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Road Trip RAVE: Reptile Lagoon, South of the Border

This Road Trip RAVE goes hand-in-hand with my previous review of South of the Border in Hamer, South Carolina, but specifically covers South of the Border’s Reptile Lagoon attraction.

This post is not sponsored. It’s 100% honest opinion, just so we’re clear.

South Of The Border’s Reptile Lagoon

Looking for something a little different to do in the PeeDee region? I have a great family-friendly suggestion in northeastern South Carolina that’s probably not even on your radar!

Nighttime shot of the Reptile Lagoon's red neon signage and parking lot within the South of the Border complex in Hamer, South Carolina.

Welcome to the Reptile Lagoon! It’s America’s largest indoor reptile exhibit, and it’s located within the South of the Border complex in Hamer / Dillon, SC.

According to the S.O.B. website, the Reptile Lagoon is home to over 15 different crocodile species, including some in endangered status. It also promises snakes, turtles, and other “creepy crawlies.”

So, obviously, no good trip to South of the Border would be complete without a visit to the Lagoon, right? But honestly – as with most of our S.O.B. virgin (sturgeon!) experiences – we were a little skeptical at first. Clearly, the complex is dated. It feels a bit like a ghost town. How could this be more than just some over-glorified fish tanks?

Crocodile Rocking Is Something Shocking

Well, there are some fish tanks… and the first one we saw was full of gorgeous neon blue poison dart frogs. That gem is right up front by the counter in the lobby and gift shop area. We paid our admission to a really nice gentleman at this counter, and he sent us on our way. Off to a good start.

Side note: a portion of every admission ticket price goes to the Crocodile Conservation Institute. (Adults $8, kids $6.)

You enter the exhibit through a side door off the lobby. And when I say ‘exhibit,’ I’m talking about a really large warehouse space that’s been converted into a sprawling, sweltering indoor showroom. It’s warm and extremely humid. A glasses-fogger moment, for sure.

Once you cross the exhibit threshold, you’re on your own. This is a self-guided tour through an open-air environment.

And, as soon as you’re in, you’re experiencing a grown-ass alligator just a couple yards away.

(For a hot second, I thought that it was a fake and this whole thing was just some kitschy tourist trap practical joke, no lie!)

That feeling you get when your brain finally comprehends the proximity of your body to a dangerous behemoth that’s eyeballing the fresh meat walking toward his habitat… well, it’s eerie.

After this initial shock, I gathered my wits and realized that this Reptile Lagoon place is actually very serious business.

You can meander through this massive display at your leisure. The winding concrete path snakes around individual fenced habitats for each species of gator, croc, caiman, etc., offering unobstructed views so close to the creatures, you feel like you could reach right out and touch them.

(I would call this facility relatively wheelchair-friendly, too.)

Don’t Miss The Snakes!


#Snakes in the #reptile Lagoon at @South of the Border in Hamer, SC A very tiny sample of the snake population at #southoftheborder #reptilelagoon #sotb #snakes #roadsideattraction #rattlesnake #python

♬ Glowing Sea – Muspace Lofi

You’ll pass through a “cave” on your journey around the Lagoon, and you’d better be ready to face the serpents.

The cave is rather dim and ominous, lit only by the aquariums lining the walls on both sides of the pathway. These tanks are warm and humid, and the well-stocked snakes were quite active during our visit. We caught two in what looked like a fighting situation… Turns out, opposite of fighting!

South of the Border is home to over 50 snake species and each habitat truly lets you get up-close and personal. It’s genuinely creepy to stand face-to-face with a giant venomous danger noodle flicking that forked tongue as you make eye-contact.

I should mention that every tank in the exhibit is labeled by plaque with scientific species names, regional origin, status details and such, too.

Pythons, boas, vipers, rattlesnakes… just to name a few!

And just when you think you’ve seen enough nope ropes for one day, there’s a surprise bonus room toward the end of the journey with even more sneks! Tank after slithering tank: it’s the stuff of nightmares, kiddos.

But Wait, There’s More!

We can’t forget the aquarium room! This bright green corner of the Lagoon showcases smaller reptiles and turtles of all sizes in wet tanks. We especially enjoyed the sea turtle, who started swimming laps when we came near, as well as a giant snapper with a thick covering of moss on his shell.

Speaking of shells, we also met some giant tortoises gathering for lunch back out in the main exhibit.

The variety of animals at Reptile Lagoon is impressive, especially considering how everything is arranged all within this one building. I’m no expert on reptile care, but in my opinion the exhibits looked clean and adequate.

And yes, yes, I think we can all agree that wild animals are much lovelier in their natural habitats and not in a cage, etc. But for what it is, we’ve decided that Reptile Lagoon is a pretty legit place. My experience was definitely worth eight bucks, and yes, I plan to go back (and bring friends).

But what I’d really like to know is: how does Reptile Lagoon stay in business with little to no visitors? I can imagine the cost to feed and care for all the residents must be astronomical. Kudos to you for keeping the Lagoon flowing, despite the dried-up tourism. Your passion for these creatures has not gone unnoticed.