Want to know why people, particularly photographers, come from all over the U.S. to this rookery in St. Augustine, Florida? Action. There’s never a dull moment at the Alligator Farm, where thousands of tropical birds arrive every spring to mate, nest and raise their chicks above alligator-invested pools. The toothy beasts lie in wait, hoping that a defenseless chick will fall from its nest. (Sadly, sometimes they do, although we’ve never witnessed it.) For several months, it’s pure chaos at the farm, with chicks screeching at the top of their little lungs and adults zooming in from all sides with food and nesting materials. Meanwhile, below, the alligators slowly raise they heads and growl, thunderously, until the boardwalks shake.
Since the rookery is not fenced in, this rates as an “authentic” wildlife experience. Visitors include families, tourists and professional photographers who hope to snag a prize-winning action shot. They come with tripods and enormous lenses. Some even pull little carts full of equipment. (In truth, unless you’re hoping to catch a bird in flight you probably don’t need a super-long lens, because many birds nest in trees just off the raised boardwalks. )
The farm has expanded its offering over the years to include a zoo that features animals such as lemurs, crocodiles, exotic birds, pythons, monkeys and more. … There’s even a zip line that can take you soaring over all the action (with the exception of the rookery, of course). Our conclusion: There’s no place like it. And it’s loads of fun. For more information: alligatorfarm.com