Oh the Huge Manatee

I just had to write a blog about manatees, nature’s odd and unwitting clown.

Crystal river in Florida is arguably one of the best places in the world to see manatees. Unfortunately when we visited the area in June, the weather decided to be a menace and cause low visibility. Fortunately, manatees are even larger then you’d expect them to be and if they are in the immediate area, are not difficult to spot. It had been a dream of mine for many years to get up close and personal with these fascinatingly strange animals, ever since I’d seen them in the (what I now know as very evil) SeaWorld. Florida laws have cracked down on manatee swimming experiences, ensuring the safety of the large ‘sea cows’, and therefore only small boats with experienced and seemingly compassionate drivers graced the waters offering tourists a magical experience of swimming with residents such as this little guy:

In reality it is a magical experience, seeking out the world’s most flatulent and spherical animal, a little greener and a LOT wider then this adorable calf (picture courtesy of Bird’s Underwater Dive Centre).

Despite the murky and all-in-all quite unappealing water, we jumped in with snorkels onto a bed of slimey seaweed which could well have passed for a manatee itself. We’d seen a few, but had a few unlucky stints searching the water for them.  It was at one stage where perhaps the best and most ridiculous confusion story I have to tell happened. We were near a manatee, and were very slowly snorkeling around trying not to spook the fella, allowing him to come up close to us if he so wished. A very overenthusiastic American woman then realised that a manatee had come right up to her. She put her hand out to stroke the leathery skin.

But oh no, it wasn’t a manatee, it was my leg. The fact that I had been mistaken for manatee was bad enough as then I had to explain to her mid-snorkel that I was a person whilst trying not to choke with laughter.

The best sight I got of a manatee in water was it’s back end (very aware of their flatulent reputation and so quite cautious). It was so huge, came right up past me and brushed past my hand, very slimey and green with algae. Not quite  a dolphin encounter that almost every tourist wishes to have, but I loved it. I’d swam with a wild manatee : )

We saw a few noses poke out the water and exhale a deep breath (the most straining thing they do all day), along with a mother and calf. The experience was great, though I imagine when the river is actually ‘crystal’ coloured and manatees more visible it would have been better, but hey ho, visiting the beautiful Homosassa State park more than made up for that! I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

Who would have thought that watching an animal eat lettuce would have been so funny.

Look how round and content this guy is!

So this manatee managed to find it’s way into the research pool. Vast amounts of lush lake to explore and it ends up in here. It let out one huge sigh after about five minutes, which seemed to propel it away from the wall and very, very, very slowly it made it’s way out of the tank. No point in rushing in life I guess!

The fact of the matter is that manatees are hugely endangered, their love of not moving very fast near the surface of the water is extremely dangerous in areas populated by power boats. All the manatees in the rehabilitation centre at Homosassa were there for a reason, whether health issues or boat collisions, and the park does some great research/conservation/education work. Here’s their site:

http://www.homosassasprings.org/Homosassa.cfm

On an end note, here is a hilarious website:

http://www.squishable.com/pc/squish_manatee_15/Big_Animals/Squishable+Manatee

I don’t know whether this is legitimate or not, but let’s just say if everyone acted more like these intelligent, setient potatoes the world would be a better, if not more lazy, place. Unless you acted like the people who bought the manatee plushie and then the world would be a lot more hyper. Squish.

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2 responses to “Oh the Huge Manatee

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