Monday, November 24, 2014

Ziplining over gators, are we crazy?

            When I told people I would be ziplining across alligators, they felt my forehead for fever.
            The truth was I was going to zipline over 100 alligators not to mention camels and other exotic creatures at Gators and Friends Alligator Park and Exotic Zoo in Greenwood, Louisiana, about 10 miles outside Shreveport!
             The first thing you consider is how this has to be a novelty and that there can’t possibly be 100 gators lying beneath you waiting for a snack to fall. But the first thing one sees upon entering the park is several five- to six-foot alligators basking in the sun. Definitely cause for pause. One of my partners in insanity doubted they were real. They were real all right. So were the dozens of gators in the pond stretching beneath the zip lines.
            Our guides went to great length to assure us that the cables and all related contraptions attached to our bodies, the poles at the top of the stairs we would climb and the double cables on which we would swing were all completely safe. Once I spotted what was involved, I have to admit I couldn’t imagine anything going wrong.
            The real scare, it turned out, was climbing up a spiral staircase that rattled as you ascended and stepping off the first platform and letting yourself fly through the air. We did this several times, through woods and pastures, each one a little more advanced than the previous flight but never less scary in my eyes. Flying across a stretch of land on one of Louisiana’s finest autumn days was a thrill but I found myself gearing up so much to step off those platforms that I was exhausted by the last run.
            And what a run that was. The longest stretch and one in which you fly the fastest is also the run over a large pond filled with gators. By this time you’d think you wouldn’t even consider the ancient reptiles below but still I did a double take. Now I would be stepping off that frightful platform and flying over creatures that might not kill me, but would definitely take off a limb or two.
I did it. I ziplined over gators!
            “Don’t worry,” our guide informed us. “They are hibernating and don’t eat this time of year.”
            Well, that was a relief.
            Gators and Friends is great fun and now that I conquered my ziplining trek over unhungry gators I would confidently encourage anyone else to try the experience. The park’s also a great spot for walking among exotic animals and letting the kids pet tamer beasts such as miniature horses and deer. And when the gators are actual hungry, they even let the tourists feed them.

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is also the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

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