Reptile Discovery Center

Reptile Discovery Center, DeLand: Address, Phone Number, Reptile Discovery Center Reviews: 5/5

Reptile Discovery Center
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Large collection of venomous snakes and live venom extraction program twice daily. Nature trail, picnic facilities. Open Thurs-Sunday.
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5.0
134 reviews
Excellent
116
Very good
12
Average
5
Poor
0
Terrible
1

Steve S
19 contributions
Couples
Very informative and pleasant staff. It was probably the most interesting site we visited during our trip to Daytona. The best time to visit is during the time they are doing venom retrieval. The times are listed on the website. It is a must do when visiting the area
Written January 15, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Kim Fordham
1 contribution
Family
Be sure to bring some natural bug spray. Not too buggy when we where there. Be sure it says No-See-Ums.Bring a carry along hand sanitizer. Bring a dollar to feed the friendly turtles, and some more if you want a cool magnet, stuffy, or a snake bite kit! Be sure to try to get there for the Venom Extraction, and Live Snakes before the shows. 11:30am, and 2pm'ish. The Timber Rattlers are huge, scary, and wicked looking fighters. The Cobras are graceful, deadly, and becomes a Cobra Whip in the milker's confident and fast, hands. The wonky pee smell, is a natural odor that snakes seem to give off. Trim your nails, so you won't scratch the snakes, and turtles they give you permission to pet. Use sanitizer right away. Don't touch your face? LoL..first thing you accidently do. Try not to. The first thing kids want to do, is make shoe hills with their shoes in the fine, deep pebbles everywhere. What the owner does, is his passion. He is kind, and professional. The two assistants who introduce you to the snakes of the day, are friendly, and very happy to hand over the gentle snakes to pet, and hold. Try not to fight over them. The seriously dangerous snakes, are milked and presented LIVE- through protective glass. The snakes can't hurt you, but they seem to want a piece of their milker! Don't try to touch the friendly Skink. He loves his handler, but isn't trying to jump down. The skink wants to snuggle with his handler! Absolutly adorable expressions on this friendly critter. No Touching though. The alligators are hoping you will go behind their enclosure. You are a tasty treat. Too bad the handler seems real keen to remind you not to go behind any of the enclosures. The big -big one is the male. The small slim one isn't a baby. It's the female. He has no shame and will steal her treat, if he can, on your tour stop. You can see them really good. They are behind a strong enclosure. Don't poke in fingers. You'll get to touch and interact with giant land tortises. The gopher turtle is so protected, that even the handler, can only get him when offering food. If you touch this endangered and protected turtle. You -could- be arrested. Ooophs! They aren't being mean to the Coral Snakes. The tube they shove down their gullets, is actually a norishing meal and reward for them doing their jobs. The snakes only get milked every two weeks. Coming from Daytona Beach is only 15 minutes. Be sure to wear tennis shoes. The pebbled dirt and fine stones can make flip flops or sandles, torturous, and painful. If you have tree allergies...TAKE your medicine -BEFORE- you travel to the Reptile Discovery Center, in Deland Florida. Fantastic, some times a bit scary. The handlers, will remind you to tell them your comfort level with the various residents. They won't pressure you to pet an animal. Earn brownie points with the Trail Guide, by knowing the different parts of a Turtle's shell.
Written March 9, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

PaulineinFlorida
Weston, FL246 contributions
Family
What a great educational experience and the kids loved it! Staff was fantastic and show was great! A must do in Deland-Daytona! We will be back!
Written January 4, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

bestestes
Estes Park, Co111 contributions
This place made it onto our list of stops during our 12 month US tour not because it was a snake ranch or reptile sanctuary, but because they actually extract venom from ultra poisonous snakes on a regular schedule… and not only do they extract, but are one of less than a half dozen places in the world that do it at all- and perhaps the only one that you can watch this process go down just inches (and a plate of glass) from your face.

