If you want to feel like a bonafide Floridian, go swimming with an alligator. Yes, this is the actual thing, according to Miami.com.
Don’t worry it’s totally safe. A professional runs the show. Chris Gillete, who is best known as one of the stars of Animal Planet’s “GatorBoys.”
Gillete, wildlife biologist and alligator trainer, leads an Underwater Gator Tour at the Everglades Outpost with alligators he has trained inside an enclosure in Homestead, FL.
The Palm Bay native is a wildlife biologist with credentials: He earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a certificate in Biodiversity Conservation and Management at F.I.U. More importantly, Gillete is also a professional wrangler for the State of Florida and has been training alligators for years. The animals at the refuge are all a nuisance, that end up in places they didn’t belong like backyards, near residential neighborhoods and schools.
Gillete tours Friday and Saturdays at the Everglades Outpost Wildlife Rescue in Homestead. The park also houses other rescues such as tigers, panthers, lemurs and monkeys.
The YouTube personality is right there in the gator pit, a 30,000-gallon man-made fresh water pond. Nothing ever has been wrong, during his five years running these tours, he promised. The gator with Gillete in the tour is called Casper, because he’s “friendly”, like the famed cartoon ghost. What separates the participants from the roughly 10-foot long, 250-pound predator is a net barrier.
Referring to the tour, Gillete says: “This is a special situation. This alligator is trained. I worked with him, many, many years. He knows his name and comes when he’s called. He understands and knows what he’s supposed to do. He has a job. He knows how to do his job,” “Safety First!” Gillete lays out the rules in a tutorial-meets-briefing. “This is not a gator wrestling class. Participants will be able to be very close to the animal and observe and record its behavior, you can have photos, but we are not allowed to let the guests touch the animal for safety and legal reasons.” Look, but don’t touch is the number one rule!
Only one person at the time can dip in a 77-degree pool. A wet suit is not required but if the person gets chilly, it is recommended to bring your own. If you don’t have a mask, snorkel and weight belt, it will be supplied. Underwater Alligator Tour: Everglades Outpost Wildlife Rescue, 35601 SW 192nd Avenue, Homestead, FL. Friday & Saturday starting at 10 AM by appointment only. Information and to book (305)247-8000. Participants must be 18 years old.