But don't be tempted to get up close and personnel with these menacing predators. As sluggish as they appear, these suckers can move when they're motivated by a meal - meaning you, my pretty, and your little dog, too.
If you want to check out the alligator's armored, lizard-like body, muscular tail and powerful jaw, do it from the safety and comfort of a boat. H20 Sports on Hilton Head Island offers a guided Alligator and Wildlife Tour through prime alligator territory - the freshwater lakes of the Sea Pines Resort Forest Preserve.
Sitting in one of the outfitter's covered 12-passenger electric boats, you'll be able to come right up on an alligator without worrying about becoming his lunch. During the one-hour tour led by a master naturalist, you might also see a variety of other wildlife, including turtles, aquatic birds, Golden Eagles, wood ducks and snakes.
"We go right up near the alligators' nesting grounds," H20 Sports owner Brooke McCullough said. "It's a stable boat, so it's completely safe."
The biggest gator currently living in the lakes is a 10-footer. He's large and in charge, but he's not aggressive, McCullough assured me.
Cost of the tour is $25 for adults, $20 for children 12 and younger. H20 Sports also offers a guided one-hour walking tour of the 605-acre preserve, which includes the remains of antebellum rice dikes and a 4,000-year-old Indian shell ring made up of oyster, mussel, clam shells, animal bones and deer antlers discarded by Indians living in circular encampments.
Want to learn more about either of these tours? Visit http://www.h2osports.com/ or call toll free (877) 290-4FUN (4386).