We visited on a weekday and were pleased to find the parking lots empty (a common benefit of homeschooling on the road). The modest grounds were spotless and a low level building welcomed us with a bright red sign on the door that read “DANGER- POISONOUS REPTILES”, just below their business hours- so we went right in. As with any legitimate museum, the gift shop surrounded the admission desk, and we were teased by everything snake related- wind up, lighted, wiggling, realistic ceramic, and then tantalized by the authentic: fangs, rattles and shed skins. We’ll save this gift shop for dessert!

The exhibit area defied any sense of this being an amateur snake show. The décor was akin to a doctor’s office or professional suite, with the specimen cages located and framed in behind a perfectly masked glass wall. The glass kept tapping fingers from easily communicating with the reptiles, and perhaps offered some additional psychological security from being able to get too close to these killers.
My wife and I both looked at each other in surprise as we arrived in the room at the level of activity of these snakes. Every set of reptile eyes was on the new crop of visitors. The Black Mamba never stopped moving about its glass and mesh screen cage. The Green Mamba moved its head to follow activity that crossed his field of view; the massive Western Rattler moved just enough to show that it wasn’t a perfect museum taxidermy piece, which it could have passed for. These specimens were the largest, healthiest reptiles we have ever seen firsthand or in photos. They must have a comprehensive staff to keep things looking so good.

Around a few corners was the extraction room, set up like a theater with chairs available along the back wall and on a rolling rack for larger groups. The focal point of the room was the 3 sided extraction lab, with a table in the center that held a glass collection vase perched atop a homemade stand. This was the only sign of the required human ingenuity to set up a ‘venom extraction lab’. Considering the niche market, and small potential customer base (remember only 6 worldwide), there may not be a ‘venom vase holding stand’ being mass produced in China. This wooden base was topped off by a Plexiglas slot that accepted the neck of the vase, which was shaped like an upside down tulip on a stem, like a medical grade ice cream glass. A sturdy rubber band served as the safety belt to keep the venom vase (my term) in place, and a stack of washers on the posts served as spacers to raise the slotted Plexiglas off the wooden base. I appreciated the hand crafted aspect of this creation.

Having arrived at 130, we had burned up about 40 minutes anxiously looking over the live specimens and reluctantly headed outside to suffer the nature trail. From Colorado, we have been desensitized to nature trails- like the ones we use every day and embarrassingly take for granted. We are slow to head for the ‘nature trail’, but with the promise of another alligator to see, we trodded out past the parking lot into the 90 degree heat to kill a half hour until the 3pm extraction would get started.

The trail is short, maybe a thousand feet all the way around. Signs at the start of the trail warn of ‘venomous snakes on the trail’ and offer bug spray stations among the exhibits. As luck would have it, we started our walk as Denisse arrived with a golf cart loaded up with trays full of leafy lunch for the critters. As it turns out, the intimidating 4’ green iguanas we had been studying behind the chicken wire mesh enclosure were friendly girls that were ready for lunch. They pranced back and forth when Denisse unlocked the cage and laid the meal out for them. She even called the kids over to touch them, calling the iguanas by name- Bananas and ?. Then, she fielded what would turn out to be the first of our million questions for the day. She acted like she had never heard any of these questions before, but had a remarkably well thought out answer for everything. We felt like we were her only visitors and appreciated her rapt attention on what we were asking.

