Orlando’s Top Wildlife Attractions
Orlando may be home to Mickey, Simba, Winnie the Pooh, and Dumbo, but real life animals are the true stars of the show in the “theme park capital of the world”. In and around Orlando, you’ll find incredible wildlife attractions that entice millions of people to visit the city every year. Visitors can embark on an African Safari, swim with marine life, and seek out wild native animals in their natural habitat all in a single day.
While thrilling rides and endless entertainment often take center stage in the city’s numerous theme parks, wildlife experiences are to be had around every corner. From Disney World’s Animal Kingdom to Gatorland, Orlando offers a wide range of wildlife attractions that will have you feeling like Mowgli from the Jungle Book.
It makes no difference who you are, there’s no need to wish upon a star to enjoy a variety of incredible wildlife experiences all in one place. Simply plan your next Orlando adventure and be sure to add these top Orlando wildlife experiences to your itinerary.
Animal encounters begin before you even leave your hotel room if you stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Spot giraffes from your balcony before setting off to explore Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. Inside Animal Kingdom, experience an African safari through the park’s Harambe Wildlife Reserve. Spot lions, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, cheetahs, zebras, and even rare okapis.
Walk the Maharajah Jungle Trek to encounter Asian animals such as tigers, water buffalo, gibbons, and giant Komodo dragons. Visit the Conservation Station to watch animal demonstrations and possibly even observe veterinary treatments being performed on exotic animals. Inquire about horseback rides that will take you into the wilds surrounding Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, where you might spot local wildlife such as raccoons, deer, and armadillos.
Those with extra time can head over to Epcot’s aquarium to see sharks, sea turtles, and heaps of tropical fish. The aquarium even offers the chance to dive beneath the surface yourself, with thrilling scuba and snorkeling experiences.
Audubon Center for Birds of Prey
The Audubon center for Birds of Prey focuses on the rehabilitation and release of Florida’s owls, hawks, flacons, and eagles. Open to the public, visitors get the chance to see Florida’s raptors up close and personal. See America’s national bird, the bald eagle, as well as ospreys, barred owls, red-shouldered hawks, and more. Sadly, not all the birds that pass through the center can be released, but they are offered a home within the center to live out the rest of their life. Get detailed histories on the many birds that call the center home and learn where you might spot wild birds of prey around Florida.
One wildlife attraction that must be included on traveler’s itineraries when they are planning memorable and affordable Orlando holidays is Discovery Cove. If you ever dreamed of swimming with dolphins, this is the place to do it. Not only will you get to swim with dolphins, but you’ll get to touch, feed, and interact with them. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can also swim with sharks and hand feed some rays.
Snorkel through schools of colorful tropical fish, see how your swimming skills stack up against an otter’s, or try the SeaVenture experience where you’ll get to wear a dive helmet to explore an underwater world filled with marine creatures. Alternatively you can decide to stay dry by meeting the park’s parrots, sloths, and adorable kinkajous.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Those looking for more of a natural wildlife experience where they can spot a wide variety of native Florida animals should check out Lake Apopka. The lake offers an 11-mile wildlife drive that takes approximately 2 hours to complete. Make your way along the lake where you are almost certain to spot alligators and countless birds. Lake Apopka is listed as one of Florida’s top birdwatching locations, where more than 350 have been spotted.
Spot roseate spoonbills, anhingas, egrets, herons, ospreys, and possibly even a bobcat or black bear if you’re lucky. The Wildlife Drive is only open Fri-Sun but you can hike the nearly 15-mile Lake Apopka Loop Trail any day of the week. Most of the hiking trail runs along the north side of the lake and offers equally impressive wildlife sightings as you’ll find on the wildlife drive.
No visit to Florida is complete without seeing an alligator. Whether you want to hold a newly hatched baby or witness the power of a giant 14-footer, Gatorland’s 110-acre park is packed with over 2,000 alligators. They even offer the chance to see white alligators known as leucistic alligators as well as true albinos. In addition, you’ll get to witness American crocodiles, Nile crocodiles, and extremely large saltwater crocs.
There are many unique gator activities offered including gator feeding shows, ziplining over gator infested swamps, and alligator wrestling. Don’t miss the giant Galapagos tortoise and see Florida’s deadly snakes like diamondback rattlers and cottonmouths. The park is also popular with birdwatchers and photographers that come to walk along the park’s boardwalks through the Gatorland Bird Rookery.
SeaWorld’s incredible dolphin and orca shows have always been popular, but there are a wide range of other marine wildlife experiences that visitors can enjoy. Take a trip to Antarctica and enter the realm of the penguin where you can view several different species and even get the chance to pet one with an Up-Close Tour.
Be sure to visit the working manatee rescue and rehabilitation facility and seek out walruses and beluga whales in the Wild Arctic section of the park. SeaWorld’s underwater viewing areas provide close-up encounters with sea turtles, sea lions, dolphins, and orcas.