Wednesday, 14 November 2012

And the high tide line rose half a metre when I got in....

So here I am in Florida, in my full body rubber suit, a million miles from home and from where anyone can ever find me, and I am hiding out in the Crystal River backwaters and springs ..... or maybe that's another story - "50 Shades Deeper: Into the Bayou".

The mighty hunter don's the appropriate clothing and shooting equipment
What mysteries lurk beneath the grey waters? Perhaps the Republicans' much feared 11% Latinos !

The first sighting! Grey rounded lumpy thing in water
Then it was time to get in and meet the dude
so here is a bit of time lapse photography - too many pictures to make for a great post, too few to make a movie ...

Out of the murky depths ...
The manatee approacheth...
With fear in his eyes, he wonders if he will have room to pass
rough and mossy - just how I like it
sidles back off into the distance
Thanks to Manatees in Paradise for the photos - Capt Stacy gets in the water with everyone and an underwater camera and snaps away.

Capt Stacy takes us to a variety of swimming spots. One is as crystal clear as a swimming pool in a glorious foresty setting.

They hang in the warm shallows for two reasons - it's where the sea grass can grow; and, despite their size, they have very little fat and need to stay warm in the sun. Unlike me. I have more blubbery insulation than a manatee! I was toasty!

The manatees are very placid and slow and practically swim head first into your boat propeller. As sharp as a box of hammers.
After 3 hours tootling about and jumping in and out of the water, we were all manatee'd out and headed back to shore. I think I had a cocktail making class to get to or something ......

And so we bade farewell to Mr Manatee with a "don't get hit by a boat on the way out", and am suddenly back in dock. Wetter but all the richer for this "once in a lifetime" experience. You certainly can't do this Australia. You have to get a permit just to get within 50 metres in Australia!

OK - so I STRONGLY recommend doing this - and doing it with Capt Stacy. There is no real physical exercise - as long as you can handle yourself floating in water and am comfortable using a snorkle. You could easily stand in most of the places we stopped.

It will be a blessed relief from the blazing June heat; it is cheap on the holiday finances; and Capt Stacy provides most things to make it easy.

How often do you get to go swimming with a manatee in the fancy schmancy housing estate waterfront canal system?!

Eye gouging - banned in most sports

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Chilling out

So what are your options when it is volcano heat in June in Orlando?

For many people there is nothing more refreshing than to refresh in a cool swimming pool.

The World Centre Marriott Pool
But what if sterilised concrete and chlorine is not really your thing? What if you want to get back to nature?

No - not Cypress Cove Resort - although if you are after that "special" experience....not that there's anything wrong with that ...
I mean - let's go swimming with the manatees!

So - Aussie's - what's the difference between a dugong and manatee?

Is this better to look at than the other photo above? Not that there's anything wrong with the way a dugong looks ...
So the first thing you need to do is head for the Gulf Coast!

So you are going to need that hire car and drive west for about 2 hours to Crystal River and Springs.

Door to door - just under 2 hours - just over if you stop at the Dunkin' Donuts
 Let's take a closer look at the territory:

All those red dots are the entry point to the reserve at Kings Bay. See all the inlets and springs - that's manatee territory
This area is all deep south US territory with spanish moss and shallow swampy spots and canals. Very different to Australia and easily just as beautiful.

(source: Florida Native Plant Society)
It is in these warm, shallow, crystal clear springs that the manatees bask in the sunlight and slowly munch away on the sea grass beds. Interestingly, manatees can live in both fresh and sea water so they move up and down the creeks and out to the Gulf to find food and maintain their temperature.

As a protected species, there are a mountain of regulations around boating and fishing in manatee environment and how to interact with the manatees. All of this information is readily available from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

A good tour guide will adhere to these protections and will make sure you do too. And there are plenty such tour guides to choose from.

I went with Capt Stacy Dunn from Manatees in Paradise.

Capt Stacy runs small tours - there was only 3 of us on my tour off a small pontoon. Included in the tour was a wetsuit, flippers, snorkle and mask. I brought my towel and all snacks to keep me going! Tours cost around $50 plus gratuity.

So I'm on board, I've got my wetsuit, Capt Stacy has heaved off  and ......

.... in my next post I'll show you what we did!