Swimmin' with the manatees
Trip Start Oct 28, 2010
4Trip End Oct 31, 2010
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A little about manatees: They are sometimes know as sea cows. They are mammals that have to breathe fresh air. When sleeping they get a breath about ever 20 minutes, and when swimming and playing they get a breathe about every 3-5 minutes. They spend 6-8 hours per day munching away on sea grass. They can only survive in water warmer than 68 degrees. In the winter, the Gulf of Mexico drops below this level, so manatees gather near powerplants, or in spring fed water. Crystal River is spring fed by the Three Sisters Springs, and King Spring. The water is 72 degrees year round. Right now there are around 80 manatees in the springs, but by late December this will be up to 400 manatees. People are allowed to get in and swim with the manatees year around, but from Nov. 15th to March 15th there are a few areas that are blocked off as sanctuaries. You have to leave the manatees alone in these areas.
We were in the boat for almost thirty minutes before we finally saw two manatees
We exited back onto the boat, and shortly after found a different mother with baby. They were more curious and hung around for longer than the first couple. I was able to touch the mom, and pet her. She even rolled over on her back like you would expect from a dog so I could rub her belly. The mother had algae growing on her back. If you have ever felt an elephant, that is what a manatee feels like, not smooth and slick like a dolphin.
We went to King Spring and saw many large fish including sheephead and mullet, but no manatees in this area. There was another friendly manatee, but our three hours were up and even though the guide offered to stay so we could play with another one we were cold and called it quits. We had a great time and would do it again even though the water felt cold. I think we would go in the hotter part of the year.
We drove back, ate leftover pizza, and took a nap. In the afternoon we went to Pine Island. This is a very nice beach, and it is only $5 for a parking pass. It was low tide, so we walked our hundreds of meters but never got more than knee deep. There were lots of hermit crabs, crabs, horseshoe craps, fish47, and seagulls. We stayed until sunset at 6:47. We got some good sunset pictures, then went back to get showered for dinner. We ate at Beef O'Brady's and it was a cool Sports Pub.