Friday, November 9, 2012

Snorkeling with the Manatees, Crystal River, Florida

As mentioned before, we decided to stay in Crystal River as it was a nice stopping point of a few days. Once we planned to stay here, we found out that this is one of the rare places where one can snorkel with Manatees, and we thought, “Hey, that would be cool!” 

We went with American Pro Diving Center for a few reasons, some of which were great online reviews, a good website, and that we had a Groupon.  Suzanne watches for Groupons in areas where we plan to stay and this one saved us $52 and truly saved us money since we would have probably done a Manatee tour regardless.
So the tour started in the American Pro Diving Center shop, which was quite cute.  After checking-in and getting our rental gear (putting on a wet suit is like putting on pantyhose over your entire body), we watched an informative  video on Manatees and safety tips (for us and them). There were about 20 people going on this tour, and we were separated into two groups. Each family drove their own car to the dock (an additional $5 parking fee) and off we went! 

Some interesting facts about Manatees:
  • Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas.
  • The average adult manatee is about 10 feet long and weighs between 800 and 1,200 pounds.
  • Manatee are mostly herbivorous and can consume 10-15% of their body weight in vegetation daily.
  • Manatees are mammals, so they must surface to breathe air. When resting, manatees have been known to stay submerged for up to 20 minutes.
  • Manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more.
  • Manatees in the United States are protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which make it illegal to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.
So we were on the Crystal River, which was only about 4-feet deep in some sections and quite clear.  As we meandered over to an area where Sean, our captain, was heading, he shared more safety tips as well as do’s and don’t’s for our interaction with Manates, such as:
·         Let the Manatee come to you ~ they are very playful
·         Feel free to rub the Manatee, except not their faces, armpits, or tails.
·         Do not swim above the Manatee, but if one swims beneath you, that’s okay.
·         Do not chase a Manatee if they swim away.

We stopped where we could see a couple Manatees and got in the water, which with the wet suit, was surprisingly not that cold. It was a mother Manatee with her child and they came right up for some petting and interaction. We put out our hands and they felt like wet leather and they simply glided around us and played (as much as a Manatee plays). It was pretty cool. 

The group then decided to let out sister boat come and enjoy the Manatees (they originally went to a different location and did not see any) and we went in search for more.  We went past some beautiful homes along the Crystal River and canals and came to some much clearer water where one guy was resting on the bottom.

We then decided to snorkel up  a small area called Three Sisters where the Manatee go a bit later in the year.  We knew there would be no Manatee, but the water was amazingly clear and there were a ton of fish.  Yes, this is when we ran out of film in our underwater disposable camera ~ oh well.

So we saw three Manatee under the water in all; we saw a few more from the boat. We equally enjoyed the snorkeling at Three Sisters since we were a bit more dispersed and had some time to explore.  Definitely this is something to do while in this area!
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

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