Swimming with Manatees

We’re on vacation this week—and it got me thinking about some of the places best visited this time of year.

One November, many years ago, we met up with various members of Aron’s family for Thanksgiving at a beach on the coast of central Florida (which had sugar-white, fine sand). While we were there, we took a side-trip to Crystal River Wildlife Refuge to snorkel with Manatees.

The giant, gentle mammals (“sea cows”) congregate in the temperate waters of Crystal River in Florida to keep warm in the winter, so November is a great time to see them.

They’re very friendly and curious, and we were told they like to be scratched on their undersides. Sure enough, we let them approach us and then we scratched around their fins; they would roll over and expose their undersides to us! (That’s me, with the silly pink snorkel.)

It was incredible! (And a little scary at first, as the water was not crystal clear and their dark shapes—all 10 feet, 1000-or-so pounds of them—seemed to appear from the depths, alongside some huge, fast tarpon!)

One of the biggest threats to manatees is boat traffic, so you want to be sure you choose a reputable company with sensitive staff if you choose to visit the marine preserve. They should be cautious about their wake and engine noise around the manatees, and be willing to be very vocal about any guests who behave inappropriately toward the animals.

[Top photo; All others are taken by Aron or me.]

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