The trail yielded close up views of tortoises, birds, iguanas, monitors, and alligators. Not only a big old boy gator, but a 20” juvenile that was munching on what appeared to be a small squirrel, and a 4-5’ female- and about 4-5 little gators that could have passed for toy store novelties- if they didn’t move! Later we would find out that these guys were about 7 months old: this years babies. That sign about watching what was on the trail had me looking at my feet regularly, but now I was keenly aware of the inadequacy of this chain link fence with 3” gaps to corral these baby gators. I guess we had the same odds outside the fence as anywhere in Florida to see big or little alligators, we just hadn’t seen any in the wild yet, so the threat didn’t seem very real. The fence wasn’t a concern, with the gators all set back among the shore of the pond while remaining close enough to feel the stare of their beady eyes (or, were they sleeping?). As we were leaving the nature trail, a small coral snake poked its head out from the saw palmettos and started across in front of us. Until we jumped and squawked in disbelief- and it burst back under cover. You can’t say they didn’t warn us.
We arrived back inside for the venom program just a few minutes early and had a chance to get a close up look at the collection of poisonous frogs. I’ve said it before, but these little frogs- even miniature in one case- were perfect specimens. Brilliantly colored, sitting along their filtered water streams, on native flora in temperature and humidity controlled enclosures- they were all poster children for cheap plastic toys.
Right on time, 3 pm and the lab door swung open and a man dressed in khaki safari style shorts and a cool shirt began speaking immediately. His voice was animated but laced with the tempo of a well rehearsed speech that he probably gave 10 times a week.

He rattled off tidbits of info about the center, the reptiles, a brief story about their work- as he held up 2 pythons at shoulder level. Denisse, whom we had met earlier on the trail was at his side with a 2.5’ alligator with his snout considerately taped together. It was time to meet the animals, and our children generally couldn’t contain themselves. Turns out that the man is The Man that founded this center, and as he interacted with the kids his passion for sharing these animals and asking them as many questions as they were asking told more of his story. We were told that we’d have a chance to ask questions after the presentation, so we kept it to holding and passing around live animals that were not deadly at their current age.

There’s a bathroom in the next room, but not a handy hand/wash station in the room, and they weren’t overly concerned about washing before and after handling the animals- so we stood fixed in place as they assembled the snakes for the… extraction.
Starting off with small coral snakes, The Man’s deft ability to very intentionally grab these poisonous snakes was immediately obvious. ‘The Man’ is Carl Barden, and he would proceed to extract venom with his team mate Denisse from 3 of each specimen today- including cobras and rattlers. Big snakes. Toothy, aggressive snakes. The need to be precise was obvious, but the ability of this team to safely perform this procedure and work so closely, each of their hands exchanging places on the snake alternately holding and corralling and inserting the feeding tube and hooking the fangs on the vase and collecting the snake from its berth was mesmerizing. In my familiar world I might liken them to my dentist and hygienist- who also work seamlessly, both knowing the task at hand, both knowing exactly what comes next, both reading the other for cues about what needs to be done. It’s just that the dentist gets to drill teeth and take a few more risks, like Carl gets to extract the venom with its set of hazards; both my dentist and Carl probably have pretty good insurance.

During the course of the procedures, Carl and Denisse were obviously looking over each snake and performing routine maintenance like shed skin removal, feeding each snake a high protein special mix, even removed the eye caps from the Monocle Cobra (the shed skin covering over their eyes) that was left behind after shedding its skin.
After the extraction procedure ended, which had been accompanied by a recorded narration, the team emerged again and asked for questions from the group. We were ready for that- we already had a hundred questions. I started off with 3 or 4, questioning Carl’s experience, how and why he got into it etc. He became even more real as he told his story: introduced to snakes at an early age, he admired a snake expert and snake exhibitionist that would one day become Carls first paying customer for snake venom. He would over the next couple of decades continue to collect and study reptiles, earn a pertinent certificate and begin to build what would become this discovery center, although he admits he’s just a ‘farmer and factory worker’. Watching them handle the snakes, and considering they have to collect venom, feed, clean up after and maintain the facility for almost a thousand animals is staggering. With a staff of 3, plus a maintenance man and summer intern they presented one of the most professional, interesting stops on our trip. Denisse single handedly cares for the poisonous frogs, and Carl admits he’s just a snake guy- who’s been bit several times.

Carl conceded that he planted a garden this year, and actually is beginning to have hobbies outside of ‘this place’ gesturing all around him. Considering he’s worked so hard for so long including time as a commercial pilot to finance this family project, he probably deserves some time with plants that will not bite and kill him, so he can remain sharp for the next venom extraction.

