Say “hello” to our little friend!

We’re a little late in posting but I wanted to get the pictures up from our encounter with the manatees! These large, wonderfully tame sea mammals live along the Florida and Gulf Coast coastline. Also called the “sea cow” (never call Lisa that!), they are vegetarians and have no natural predators. Unfortunately they were on the endangered species list (due to humans) but they’ve been downgraded to “threatened” this year, which is good news! They are mostly not scared of people unless you do something threatening, like make loud noises or chase them. You can swim right next to them and they won’t harm you.

Our dive group with new friends from Southern Illinois

Jim and Lisa went on a tour with Fun2Dive in Crystal Springs, FL. It was a great outfit. They educated us with a Manatee Manners video, outfitted us with wetsuits and drove us out to Crystal Springs, where fresh water flows into King’s Bay at a constant 72 degrees, year-round. The manatees like it because it’s warm. So did we! The last few days (before were got here) it was even warmer but since we brought clouds with us, the manatees were coming back home to the warm springs.  Good news for us because that’s where we found them!

We spotted our first manatees in the sanctuary, but boats aren’t allowed in there, so we just tracked a mom and her baby for awhile. Then we found three manatees in a little canal that was bordered by houses. We silently slipped into the water so we didn’t scare them and our group just floated along as the little family grazed on lakeweed. The entire bay is freshwater so it was fun to follow along. The water was warmer than the air!

We got up into the boat to check in on another little family further in the bay. We went in and hung out with a juvenile male who was so patient with us. There were other boats around and we’re sure it can be overwhelming for the big guys. We would highly recommend spending a few extra bucks and get a private or semi-private tour like we did. You wanna be with a group that’s quiet and respectful, one that won’t scare off the manatees or stir up the shallow water, which wrecks visibility in the water.

We would also recommend that you bring a waterproof camera or you can buy the pictures the guide takes, like we did. We accidentally left our GoPro at home but our guide took some great pics that we got on a thumb drive for less than the cost of buying another camera (we checked!)

We were sad when it was time to leave our new underwater friends. We’ve come to learn to appreciate these gentle giants. If you have the opportunity to swim with the manatees, we would recommend it. If not, hopefully you can see them from time to time around the Florida and Gulf Coast. Be kind to them, they deserve it!

It was COLD out of the water, so we warmed up with the best cup of hot cocoa we’ve ever had. (You can’t see how much we’re shivering!)

The rest of the day was almost anti-climatic after hanging with the manatees. We dried off, warmed up with a hot breakfast in a local diner, then headed south toward Dave’s place near Ft Myers, FL. On the way we stopped by Clearwater Beach, which had even whiter sand than Panama and Mexico Beaches! It was so fine, like silt. We are sure it would be amazingly bright on a sunny day.

We’ve definitely entered the land of bridges. Even though we’ve been on the long bridges of the Keys before, Lisa had never seen a sign that says “Long Bridge Ahead; Check Gas”. We knew we were in for a long drive. The Sunshine Skyway bridge is over 4 miles long and replaced one that collapsed in 1980 when a freighter accidentally ran into during a microburst storm. It’s quite the drive and gets us ready for the Florida Keys later this week. However, we get to stay with Dave and Bunny for a few days, regrouping and doing laundry and just vacationing for awhile.

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