Not for the faint-hearted: Swim with ‘gators in Gowran

You can’t swim with alligators in any other zoo or wildlife park in the world but now you can in Kilkenny.

You can’t swim with alligators in any other zoo or wildlife park in the world but now you can in Kilkenny.

The Reptile Village Zoo in Gowran is offering a chance for people to get out of their comfort zone and into a tank with two American Alligators – no safety cage and no corks on the teeth either. ‘Battle’ and ‘CC’ are both around nine feet in length and have about 150 teeth between them.

The giant reptiles, which 37 million years of evolution has turned into essentially a perfect killing machine, have a new home in Gowran and are proving quite the attraction.

The cold-blooded predators are apparently quite docile in very cold water. So bring a wetsuit, unlike Emma Quinlan, who is pictured here with zoo director James Hennessy, in a video documenting the ‘swimming with alligators’ experience.

Despite a fearsome reputation, the creatures are generally timid towards humans and try to avoid them when approached. They are, however, capable of attacking when feeling threatened, and the consequences are severe.

They bite down with an incredible 2,000lbs of pressure, and immediately attempt to spin and thrash aggressively – the so-called ‘death roll’ – in order to tear off chunks of flesh. They also drag larger prey underwater to drown it.

Alligators are generally slow-moving but are capable of short bursts of intense speed, such as turning or lunging. They can live for up to 70 years and are native to the swamps of Florida where they are an apex predator.

Bucket list

Zoo director James Hennessy said it is a good opportunity for people to try something different and discover something new about themselves.

“As more and more people are turning to positive New Year’s resolutions such as travelling, overcoming fears and finally tackling some things on their bucket lists, we thought why not help them out?” he said.

“So we have decided to give the visitors the chance to actually get in, swim with and touch our alligators, it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

There are no age restrictions for the experience; all you need is courage and to be over 1.3m tall. All of the alligator encounters will be carried with zoo director James Hennessy.

To watch the video of Emma’s encounter with the alligators, visit For more information on Gowran Reptile Village, contact 056-7726757.