Just two weeks ago Mike and Maddy went to Crystal River to swim with manatees with Mary during her visit. It was at the very top of Mary's friend's recommended list of things to do in Florida. We were intrigued since we have never done it in the 15 years that we've lived down here. Turns out, they had an amazing experience! Mary and Maddy claimed it was one of the 'best days of their life' and Mike, Charlotte and Lizzie loved it too. I was at work that day so I couldn't wait to try it out for myself and Mike and Maddy couldn't wait to share the experience with me. And there's the Groupon...I hate to miss out on those great deals...:)
We headed out nice and early for the hour and a half drive over to Crystal River on the West Coast, north of Tampa. The City is situated around Kings Bay, which is spring-fed and so keeps a constant 72-degrees Fahrenheit temperature year round. Kings Bay is home to over 400 manatees during the winter when the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico cools, and is the only place in the United States where people can legally interact with them in their natural conditions without that interaction being viewed as harassment by law enforcement agencies.
Maddy was so excited to try out her new underwater camera...
Mike was worried I'd have a hard time getting into a wetsuit for the first time. I didn't have any trouble at all - if you can handle Spanx, you can handle anything :)
We saw a small group of manatees just as we got out on the boat and rockstar husband and daughter had no problem jumping right off the boat to take a closer look. Unfortunately the manatees swam off but at least we were all wet and broken in :)
The boats travel really slowly to avoid collisions with the manatees so we had loads of time to appreciate the beautiful scenery...
...then the anchor got stuck and someone had to volunteer to dive down and release it so that we wouldn't all starve to death....is there a hero aboard???
Patrick Duffy couldn't wait to get his batcape on and save the day. I was *secretly* impressed...
And then we went to Three Sisters Springs - where 400 manatees were hanging out just two weeks ago. And now there are none! Apparently, as the water in the Gulf of Mexico (which is just 9 miles away) heats up, the manatees leave for a richer food supply...so I didn't get to swim with manatees at all:( . Ah well, next time we go, we'll check the water temperature in the Gulf is lower than the Springs (which drives them back inland) and now we know that the main season is from November-March. Which helps.
Some of the people on the boat were almost angry which I thought was insane. Nature does it's own thing - which is kind of the point I think. And if we'd bothered to check Facebook or Wikipedia we would have known that they would be virtually all gone at this time of year. I know that Mike and Maddy were really dissappointed that I didn't get to share the experience that they had but I had a really nice day regardless. I loved just getting out on the water for a few hours and snorkling in the Springs was absolutely gorgeous. I can't wait to go back during the main season but today was my first time out there with my family. So, with or without manatees, it was a very special day for me:)