Who knew that one of the best experiences of my life would take place during our impromptu trip to Florida?
Our morning called for a pre-dawn wake up that included packing up our belongings and driving an hour and a half to the city of Crystal River for a 6:15 am snorkeling trip with the most amazing and beloved creatures this side of Giant Pandas. Yes, folks, we swam with manatees!
I am still excited as I'm typing this. We chose River Ventures as our guides because of their terrific reviews on TripAdvisor. My travel planning relies heavily on TripAdvisor in general, but it became an even greater source of information on this trip as we were doing everything on the fly.
When we arrived at River Ventures, we had a chance to enjoy some hot coffee and breakfast pastries. We watched a video required by the Fish and Wildlife Service that detailed how to interact with the manatees. Before we knew it, we were changing into our wetsuits and boarding our boat to the springs.
It was still dark out, but as we approached the springs, the sun was beginning to peek over the tree line.
The anticipation was killing me. Finally, we were able to offload but we still had to wait until everyone in the group was comfortable before we could enter the springs as quiet as mice. Our patience paid off because we were treated to about a dozen manatees of all sizes.
How can you not love this face?
Most of them were still sleeping so we had to be extra careful not to startle them. It took me a while to realize that these gentle guys and gals weren't going to lunge at me, so I began the excursion viewing them from a safe distance.
The experience was so peaceful. I just wanted to hang out with them all day.
Once I was comfortable enough, I ventured closer to them. That's me with the red noodle. Our guide was also our trip photographer. Thanks, Captain Donovan!
Before our trip was over, I was even able to give our friends a friendly pet.
By the end of our excursion, everyone had already returned to the boat except for me, our Captain and a English woman who was going to swim with the manatees three days in a row. If that doesn't tell you how much I enjoyed the experience, maybe this will:
That night we were laying in bed watching tv when an old episode of The Daily Show came on. It included this segment! Yes, that's where we were and that's even the same woman who gave us our safety briefing. So funny. Riding manatees, not so funny.
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Tea Party Manatee-Riding Patriots|