Swimming with the Manatees

Last week I got the humbling experience to go snorkeling with some manatees. My brother-in-law, Joe, my sisters-in-law, Heather and Tammie, my father-in-law, and Lily accompanied me on the excursion to try and find the “swimming potatoes”. Manatees are gentle creatures but very large. They can be very fast considering their size. I took a point-and-shoot underwater camera with me and struggled in the silty water to catch something other than tails. We saw several in the springs we were swimming in. The water is about 72 degrees all year round, so they had us wear 5 mm wet suits. We had snorkels and pool noodles to keep us on the surface so as not to bother them. The water was 4-6 feet deep in most areas. This time of year there aren’t a lot of manatees in the area as they are out in the ocean. In the winter time, there are hundreds….so we will be back in the winter! This is only about a 1.5 – 2 hour drive north from the Tampa area. My first go with the waterproof camera was not the best. I hope to be able to do this again this winter and get better results. I had a bad snorkeling experience about 10 years ago and now have a mini panic attack when I am attempting to snorkel…especially if I have fins on and cannot touch the bottom and have to enter from a boat. However, I was a woman on a mission and I had a pool noodle….which took a lot of the worry out of me. Lily did great! Michelle loves manatees. She has since she was in elementary school. Joe used to tell me about how much she loved them. I was DETERMINED to get a good photo of one for her. My 2nd photo of the swim was the one. A large manatee started to head to the surface to breathe (they do this every 5 minutes or so) and it came right up next to me….like inches from my face. I actually have a shot that is all whiskers and pores because it was THAT CLOSE. Joe thought it had kissed me. It was pretty darn close. Anyhow, after this swim, I, too, have an affinity for manatees and am determined to bring Michelle to Florida with me this winter to do this again. Maybe have a manatee weekend….where we can snorkel with them…..do a clear kayak ride amongst them….get a photo with her and a manatee. I think our Joe would love to see that happen for the both of us.

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