The Reptile Discovery Center is near Daytona Beach in Deland Florida, at 2710 Big John Road. Contact them at -- or visit their website at reptilediscoverycenter.com to plan your trip there. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime chance to witness what everyone else at home will only ever see in pictures. Tell Carl (the Director), Denisse (Asst Director) and Ann (handles the front end) that we said ‘Hello’. They felt like friends when we left.
Written April 28, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Heather Wearstler
Canton, OH18 contributions
Family
My son (9) who's obsessed with herpetology saw Carl doing Vernon extractions on YouTube's Coyote Peterson's show Brave Wilderness and the Reptile Discovery Center was number one on our must-see list on our trip to Florida! Me, my mom and my two sons arrived around 11:20am, the woman at the counter gave us a friendly heads up that there were home school groups filling up the viewing room and we might want to come to the later showing. We took that opportunity to walk around their land to see the many animals they have on display outside (SO cool!) and we left to get some lunch nearby and let the kids play at a park called Freedom Park in DeLand. We returned before 3 for the extraction show that wasn't crowded. We loved their vast collection of snakes and reptiles - it was clean and the animals were easy for everyone to see. Carl and his wife brought out two non-venomous friendly snakes for everyone to hold and take pictures with as well as answer any of our many questions one on one. The venom extraction itself is something you've just gotta see for yourself, it was amazing!
Written August 9, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

perfectbrilliant
Orlando, FL23 contributions
Couples
Enjoyed seeing and handling the snakes. Very fun and informative. There are many snakes in cages on display and also a venomous snake venom extraction show.
Written February 9, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Bnblover1130
Florida85 contributions
Family
This place has some interesting snakes that we had never seen before. My son especially liked the black mamba. The highlight of the trip was watching the venom extractions. The rattlesnake and cobras were so cool. The man, Carl that was doing this was awesome! He was great with answering questions and was really friendly. We went here for our kids but I enjoyed watching the venom extraction as much as the kids and I’m not even a fan of snakes! The rattlesnake was rattling and I was on the edge of my seat watching. It was pretty wild to watch. We will be back!
Written August 11, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

cindymay
Heathrow, FL188 contributions
Family
Seeing the venom extraction was incredible. Impressed we saw so many snakes during it. Also got to hold a few. Know that they are closed till October 20 (check website) as of August 20 (tommorrow). Always good idea to call to check as longer drive from Orlando area but worth it.
Written August 19, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Teachermom222
4 contributions
Family
We visited with our three children 11 and under on a day they were doing a venom extraction. Before the extraction, two handlers come out and allow you to touch and even hold some of the gentler snakes. The extraction itself takes about half an hour and is interesting to watch. Had we come on an ordinary day, though, the $49 dollars we paid for admission for two adults and three children would not have been worth it. The grounds are very small as is the indoor exhibit of various snakes and lizards. It should also be noted that this place supplies snake venom to pharmaceutical companies, so keep in mind it IS a business, not a research facility or education facility.
Written April 17, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Lobstentia
Eustis, FL5 contributions
Family
This is a very memorable and interesting attraction. It's also very educational for both kids and adults. The facility is small and unremarkable but the reptiles scattered around on the short hiking trail outside and the snake demonstration inside is really worth a trip. As you gather in the small atrium you sit in folding bridge chairs and the docents bring out a variety of non-venomous snakes to view and even handle if you so choose. Following the natural history discussion and close-up snake viewing/handling - the snake venom extraction demonstration begins. A safe glass barrier protects you from the snakes and handlers. You watch as a variety of very venomous snakes are removed from their cubbies and placed on a central table to have their venom extracted. The King Cobra is very impressive when it opens it's "hood." The kids can squirm around and get really close to the glass. You can easily take pictures. After the demonstration there is a Q&A with the folks that do the venom extraction. This is a one-of-a-kind experience and definitely worth seeing- even if you don't like snakes.
Written December 1, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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