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Gatorland – Up Close Encounters


Rating: * * * 1/2
Type: Outdoor show
Time: 15 minutes
Short Take: Poisonous snakes and other creepy-crawlies

This show comes by its name honestly, so if getting personal with an assortment of creepy-crawlies isn’t your cup of tea, you may want to skip this one in favor of something a bit less heavy on audience participation. Surprise also plays a major role in the unveiling of the various critters, so don’t count on your ability to pick and choose which animals you’ll want to be friendly with.

That said, this is a fun, irreverent, and highly informative presentation. The hosts explain to us that Gatorland frequently has to deal with surprise drop-offs, as locals unload their unwanted exotic pets here by leaving them in unmarked boxes outside the entrance. Given the indigenous wildlife's propensity to use venom, stingers, and other nasty surprises on unsuspecting box-openers, the staff at Gatorland have tired of risking their lives at this pursuit and so opted to turn the tables and have us, the audience, take over the dirty work—literally. They scamper through the seats, distributing small wooden crates and taking the names of the folks sitting next to them. One by one, they call these audience members onto the stage and introduce them—and the rest of us—to the contents of their crates, which range from scary-looking but mild-mannered tarantulas to venomous snakes. "Don't step over the Line of Death," the hosts cheerfully warn. Most audience members seemed quite happy to comply.

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