Photos courtesy of Ryan Prouty

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Best Fun

Today was the day we have been waiting for. Just before my birthday, there was a special on an excursion to swim with manatees. We were in the middle of soccer season and  had games each Saturday morning, so we had to wait to go until the season was over. Then we had to work around schedules a bit more and finally got to have our swim today. Paul and the kids were not sure they were very excited about what I signed them up for since they had to get up at 5 AM on a Saturday morning. We had to drive to a river 2 1/2 hours away and they were not very thrilled this morning. There was a bit of grumbling in the van this morning. Paul was even less sure about it after we ended up on a toll road and spent about $10 just for the privilege of driving to the dive center. We got all the kids into wet suits (and were sweating by the time that task was accomplished), watched a video teaching us how to behave around these giant animals since they are an endangered species. We discovered today that the average manatee is 12 feet long and 1,200 pounds.  Its a good thing too because when everyone is gathering around trying to touch one, there is plenty of manatee to go around! Here we are loading up on the pontoon boat:

 We spotted a moma and her baby right away and Riley and Holden were the first ones in the water and got to see and touch them, but they took off quickly. We followed them for a bit, but no one else could even get a glimpse of them because the water was VERY murky. They ran away and we had to head back to the boat to try again.  Here is the second one we saw.
 This time only about half of us ended up in the water before it bolted. Back on the boat and then some trolling around for about 45 minutes. We couldn't seem to find anymore manatee. But our patience paid off and we did find more. So it was back into the water.  Which was frigid by the way. It stole your breath every time we got in. But we adjusted pretty quickly since out only exposed skin was our hands, feet, necks and heads.
 Alayna stayed ready between trips in and out of the water:

Paul had fun with the underwater camera while I took the above water pictures. Riley is a bit difficult to recognize:

 He used a lifjacket because we were snorkeling in only about three feet of water and only a few inches above all the kelp/seaweed/algae/yucky stuff on the river bottom. By providence, we found a mama and baby again and they were closer to the spring part of the river and the water was MUCH clearerer that the first two places we got in.
 They let us swim with them and scratch their backs while the mama fed off the bottom and the baby swam alongside. It was pretty amazing.

 That's Jo and I in case you couldn't tell.
 And that's the baby on the left of the mama:
 The little one went up for air much more often than mama did

By the time it was all over, we probably swam with the manatees for 30 minutes. They would just swim around us, graze along the bottom a while, check us out a while and repeat. It was pretty amazing to have them change directions suddenly and swim directly underneath you brushing all along your underbelly! I think each of us experienced that. I think they would have hung out with us all day, but we were all ready to head back to the boat after that long. We each got our fill of petting, touching and scratching.
 The drive home proved too boring for them:
Each of them decided it was totally worth the loss of sleep and that they would love to do it again. If you get the chance, we highly recommend this trip!


The Blackley Tribe said...

seriously...I am so jealous! I LOVE manatees! Our spare change is now reserved for this trip! I'm glad you were able to convince everyone to go along with you, it looks like it was amazing!

Cindy and company said...

Whoo Hoo! What a great experience! Next time we are FL we are definately going to try this. Good to see you again!

Anonymous said...

What fun and a wonderful experience for everyone. I'm sure the mammals had a great time too. Love to you all.
G. & P. P.