Currituck County native Paul DiDario always loved reptiles.
Much to his mother Mary's dismay, he kept several of them in their family home in Corolla until she convinced him to move his reptilian roommates into an old house on Caratoke Highway.
The house built in 1839 was the former mainland location of her Eden Day Spa & Salon. Since July 6, 2017, it has been transformed into a home for pythons, boas, monitors, geckos, tegus and poison dart frogs.
“I always dreamed of opening something like this,” Paul says.
Paul launched OBX Lizard Land with an impressive 25 reptiles. He’s continued to add to his collection by finding cold-blooded creatures on Craig’s List and driving as far as Washington D.C. to pick them up. Some of them were in pretty bad shape, particularly a snake named Mady.
“She was emaciated and I wasn’t sure she was going to make it. I had to help her eat,” Paul says. Little did he know the role Mady would play in his future.
One day, while shopping at a pet store in Virginia, Paul and Mady ran into Andreana "Andi" Hopkins. Andi and Mady had an instant connection, and Paul was ecstatic to find someone to bond with over a love of exotic pets.
"Mady the Matchmaker" saw her two favorite humans marry in October 2018.
When not working as a freelance photographer for real estate companies on the Outer Banks, Andi helps run OBX Lizard Land and is their ‘media guru.’
Over the years, Paul’s expanded his business from simply displaying reptiles, to breeding them. After learning all he could from a breeder friend, OBX Lizard Land recently welcomed their first captivity-bred lizard. He plans on selling the animals they breed in hopes that it deters people from taking reptiles out of their natural habitats.
The facility currently displays 45 reptiles and a couple of amphibians. He feels very fortunate in having an exotic animal vet, Dr. Tony Poutous, of Midway Veterinary Hospital in Chesapeake, less than an hour away. “He’s one of the few exotic animal and avian vets in Virginia,” Paul said.
What does the future hold for OBX Lizard Land? A lot!
Paul and Andi are looking to add almost 3,000 square feet to their property. That way they can give the reptiles larger environments and add to the overall experience.
As the business grows, so does the need for employees. Paul will be adding new staff, perhaps as early as next year.
“A family drove over from Corolla and it took them an hour and twenty minutes to get here," Paul said. "The bridge would double, maybe quadruple, people visiting.”
Once the bridge is done, the ride for those customers will be closer to 30 minutes.
For what started as a hobby in his bedroom, Paul has grown OBX Lizard Land into a full-service discount pet store, zoo, and education center. The majority of his business income comes from admissions to the family-friendly reptarium.
“I sell the animal, the environment, supplies and food for a fraction of what a big box store would cost. People can see if this [owning an exotic pet] is right for them without spending too much.”
On the education side, OBX Lizard Land visits schools, libraries, birthday parties, and other events. Only a select, “human-friendly,” few of his reptiles are available for these excursions.
“I am providing an experience,” Paul says, “It’s working really well.”
OBX Lizard Land recently added t-shirts for sale with their Tegu, Moby featured as the mascot.
All the details about visiting OBX Lizard Land or booking parties, presentations or field trips can be found on their website.
OBX Lizard Land is located at 2815 Caratoke Highway.