Today is National Manatee Day, so I am reposting this blog I wrote in 2014. We went snorkeling at Three Sisters Springs a manatee sanctuary near Homosassa Florida where we were staying with our friends Jeff and Anna. Jeff arranged the tour for us and suggested we go on the 6am launch with a boat from the Bird’s Underwater Inc.
Few snorkelers or kayakers are in the water at that hour and so the manatees are laid back and friendly. The West Indian manatees wait for the sun to come up before heading out to the Gulf of Mexico to eat seaweed.
It was very cold and we left the dock in darkness and fog with our knowledgeable and capable guide Donna. When we arrived at the springs only the two boats from our sanctuary with about 10 snorkelers each were there. And did we see manatees! How I wish I’d had a underwater camera. (The photos of manatee in this post were all taken from on board the boat after we’d been in the water for about ninety minutes.) One of the women snorkeling with us said this was her fourth visit to Three Sisters springs and she had never seen as many manatee on any previous dive.
They swam right under us. I’d think I was swimming over a high rock only to glance down and realize there was a manatee beneath me. Once I looked over and Dave had one manatee nipping at his ankles, another with its nose right up to his face mask, and he was petting a third beside him.
Donna told us if we were very still in the water the manatee would come right up to us and they did. I could pat their thick hide and feel the bristly hair on their bodies, touch their long whiskers, run my fingers along the scars on their skin, brush away the algae sticking to their backs, rub their bellies when they flipped over and see the seaweed in their mouths. Their flat wide tails brushed against my body and they nibbled on my hair.
The manatees have a sort of pre-historic quality about them and that makes sense because they’ve found fossils of manatee in Florida that are 45 million years old. Their nearest relative is the elephant.
We saw little babies and juveniles and huge adult manatees We saw mothers nursing their babies and adults mating. We didn’t realize how cold we were after all that time in the water till we got on board and were just shaking. The manatee were so amazing you didn’t even think about being cold. Once Dave had his wet suit off and his clothes back on he stood out in the sun at the back of the boat to warm up. As we left the Three Sisters Spring area about ten new boats had arrived with dozens and dozens of snorkelers. Kayaks were beginning to fill up the cove. The manatee wanting to escape from all the commotion were heading out to sea in large numbers and away from the spring area. I was so glad we’d come early before so many of the manatee left the cove.
Swimming with the manatee was a great experience. I was a little apprehensive and scared about it before hand but the manatee were so gentle and it was such a thrill to get up so close to such intriguing sea creatures.
Other encounters with interesting creatures are described in these posts……….