Alligator Bites Hand Off Everglades Tour Guide

A group of tourists traveling with Captain Doug’s Everglades Tours got far more excitement than they bargained for earlier this week. The three women and two children set out for an afternoon excursion with airboat captain Wallace Weatherholt hoping to catch a glimpse of an alligator and ended up getting far closer to one of the creatures than they ever imagined.

Around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Weatherholt stopped the boat in a location where he knew an alligator lurked. He first coaxed the animal out of the water by holding a fish just above the surface, which the 9-foot reptile eagerly snapped out of his hand, before plunging back into the swamp. Moments later the beast resurfaced and attempted to leap onto the boat, nearly tipping it over in the process. Unsuccessful in its attempt to board the small craft, the gator slid back into the water as quickly as it had appeared.

At this point the passengers were thoroughly terrified from the encounter, but Weatherholt decided to take the experience just a bit further. The guide began patting the surface of the water in an attempt to bring the alligator back into view once again. Unfortunately for him the creature was just below the surface and struck very quickly, biting the guide’s hand completely off.

One of the passengers aboard the boat used her cellphone to call 911 and emergency response teams were on the scene very quickly. Members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also responded and they were able to track down the gator. After killing the animal, they were able to retrieve Weatherholt’s hand from its stomach. Doctors later failed in their attempts to reattach the appendage.

To make matters worse for the airboat captain, he now faces possible fines and jail time. In Florida it is illegal to feed alligators and by doing so, Weatherholt could potentially be sentenced to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

[Photo credit: Tomás Castelazo via WikiMedia]

Photo of the day (3.11.10)

The wildlife photography of Max Waugh, a.k.a. Fiznatty on Flickr has been featured on Gadling probably more than any other user. And I just couldn’t pass up this one.

Max describes a Costa Rican beach:

The mouth of the Sirena River in Corcovado National Park has a nasty reputation. It empties into the Pacific Ocean and brings together some intimidating predators which scour the river and surf for easy prey. Big crocodiles come from the fresh water side while bull sharks swoop in from the ocean. Occasionally the crocs even head out into the saltwater. Recently 5 large crocs were spotted more than 3 miles from shore.

This fellow was much closer, but I did see him run headlong into a small bull shark. They both turned tail and swam in opposite directions.

I made a mental not that I wouldn’t be swimming on that beach anytime soon. Apparently Max’s picture came too late for one of his commenters, surfwax who wrote:

Oh my…I surfed this spot *before* finding out what you know so well. This photo is awesome, but also makes me think I was rather lucky.

Are you a Flickr user who’d like to share a travel related picture or two for our consideration? Submit it to Gadling’s Flickr group right now! We just might use it for our Photo of the Day!

NYC duo gets tapped for Orlando smile assignment

Orlando has spoken! A pair of New Yorkers rose above hundreds of applicants to become Orlando’s Smile Ambassadors. For 67 days, they will experience more than 100 attractions offered … which includes a hell of a lot more than just a dance with the Mouse. Alligators will be involved, for example. Along the way, they’ll blog and their experiences, giving the rest of the world an “in the trenches” view of what Orlando has to offer.

The final test for Kyle Post, a Broadway performer and Stacey Doornbos, a childcare worker in Harlem, was a 67-hour “boot camp” that ended on July 29, 2009. The candidates went hang gliding, did some indoor skydiving and checked out downtown Orlando, blogging and tweeting as though it were the real deal.

“Every member of the selection committee agrees that selecting one pair from our ten finalists was one of the toughest career decisions we have each faced,” said Gary C. Sain, president and CEO of the Orlando CVB. “Each pair demonstrated tremendous creativity, desire and commitment. We thank all of the finalists for making us smile and ultimately look forward to Kyle and Stacey bringing the complete Orlando experience to life for a worldwide audience starting Aug. 27.”

Kyle and Stacey have been frends since childhood, growing up together in Holland, Michigan. They have taken more than 30 amusement park trips together and say they’ve been on 618 rides. Kyle moved to New York and was cast in RENT, and Stacey wound up in the city after experiencing seven countries in three months.

The duo took a “friendship honeymoon” (how it pains me to use that expression … it’s worse than “staycation”) to Orlando shortly after they finished college, so it’s easy to see why Kyle says, “We feel like everything we have done in our lives so far has led to this moment.” He continues that they “chose to apply for this position because Orlando embodies everything we are – passionate, charismatic and adventurous. We can’t wait to start our 67 days in Orlando to share everything we learn about what this amazing destination has to offer.”