Soaring Over Gators: My Wild Experience on the Adaptive Zip Line at Gatorland

Imagine soaring over a lake full of alligators with nothing more than some cable and rope keeping you in the air. Sound scary? It can definitely be a bit nerve-wracking beforehand, but I promise you that it is so much fun and surprisingly, it’s possible to do as a wheelchair user. During my recent trip to Florida, I did the adaptive zip line (and much more) at Gatorland and luckily, I lived to tell the tale! It went exceptionally well and I miraculously didn’t even have to use my travel insurance for ziplining over gators, but you better believe that I had it in case of an emergency… like falling into the gator pit. * chomp chomp*
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The entrance of Gatorland

The entrance of Gatorland

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I have been to central Florida too many times to count throughout my life and even did my college internship at Walt Disney World, but for some reason, I had never visited Gatorland until just a few weeks ago. To be honest, I thought that visiting Gatorland would be pretty pointless. I had seen alligators before, so would it really be worth going? While Gatorland does have plenty of gators to look at, it turns out that there is a LOT more to do at the alligator capital of the world. From watching entertaining shows to getting within a few feet of massive gators and even holding a baby gator, you certainly will never get bored at Gatorland. Here’s how my day at Gatorland went and why it was wildly awesome –
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When I arrived at Gatorland, I quickly met up with our guide for the day, Brandon. Brandon has been working with gators for years and seemed to have zero fear around them. It was like they were just his friends, and while I was kind of nervous during some of our gator interactions throughout the day, seeing his confidence made me feel better about the possibility of getting torn to shreds by hungry gators.
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Right after I met Brandon, he showed me a baby gator. The baby gator was about six months old and it seemed to not be too ferocious. I’ll even go so far as to say that it was kind of cute. Brandon did say that even though the baby gator’s teeth were extremely small, it would still hurt if they bit you. You wouldn’t lose a finger, but it’d be like closing your finger in a car door. Ouch!! After telling me this, he asked if I wanted to hold it. It’s tough for me to say no to any photo ops and I give in to peer pressure easily, so of course I said yes. He carefully handed me the baby gator and when I had ahold of it good, he let go. I couldn’t believe that I was actually holding a baby gator! It didn’t move around too much for a couple minutes and when the little guy did start moving around, Brandon got him back. To only be about six inches long, the baby gator was quite strong, but holding it was such a cool experience.
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Would you like to hold a baby gator? You can with Gatorland’s Trainer-for-a-Day program. Check it out here.
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Now that I had gotten up close and personal to a baby gator, it was time to meet some much larger ones. During Gatorland’s Adventure Hour, you can get within just a few feet of dozens of fully grown alligators. This experience is only an extra $10 per person and trust me, it’s worth every penny.
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For the Adventure Hour experience, I rolled into the Alligator Breeding Marsh, which is home to literally hundreds of gators. As I slowly rolled beyond the fence, I saw about eight gators within ten feet of me. There was no barrier, other than Brandon, between me and them. It. Was. Insane.
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Brandon grabbed a bucket of raw meat and started throwing it into the water. Within minutes, a dozen or more alligators started approaching the Breeding Marsh. It was wild to see all of them coming toward me, but Brandon kept telling me that I was safe, so I crossed my fingers and hoped that he was right. It turns out that he was correct because I’m writing this blog post and all of my fingers and toes are still attached. Yay! We stayed at the Breeding Marsh for probably 20 minutes and I kept getting closer and closer to the gators. At one point, I was within three feet of a giant gator. Seeing that many gators up-close and watching how they chomp down on the food was something I’ll never forget.
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While Gatorland does have some experiences, like the Trainer-for-a-Day Program and the Adventure Hour, that are an additional cost, there is certainly plenty to do that’s included with the regular admission price. You can see hundreds of gators, snakes, and other creatures, and there are also some epic shows that you should definitely attend.
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Two must-see shows include the “Gator Jumparoo Show” and the “Alligators: Legends of the Swamp” show. The Gator Jumparoo Show is exactly what it sounds like… alligators jump four feet or more out of the water to get food. It was very entertaining and happens a couple times per day. Just be sure to check the show schedule and plan around it. The Legends of the Swamp show was entertaining and exciting as well, with one of Gatorland’s employees going on stage with a huge gator to demonstrate the gator’s survival features.
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Wheelchair Zipline Experience

And now, let’s talk about the most thrilling reason why you should visit Gatorland as a wheelchair user – the adaptive zip line!! Zip lining has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, but I realistically had no idea how I would be able to do it. I’ve heard of wheelchair accessible zip line experiences in a few different places, but every time that I researched them, it didn’t seem like it’d be feasible for me. Due to having Spinal Muscular Atrophy, my neck is pretty weak. It’s difficult for me to hold my head up over big bumps and with the large majority of adaptive zip lines, there was no kind of neck support. However, when I heard of the wheelchair accessible zip line at Gatorland and started looking more into it, it seemed like it might be doable.
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Gatorland’s accessible zip line is called the Gator Gauntlet Zip Line and wheelchair users soar 350 feet above the Breeding Marsh in a sling with more than 100 gators down below. The sling allows wheelchair users to be in more of a reclined position with the neck supported, so whether you have Muscular Dystrophy, a spinal cord injury, or another disability, there’s a very good chance that it’ll work for you. If you’d like to do it, just be sure to book in advance of your visit by calling 407-855-5496, extension 226.
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I really wanted to try it out while at Gatorland, so I signed a liability waiver and was ready to give it a go. The first step to going zip lining was transferring from my power chair to Gatorland’s manual wheelchair. If you can’t transfer yourself, something like the ADAPTS sling could work (get 15% off with promo code CORY15). Once I was in the manual chair and comfortable, the incredibly knowledgeable staff and zip lining experts put a helmet on my head and made sure that I was secure in the chair with the sling under me. After just a few minutes, we were ready to embark on the adventure.
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 adaptive zip line
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They pushed me up several ramps to where the adaptive zip line began. Once we were at the top, I started getting nervous. We were 350 feet high and I could see gators down below. Was I really brave enough to go zip lining over them?? I contemplated it, but eventually remembered to “feel the fear and go for it.” It’s a quote that I try to live by and so far, doing that has enabled me to have some truly remarkable experiences, from riding a camel in the Sahara to hot air ballooning over volcanoes and even waterskiing, but zip lining over gators was taking it to a whole new level.
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The adaptive zip line pros did all of the final checks and hoisted me up out of the manual wheelchair. The sling was pretty comfortable and they assured me that it could hold thousands of pounds, so I felt safe and ready to go. Want to see what happened next?? Check out this short video of my experience
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That’s right!! I went zip lining over gators!! I was only in the air for 17 seconds, but it was one of the biggest thrills of my life. I felt completely free in the air and my adrenaline was definitely at an all-time high.
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 adaptive zip line
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 adaptive zip line
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They had a manual chair at the end of the adaptive zip line and quickly, but safely, lowered me into it. It was a much smoother and easier process than I thought that it would be, and I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. If you have ever even slightly considered doing a wheelchair accessible zip line, plan a trip to the alligator capital of the world and go for it!
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My day at Gatorland was one of the most memorable days that I’ve had in a long time. I finally achieved my dream of going zip lining, but getting up-close to gators was amazing as well. Whether you’re a risk-taker and want to try soaring over gators or would rather see them from the comforts of your own wheelchair, I am sure that you’ll love Gatorland just as much as I did. It’s undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Florida, no matter what your abilities are!
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*Thank you to Experience Kissimmee and Gatorland for working with me on this trip! While my experiences at Gatorland were complimentary, all opinions expressed are authentic and my own.  
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