When receiving a text out of the blue inviting you to “Swim with the Manatee” it gives one pause to reflect on the turn of phrase. It sounds a bit like, “Swim with the fishes”, an adventure from which the traveler doesn’t generally return. For one with a fear of alligators, sharks, and other creepy critters that dwell in the shallows and deeps, it is also a time to reflect on how much you trust those giving the invite.
Since it was from one of The Weird Review photographers who wants to shoot Mardi Gras in a couple weeks and his daughter, it seemed a good bet that he would be planning on all parties surviving. Also, the invite was from Zoe who had been on the snorkeling tour before.
It was a cold day and the captain of the boat kept the plastic windows shut to protect the passengers from the wind during the trip upriver to the springs area where the Manatee went for warmth.
It seemed prudent to permit the other snorkelers to have the privilege of getting the first crack at jumping into the water. Not that there was a concern there might be gators or sharks in the water, but there didn’t seem to be any. After the initial shock of the jump into the water, and a swim upstream to the springs area, it was actually quite comfortable and significantly warmer than the ambient temperature of the air. Due to the unusual cold this year, the Manatee are clustering much closer to the springs and other warmer areas which results in an amazing opportunity to swim with the Manatee this year.
The Manatee are used to people visiting them in their natural habitat so when you visit you are a guest in their home. Before taking the tour you are required to watch a video and learn what you can and cannot do while visiting the Manatee winter home. You are not allowed to swim over them, chase them, follow them to the bottom or otherwise molest them. They do like to have their bellies rubbed though, and will swim up to you for you to rub them. Right now there are more Manatee at the warm springs than there are humans to rub their bellies so you may find yourself screaming like a girl when you first realize you are surrounded (not that anyone did this of course!) but you soon find them to be gentle and friendly beings who mean you no harm and are just looking for a friendly pat.
For a first time snorkeler, there is an initial fear of what is beneath the surface, but once you get down to it, it becomes a peaceful experience as the sounds of the world and the possibility of the cell phone ringing fade and the wonders of the water weigh in. If you can get to the Crystal River area while it is yet winter, stop by the Crystal River Watersports at 2380 N. Suncoast Blvd in Crystal River, Florida for an awesome experience! (You might want to call them for reservations – (352) 795-7033)
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