Manatee Madness in Florida

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Though this happened almost a year ago, I thought what better way to reminisce over my last trip to the sunny south than with a blog post! I first came across this possibility on one of my favourite travel blogs, Alex in Wanderland. She wrote a post on her first experience snorkelling with manatees. Knowing I would be travelling to Florida that year, I quickly read through her post, soaking up as much information as I could, along with rocking over her fabulous underwater photographs (a stream in the photography world I still had yet to discover at that point in time). After further research, a purchase of a low-end underwater camera, along with coaxing my father into being a great adventurer with me, I signed up for one of the most amazing and natural experiences Florida had to offer.

It may have been last February when I first took on this adventure, but I remember the details as if it all happened yesterday:

On our third day of our trip, we woke up bright and early to drive to Crystal River, located over on the west coast of Florida. Though it took us three hours to drive there from Titusville, the drive was well worth the opportunity to go snorkelling with manatees! The experience was absolutely amazing! We went with the company Crystal Lodge Dive Center and they took us out to two locations. The first location was just a little inlet where there were a few hot springs for manatees to hang around. The problem with this spot though was the water was incredibly murky, making it nearly impossible to see anything. I could not even see my own hand in front of my face clearly. This not only made it hard to scout out manatees, but also not being able to see a manatee approaching you was a very intimidating thought. My dad got side-swiped by one and freaked, which I must say was a little entertaining (sorry Dad), but was enough for me to head out of the water in hope for some clearer circumstances. After not being able to see any swimming manatees, our tour operator took us to the Three Sisters Springs. I wish this was our first and only stop on the whole tour, because the water alone could have kept me there for hours on end.

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You could see several feet in front of you with the water being so pristine. You had to swim up a channel against the current to get inside the springs, so by following right behind my Dad, we worked our way up and into the springs’ opening. As we floated for a moment to catch our breaths, two manatees started swimming our way….a momma and a baby. Luckily, my dad was able to capture the moment with my camera! We spent about 40 minutes in the springs just floating and observing the manatees. We actually learned that it is illegal to touch them. It is considered harassment if you do. However, if a manatee approaches you and touches you, then it is fair game you can interact with them. We were told that if you snap your fingers under water, this is a way to interest a manatee to come and see you, but this did not work for my dad or myself.

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Though these animals are herbivores and have no preys, they are greatly endangered, mainly due to being continually hit by boat propellers in the water. Seeing these beautiful creatures up close and personal is so completely different than spotting them above water. I will admit, I was a little terrified getting into the water with them, but after some time just floating and coasting along their sides, as weird as it may sound, you begin to feel like you are able to connect and understand these mammals just a little bit better.

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Have you ever swam with manatees?

What other animal interactions have you experienced that should be next on my bucket list?

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