Swimmin' with the manatees

Trip Start Oct 28, 2010
Trip End Oct 31, 2010

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Where I stayed
Spring Hill, FL

Flag of United States  , Florida
Friday, October 29, 2010

We had to leave very early for our 6:15 am manatee tour.  We drove from Spring Hill to Crystal River, FL which was a 50 minute ride.  Basically we just traveled straight north on Highway 19.  We arrived at River Ventures when it was still dark.  They offer a 3 hour manatee tour for $45 which included hot chocolate, coffee, donuts, mask, fins, snorkel, wetsuit, and of course to boat with guide to actually go find the manatees.  This is a very good deal for everything that you get.  We shopped around the internet and this was the best deal for what you got. We got into the wetsuits and watched a video that the Department of fish and wildlife deem to be manditory.  There were only four of us on the tour.  Miles and myself, along with two sisters from Chicago.  It was still dark when we got on the boat.  We had to get the safetly instructions....and information about the toilet.  In my opinion, it shouldn't really count as having a bathroom on the boat. The boat was basically a pontoon boat with bench seating along both sides.  The "bathroom" was a little porta-potty, completely exposed with no curtain, no door, no nothing.  I later found out that normally there is a curtain, and it is just for emergency, but this was a new boat that had not had the curtain installed yet. Our captain jokingly informed us that he recommeded just peeing in the wetsuits as it would warm us up.  When scuba diving in Bonaire this was common as we were in the water so long and got so chilled and this did seem to help. 
    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.  It was a mother with an older baby (around two years old).  Another boat with two tourists also spotted then, so the six tourists and two guides were in the water.  The mom and the baby got separated by a bigger distance than normal so we could hear a squeeking noise they were using to communicate.  They were a little shy, but I was able to touch the baby.  They left and went on down the river.  Since we were in the water, we swam through the narrow opening to the Three Sisters Springs.  Boats can not go through, only snorkelers and manatees.  There weren't any manatees back there, but the water was VERY clear so everything looked pretty cool.  
    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. 
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K Morse on

Wonderful pictures. Hope you're having fun

K Morse on

Oh forgot, You drove right by my sisters. She lives right off 19 between Tarpon Springs & Palm Harbor.

Mom on

Enjoyed the pics and the story. Thanks! Glad you guys had a great time!

Capt. Chris on

Sorry about the "bathroom". You were on our newest boat and we didn't have the curtain installed yet. Our boats do have wrap around curtains that give privacy when using the facilities (porta potty), we do not practice calling this a bathroom on our website or on the phone when taking reservations because as you stated , it is a porta potty. SOme operators call it a bathroom but all of the boats out here use the same type of set up. As for the peeing in your wetsuit...... I will talk to all of the captains about that, not a very professional comment, hope he made it in a joking manner.

Anyhow, thanks for the review and we are glad that you had a good time. Hope you will return sometime in the future, I promise you there will be a curtain :)

Capt. Chris

sciencefun on

I was completely unaware that anyone would be reading this aside from our friends and family. I wasn't trying to be mean, just a little comic relief. I will edit the post so that it does not negatively reflect on you. We had a great time.

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