SARASOTA, Fla. -- Alligators sunning is a common site in Florida but not usually by dozens. There is one place at a lake in Myakka River State Park in Sarasota County.
Only 30 people make it through the gate leading to the wildlife preserve each day says park manager Stephen Giguere. He says, “We limit to 30 people a day. It’s a wilderness preserve we want to retain the wilderness experience.”
Once on the other side prepare to walk. “It is a two-mile hike each way to go to Deep Hole … long hike, no facilities, no water … be hot,” says Giguere.
Park volunteers Ella and Harvey Thomas gave us a lift to the Deep Hole. Harvey says they’ve seen “pygmy rattlers, lots of bobcats, turkeys and white-tailed deer.”
We spotted a soft-shell turtle on the way, too, but everyone including a group of hikers from Connecticut and New York come looking for Florida’s prehistoric Floridians.
“The highlight!” says Fred Vogell from Connecticut.
“Deep Hole, 134-feet deep sinkhole formation roughly 1/3 acre in size … located at the lower lake of wilderness park of Myakka River State Park,” says Giguere.
He adds, “On a typical day in the dry season you can see 50, 150, 200 alligators. They congregate to this area only deep water left during dry season and a good source of food.”
Vogell says, “You see what looks like logs on the bank but when you grab your binoculars they’re alligators. … see some very large ones there.”
Don Stern from New York is hiking to Deep Hole, too. He says, “They were friendly, pretty sedentary, minding their own business.”
Once at the Deep Hole there were about 30 to 40 alligators.
Giguere says watch the gators from a distance. He recommends, “Do not approach the alligator. Please keep a safe distance … General rule: 100-foot minimum should be safe.”
"Alligators can run 35 miles per hour in short bursts,” says Giguere.
After four years of trying these hikers are glad they made it to the Deep Hole.
Vogell says, “It’s spectacular. It’s a unique spectacular place.”
The park is open seven days a week and permits to go inside the wilderness preserve are limited to 30 a day so you’ll need to get there early.
The park manager says the best time of day to see the gators is early morning and during the cooler months.