Barbara Manatee

The alarm goes off at 5:00am. Mike gets up and dresses for the morning, opting for swim trunks rather than briefs. As the coffee brews, the kids and I get up and dress in a similar fashion. After a quick cup off coffee and a bite of breakfast, we walk into the dark, wet, chilly morning and head to the truck. A few miles down the road, we arrived at our destination: River Ventures. After a cheery welcome, short video, contortionist act (putting on the wet suit), and pontoon boat ride, we slipped into the Crystal River to “Swim with Manatees.”

This activity was on Mike’s “someday-I-want-to-do” list. So, as I was plotting our route from Utopia, TX to Tampa, FL, I found Crystal River to be the place for this activity. Yesterday’s drive from Pensacola to here was really long, and we were all pretty exhausted. Yet, there wasn’t much complaining while getting ready this morning. I think we were all looking forward to the experience.

After getting into the river, we donned our masks and snorkels and set to floating on our bellies like old pros. Or not. I have never successfully used a mask and snorkel in the past, and I was a bit leery about this time. Miranda, too, was having a bit of difficulty getting the rhythm, so my mommy-alert was on high. It took a little time (and calming breaths) until I was able to successfully float with my face in the water (while breathing through the tube). Miranda caught on as well.

We explored Three Sisters Springs, finding a few manatees taking a siesta on the river’s bottom. Several manatees and their calves rested in their “safe” area—we were not allowed to enter that space.

When we were within 30 minutes until heading back, Harrison and I returned to the boat. Harrison’s lips were blue, he was shivering/shaking like crazy, and he didn’t seem to be mentally processing things well. I, too, was shivering and decided to join him. We dried off as best as possible, donned our jackets, and tried to still our shivering/shaking legs.

While the boy and I sat on the boat, Mike and Miranda joined the rest of the group for another “look” around. I’m so glad they did because both were able to pet manatees. In fact, Miranda had the longest encounter of our group. Read the comments for Mike’s experience and check out Miranda’s take on swimming with the manatees.

P.S. - The title of this post should make sense to most parents with teens or younger. If you are not familiar with Barbara Manatee, this youtube video should help you.


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Boyink and MsBoyink Snorkel

Boyink and MsBoyink Snorkel

Snorkeling Harris

Snorkeling Harris

Snorkeling Miranda

Snorkeling Miranda

Miranda Spies a Barbara Look-Alike

Miranda Spies a Barbara Look-Alike

Our Animal-Whisperer Petting Barbara

Our Animal-Whisperer Petting Barbara

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5 Comments Barbara Manatee

  1. Picture of BoyinkBoyinkFebruary 27, 2014

    I’ve never really snorkeled either - and during the first few minutes after launching off the boat I’ll admit to having thoughts of “I’m not sure I can do this”. Having years of allergies I’ve always considered myself a mouth-breather but with the mask blocking off my nose I found that I use it more than I thought.

    But I wanted to do this and was determined to stock it through. The moment of encountering the first manatee and its sheer size becoming apparent was magical. 

    I was immediately next to the safe area when two very large manatees and their calf moved away, and they swam very close to the border where they could have been touched. I was hoping they were in the mood to be social but they curved away.  I decided I was just going to be happy being in the water and being that close them.

    Our swim up the river to the warmer spring area is when I remember finally getting used to snorkeling, realizing I was just a whole lot more comfortable with my face in the water. It was really cool to start taking note of large fish swimming by underneath me.

    Higher up in the springs we were close to the sleeping manatees. It really was mesmerizing to watch them ascend for air (is he awake?) then settle back on the bottom again. There was a large school of fish in this area, some of them longer with dorsal fins that I’m hoping were sharks (I’ll claim they were anyway..I swam with SHARKS baby!).

    After coming back from the springs and taking note of how Harrison was looking (grayish, lethargic and shaking) I encouraged him back onto the boat to dry out and get warm.

    I was excited to hear our time wasn’t yet over, because I wasn’t at this point too cold and wanted to see if I would be able to touch one of these gentle giants.

    Miranda and I headed back over to where the group was but I lost track of her while swimming around. I was happy to see some more social manatees at this point and watched one of our group have a very nice encounter where the manatee approached, and the swimmer did a great job of keeping still and got some long caresses down the manatees back.

    When I surfaced I was so happy to see Miranda’s head popping out of the water as the lucky swimmer. Figures our animal-whisperer would get the job done!

    But my day was not over yet. I was maneuvering around in the water when I heard a voice say “Mike - you have one coming behind you.” The Mike being referred to was our captain - but suddenly a manatee calf appeared under me. It practically swam through my legs! I got to touch it as it went by.

    I got to see a pregnant cow swim past - Mike said she was ready to drop any day now.

    A few minutes later I was looking off and saw a large adult bull or calf off in the distance and begin orienting in my direction. I could see it full-on in the face and made eye contact as we were instructed to do. It swam my way and I was again amazed at the sheer size of these creatures. I had this odd moment of feeling like a deer in the headlights as it bore down on me…then swam lower (again almost between my legs) and I was able to stroke its back as it went by.

    It’s easy to see why these creatures are so well-loved. They have expressive eyes, lovable faces, and are so graceful and gentle in the water.

    By this point the cold was starting to get to me and I heard the call that our time was up. A no-wake zone was never so slow as that cold ride home. I had a jacket but with the wetsuit dangling from me yet and my towel immediately soaked it was a miserable few minutes.

    But worth it..

  2. Picture of Aaron Moreau-CookAaron Moreau-CookFebruary 27, 2014

    I feel like we’re crossing each others path. My wife and daughter went on this same outing with River Adventures in January and loved it.

    Glad your family went on the adventure, I am sure it will be one that you all remember for a lifetime.

  3. Picture of Joel K.Joel K.March 01, 2014

    Sorry Boyink, but if you were in a river…they probably weren’t sharks. Unless it was a Bull Shark, but they can be very aggressive, so I doubt the company would allow you to swim in an area where they could be found as well.

  4. Picture of BoyinkBoyinkMarch 01, 2014

    They were SHARKS!

    I’m sure this group were outliers…nomads…outcasts. They had a hip yet slightly rebellious look to them..scanning the water like they owned the place.

  5. Picture of TroyTroyMarch 10, 2014

    Hey, are you guys near Tampa right now. We are on MacDill AFB. Would love to get together!

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