Snorkel with Manatees
If you are in Florida between November and March then that is the time when manatees come to the inland waters to enjoy the warmer climate. Earlier this year we went to see them at Blue Springs where we were able to observe them from viewing platforms while they rested in the crystal clear water. When we went back to Florida in November one of our friends was really keen to be able to swim with manatees and so was delighted to find a company that offered the chance to Snorkel With Manatees over at a place called Homosassa near Crystal Springs.
We phoned and reserved our places in advance, which I would totally recommend you do as it is too far to go without a reservation. The trip over by car was very pleasant as it took us north of Orlando near to the Florida Turnpike where the traffic was light and nearly all the journey was through countryside. When we found the place we checked in with them, watched a safety video which also went through the do's and don'ts of what you should do when in the water with the manatees. As very docile, gentle creatures you have to be very carfeful that you don't disturb them. In the water we were all given a "noodle float" so that we could support ourselves without kicking and splashing our legs. After the video we were each lent a wet suit, which was included in the price, and which we all changed into at the office. You would of course take swimming costumes with you to wear under the wetsuits. Then we got back into our own car and followed the skipper of the boat in his car down to where the boat was docked.
The trip from the mooring to where the skipper hoped we would see some manatees was about 30 minutes down river and what a beautiful ride it was! Beautiful houses line the river banks and we saw some great wildlife such as osprey. There is even a little island next to where the boat was moored called Monkey Island on which we saw about 15 monkeys.
When we got to the spot where there were some manatees, the boat stopped. At first we enjoyed watching then from the deck, then we were given a snorkel and mask each and carefully got into the water and floated over towards them. Everything is very well controlled with the manatees well- being of key importance and there are even rangers who came round on a patrol boat to make sure that the manatees were not being distressed or even disturbed in anyway. We were able to get up close to about 6 of them and I didn't feel they even knew we were there. It was a wonderful and memorable experience and one of the top highlights of our holiday.
Before we set off for the boat we had pooped across the road to a cafe to buy and coffee and a takeaway sandwich each. We called back in after the boat trip for another coffee and we were so glad we did. The cafe is part of The Olde Mill House Gallery and Printing Museum and the owner was one of the most interesting and welcoming men we have met. He showed us round the museum, which was of great interest to us especially as my Dad and Grandad had been printers and two of our friends with us worked in printing and graphic design. The owner is a Blues singer and his music was playing on a CD in the cafe and we all ended up chatting to him about his music and buying copies of his CD. I would really recommend calling into this Museum and cafe. It was a great end to a fantastic day out.