In many zoos around the country, reptiles are relegated to a single building in the back corner. True, many take the time to see the snakes, gators, and lizards housed here, but it’s often an afterthought to the main attractions like the big cats, elephants, and other popular animals.
However, at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, reptiles are the star attraction.
Begun in 1964, Reptiland has grown to over 75 species and 2,000 total animals. When I asked founder Clyde Peeling why reptiles, his response was quite simple: “Because they are my passion.”
Walking through the grounds of Reptiland, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the facilities. Peeling was quick to point out that they are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, one of only eight zoos in Pennsylvania that meet that standard.
There are five main areas to Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland.
Walking around the park clockwise, the first area you’ll come to is a small number of outdoor enclosures featuring several varieties of turtles and tortoises. The most popular enclosure houses three Galápagos tortoises. These are some of the largest tortoises in the world and are quite fascinating to see in person.
Next to the Galápagos tortoises is the Program Center. Here, shows are held five times a day and feature a zookeeper telling a bit about the animals at the park, along with a few special friends. I had the chance to see “The Ruling Reptiles” during my time at the park, and I really enjoyed the 30-minute show. While it was designed with kids in mind, I was still entertained by the show and was really excited to touch a small crocodile at the end!
The second area of the park is the Butterfly Garden. While it does seem a bit out of place, given the reptile theme, it’s still fun to walk in this greenhouse and see butterflies all around you. They even hatch their own butterflies in the garden, giving visitors a great chance to see what they look like in different stages of their lives. It’s worth noting, that the Butterfly Garden is closed during the colder months of the year.
Next, the tour goes into the Reptile and Amphibian Gallery. In many ways, this is a typical reptile house you’d find at any other zoo. A variety of animals are contained within the building, including frogs, snakes, and even small crocodiles.
The snakes were interesting for their variety. In addition to having some of the most well-known snakes like the black mamba or the anaconda, the area also included snakes you might see while hiking in Pennsylvania, such as the timber rattlesnake and the copperhead.
Also inside the Reptile and Amphibian Gallery are the zoo’s alligators. The two alligators are housed in a nice enclosure that features a large viewing area, ensuring you’ll get a great view no matter how crowded Reptiland is.
Three times a day, there are programs here that tell you a bit more about the alligators. While there is no set feeding schedule, you might be able to see the alligators fed if you are lucky.
The fourth area of the park, the Island Giants exhibit, is home to the Aldabra tortoises and Komodo dragons. These animals are unique in that they both are very large and confined to a very small natural habitat. The Aldabra tortoises are one of the world’s largest tortoise species and are primarily found on one island in the Indian Ocean. While not as well-known as the Galápagos tortoises, they are just as fascinating to watch.
In my opinion, the Komodo dragons are the real star of Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland. Komodo dragons are relatively uncommon in zoos, and there is only one other zoo in Pennsylvania that has them (the Pittsburgh Zoo). During my visit, only one of the dragons was in the showcase, but it was still interesting to watch this amazing creature move around its enclosure.
The Island Giants exhibit is home to animal talks twice a day.
The last section of Reptiland is the most curious. Here, animatronic dinosaurs move and roar as you walk along the paths of the Dinosaurs Come to Life exhibit. The goal here is to teach people about the reptiles that used to walk the earth, and it is well done with realistic dinosaurs and great signage. If I’m being honest, I found this section to be a bit strange, but I can imagine that many kids would find it fascinating.
It’s worth noting, that many of the animatronics are only on display during the warmer months, so make sure to check ahead if that is important to you.
Truthfully, Reptiland isn’t very large. However, I would say that it’s a case of quality over quantity. The collection of animals present at Reptiland rivals the reptile and amphibian collections at even the largest zoos. If you are a big fan of reptiles or are looking for a great activity for the whole family near Williamsport, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland.
Note: My visit to Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland was hosted by the zoo. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland
Hours: Daily: 10am-5pm
Cost: Adults: $16, Children: $14
Address: 18628 US-15