It wasn't the first time a shiver ran down my spine at this popular park in North Myrtle Beach. Alligator Adventure is one of the biggest reptile parks in the world and home to Utan, the biggest crocodile in the country. Seeing these creatures eating, swimming and basking might not make you want to cozy up to them, but it will probably fill you with awe at their massive power. It's certainly a great way to spend the day.
The first thing you'll see at Alligator Adventure is dozens of juvenile American alligators lying in the mud, in the water and all over each other on a swampy island just inside the front gates. They look prehistoric and not quite real. You might for just a moment think you're looking at a diorama like you'd see in a natural history museum. Then one of them starts moving, setting off a chain reaction of crawling reptiles, and you realize that not only are they real, but they are also strangely mesmerizing.
There are lots of other animals to see, including lemurs, wolves and warthogs, just to name a few, but the alligators (including two rare albino gators in their own special shady enclosure), crocodiles, caimans and gharials (close relatives of alligators) truly are the stars of Alligator Adventure.
As stars, they get their own shows. At the alligator show, a knowledgeable zookeeper talks about the alligators' habitat and behaviors. But the real stars, obviously, are the gators themselves as they come up to eat. They use their massive tails to lift their bodies up and out of the water to grab the meat, giving you a chance to see these massively strong animals, who are usually hidden under the water.
The reptile show gives audience members the chance to see and touch reptiles up close. The day we were there, we got to see a skink, a snake and a baby alligator. But don't worry - you can always lurk in the back rows if the thought of getting too personal with these reptiles is too much!
Also, make sure you stop by to see Utan. Originally from Thailand, he's 18 feet long and literally weighs a ton. He's the biggest crocodile in the US, and he lives in his own enclosure, complete with a 30,000-gallon pool. The day we visited, he was lounging in the water with his head resting on some nice soft mud. I think his snout was bigger than my daughter.
After you see Utan, the juvenile alligators you'll pass on the way out will seem adorable in comparison. Alligator Adventure is an amazing place because its residents are utterly astonishing.