Florida Trip – the Manatees!

I flew into Florida last Friday and stayed with Rich’s cousin, John and Kim. They were such gracious hosts as I showed up on their doorstep at near 1 a.m. We spent Saturday morning catching up before I went to the airport to pick up Michelle. She told me years ago that she wrote a report about manatees when she was in the 3rd grade and has loved them ever since. She had never seen one live before. I thought we should change that. We have been talking about this trip for several months now. We decided that the depths of winter would be the best time to get away from the snowy midwest and to reconnect with one another after the tough parts of the holiday season. We went to Clearwater Marina and spent some time soaking in the sun and walking in the sand and getting our feet wet in the surf. We then went on a boat to watch the dolphins play and the sun set in the gulf. I have some photos of that on my good camera, which will come later. We then drove up to Crystal River, where we stayed in an air bnb for two nights. It is a cute little town, and we had a great time eating at local eateries and going to art galleries to see local artwork. On Sunday, we got up and in 42 degree weather, went kayaking in a clear plastic kayak. It was a tandem kayak, so Michelle was in the front and I was in the back. We could see the fauna in the water underneath us as we paddled around Kings Bay. We found some manatees pretty quickly. That afternoon we then went snorkeling with the manatees. I took some photos but the guide in the water with us had a much better view and a much better camera. I bought those photos she took. I am not a good underwater photographer. We also went to the TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Tampa a few days later, where there were dozens of manatees (including babies) in a small bay. They discharge clean, warm water and the manatees love to come in there and warm up. Anyhow, here are some of the manatee photos from our three manatee experiences. Michelle and I were happy that we missed the Manatee Festival (which is going on right now). The winter is the manatee season…and we have decided that we love the phrase, “When life gets stressful, just relax and pretend you are a manatee.” Fun fact: they are huge and incredibly docile creatures. They don’t have an amygdala…the part of your brain that controls your emotions. They don’t get overly upset about anything. They are big swimming potatoes. I actually almost ran right into one, because I thought it was a sea wall. It was a barnacle covered manatee. They also have hair…about 2 inches long. If you ever get the chance to visit them….do it!

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