. Wonder whatever happened to that little guy after he escaped…anywho…

Our tour guide’s name was Daryl, and what he lacked in teeth he made up for in panache. After the girls settled down, he proceeded to tell us why snakes make better pets than dogs or cats. He made some valid points. Filing that one away for later. We took a turn around the swamp, and he explained the unpleasant odor came from the swamp’s natural sulfur springs. The water was completely covered in what he termed Duck Weed, a solid mass of plant life that apparently ducks love to eat. But in a swamp swarming with gators, the ducks usually start with a mouthful and leave as a mouthful. It looked nearly thick enough to walk on, and it was super creepy to see the gators just disappear under it without a ripple.

All-in-all it was a fun afternoon, though if I hadn’t gotten half off with a Groupon, I don’t think it would have been worth the admission. Perhaps with older kids who would sit through all the tours and demonstrations it would be. They sold food you could toss down tubes at the animals, which would have been fun if Liam had been interested. I doubt he would have wanted to get his hands dirty. He seemed to really enjoy the cruise, though he spent more time pointing out all of the bridges we’d gone over and going ballistic over the Spanish Fort than he did looking at any animals. This kid cracks me up sometimes.

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