Swim with the manatees and fish

I grew up in sunny South Florida, so I took manatees for granted because of course everyone would have seen a manatee, who wouldn’t they?

Hence I was surprised to see manatees on the list of “required” viewing even though they are an endangered species. Recently Florida estimated about 10,000 manatees which means it at least doubled from 1996 when it was about 5000.

Any time you went out on the water, especially if you went out on a boat, seeing a manatee was always a possibility. Unfortunately manatees do not move very fast (around 5 mph is cruising speed for a manatee) so any boat could easily hurt them and tear up their skin. They eventually put additional speed limits just for areas where there were manatees, sort of like a school zone.

I remember seeing them several times during educational demonstrations when we were on the very border of their habitat in shallow water and we could see them. Sometimes we would go to basically rehabilitation facilities on field trips. Usually these manatees had recently been injured and were about to be released right back into the wild.

However I wondered if that would even count as being in their natural habitat so when I went down to do my skydive, I knew I was getting places a little early, so I wanted to see what else there was to do in Tampa. I looked on Groupon and found a few places offering manatee dives. Hmmm… Interesting idea! I never thought to do that.

So I signed up with Manatee Tour and Dive.

This ended up being my first time in a wetsuit as well as my first time snorkling as well as my first time being in open water. My mother never let me snorkel and never go into a river or other water like that.

Our first stop was a spring called “Jurassic” where we saw a sleeping manatee and lots and lots of fish.

Then we started looking around for more. We went to “Three Sisters” although no manatees there (only one in the sanctuary), there were lots of kayaks and people who kept hitting me with their paddles. And lots of fish.

We kept looking for more, although we had a manatee find US and it hit the boat.

We saw several backs as they came up to breathe, but they were in not so good areas for us to swim in.

We did see another who came up to the boat, but by the time I got there someone had accidentally kicked the manatee who bolted. Then they tried to track another one down but at a certain point, I was too tired to go back out. We also did see the dolphins jumping though!

Even though the swim with the manatees ended up being a mostly swim with the fishes issue, we did get to see a manatee!

Really though, the captain, who wasn’t too bad looking, said the main reason was probably the huge amount of people and the warm weather was probably driving the manatees out to eat.

Still not a terrible waste of $16 for 3+ hours of entertainment although man was that water cold!

Plus this proved my grandmother and mother wrong.

1) There is anti-fog things out there for masks
2) What she gave me once was not a real snorkel and mask as a proper snorkel mask will completely cover your nose forcing you to breath through your mouth
3) Nothing ate me even though there were sharks in the water.

What do you think?

Completed: I would have no earthly way of knowing when I saw the manatee, 1986?  Swam with them in 2014

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