Swimming With Manatees: My Morning With the Sea Cows in Crystal River, Florida by Sheri B Doyle
One of my dreams was to swim with manatees. I did my research and learned Crystal River, Fla., was the place to go. The river is home to the largest population of manatees in the world. They are not in captivity, but they are well protected.
On the morning of my adventure it was in the 60s, so not ideal weather for getting wet. Refusing to be deterred I put on a wetsuit, got in the van and rode to the river. Once we arrived the pontoon boat was waiting for us with plastic windows and a heater set up in the middle of the boat to keep us warm. OK, definitely not how I had imagined my manatee experience.
We headed out to the location where the manatees had been spotted, and there they were. I couldn’t wait to jump in. Forgetting the cold air, I did just that. The manatee were everywhere, so close we could pet them, swim along side of them and use our snorkels to watch them as they swam around underneath us. They would often roll, encouraging us to rub their bellies or their heads, as they seemed to revel in the attention.
Even though the shivering had begun in my teeth, I didn’t care at all. Manatees playing and swimming surrounded me as I floated in the water was everything I had envisioned it would be, all except the cold air and kerosene heater on the boat. As we all huddled up together riding back to the van we shared a moment of accomplishment – we had all experienced something we had been dreaming of doing.
This would be an amazing family-friendly activity. There were kids from the ages of 8 and up swimming with us and other groups.
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