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!

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