I’m attracted to small local animal parks. You know, the kind that are way out of city limits, operate on shoe-string budget, and sell strange souvenirs in the gift shop. (Visiting Sydney, Australia a few years ago, I dragged my husband to every single koala park in the vicinity)
To me, these parks are more interesting than large zoos because they’re underdog operations. They don’t get the endowments or research funds. Instead, they’re gritty and hoaky. The small town Southern girl in me loves them.
I recently read Swamplandia! about such a gator park in Florida. So, during my trip to Miami, I went to one in the Everglades.
Considered one of the best books of 2011, the novel focuses on a broken family struggling to operate a bankrupt animal park. It’s about family, personal survival, and growing up. I recommend it.
I also recommend making the journey to a gator park if you happen to be in the Miami area. Although there are many organized Everglades tours, it’s easy to rent a car and be your own guide. We drove until we found a park, aptly named GATOR PARK. They offered airboat rides, plenty of reptile viewing, and a gator wrestling show, all included in one admission price. (Print the coupon off their website).
Highlights of the park include a highly entertaining alligator show with plenty of slapstick (the handler “accidentally” drops various creatures on guests in the audience) and a wind through your hair exhilarating airboat ride. Really, is there anything better than doing donuts in swampy water like hungry alligators watch on?
I love reading novels set in a particular place and then visiting there. For me, it’s fun to see how the author’s impressions align with my own. I’m also eager to see how a place motivates writing.
Have you ever read a book that inspired you to take a trip? What was it?