Happy Manatee Faces

One of my all time favorite things to do when I am in Crystal River is swim with the manatees.

These adorable creatures flock to warmer waters when the temperature in the Gulf of Mexico gets below 68ยฐF. Despite the fact they can weigh in at over 1200 pounds, their stomach and intestines make up most of their mass. They actually have very little body fat for their size. Most of the time, they can be observed eating (10% of the body weight a day) or resting on the bottom. While resting, they only surface to breathe once every 15 minutes or so.

The first time I swam with the manatees was on a charter in King’s Bay. Setting out in the early morning hours, we were treated to a lovely sunrise…

2011Aug Manatee Swim-1988

Before dipping into the waters, we were given reminders of manatee etiquette. No chasing, no feeding, you may only touch a manatee if it comes close to you and then, only with one hand. As we floated, it didn’t take long for a juvenile manatee to come investigate…

 

2011Aug Manatee Swim-2002

I was amazed at it’s curiosity. It circled us and nudged in closer…

2011Aug Manatee Swim-2000

I happily watched as it fed on the grasses…

Before swimming off into the darkness. Back on the boat, we were treated to a glimpse of the mother and calf…

2011Aug Manatee Swim-2029

The next time I swam with them was in Three Sisters Springs. They didn’t seem quite as curious here and spent nearly all the time resting on the bottom…

Manatees 3 Sisters Spring--3

Manatees have no natural enemies, except man. Every year, hundreds of manatees are injured or killed when their slow moving paths cross boats. You can see the propeller scars on this manatee…

Manatees 3 Sisters Spring--29

While the manatees here weren’t as curious, some of the fish were…

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Now, I’ve swam with them, kayaked with them and watched them from above. I never get tired of happy manatee faces!

HMMH!

Have you every swam with the manatees? What is the most unique creature you have encountered while swimming?