Monday, February 27, 2012

Swimming with The Manatees of Florida

What an incredible trip to swim with the Manatees of Tampa Florida lead by the amazing naturalist Kim Powell and Blue Water Ventures.

We arrived on Tuesday 2/14, Valentine's Day, in Tampa and took a 1 1/2 hour van ride to Crystal River. It was my first trip to the great state of Florida and I was surprised to see out of the plane window pools of water everywhere, adjacent to houses and industry the same way way you see strip-malls from the plane window when touching down in Los Angeles. If you are an ecology geek like me, it is exciting to realize you are entering an entirely new ecosystem. The weather was 70's and balmy even in February. A welcome change from the Bay Area in California. We stayed in a lovely house on the river and watched the sun go down over the water of the river excited about things to come.

On Wednesday we woke up as early as you can get a an unruly bunch like us out of bed and hopped in a boat from the folks down at the Plantation Dive Shop. We were on the water by 9:30, a little late, but a good try. We headed over to the Crystal River Natural Wildlife Refuge Three Sisters Springs.

It is an incredible experience to be this close to these amazing creatures. If you do go, please remember to be respectful and follow all of the rules around how to interact with them and use common sense. Never dive down to touch them, let them come to you. If you do snorkel in, it is shallow, remember not to let your feet touch the bottom!

You can snorkel into Three Sisters or kayak in. Even by kayak, they can be curious and come up for a little pat...

Curious one a the surface for a pat from a kayak.

I want to give a big shout out to these guys, the folks at Manatee Watch for being out there and making sure that we can continue to have this incredible experience by educating and helping to enforce the interaction guidelines.

I love this shot ... just decided to roll over and take a quick nap:

Just decided to roll over for a nap...

The bird watching was fantastic, on just our first day, we were able to see American coots,
a Black-crown Night Heron, the Great Heron, Lesser Scaups, American Coots, a Bald Eagle, and the Snake Bird.

On day two, Thursday, we boated around the waterways in the morning, and saw Ospreys, the Double-crested Cormorant, White Ibis, and a Wood Stork. Check out this video for some things you might not know about Vultures:

We got a great view of the Florida Soft Shell Turtle:

On Friday, we took a ride down the Homosassa River with Captain Tracy of Native Vacations, and were able to interact with the Manatees there. The water was much deeper for a different experience with the Manatees. We were lucky enough to catch quite a few in an Estrous herd.

That afternoon, we snorkled in Silver Glen Springs which was gorgeous and we saw the Florida Gar: Florida Gar.

and the Mozambique Talapia which makes these interesting depressions in which to lay it's eggs.

On Saturday we headed to the Ocala National Forest where we canoed down Juniper Springs. The Cyprus trees were incredible:

As was this view of the American Alligator:


  1. Hey Step

    Thanks for putting this together! You really captured the essence of the trip!

  2. Zembya MatamorosMarch 8, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    Hi Stepanie,

    Thank you so much for sharing... it looks amazing!
    I'd love to go with you guys next time.