Monday, February 2, 2015

Paddling with the Manatees

Post by Loretta

The forecast was for sunny skies, low 70’s, and not too windy, which sounded like the perfect day to go kayaking with the manatees!  The weather has been around mid to high 60’s with a brisk wind.  Seventy’s are better.

After a somewhat leisurely morning of breakfast and a quick clean up, we headed out the door.  Our destination is Hunter Springs Park in the city of Crystal River, Florida, which is about an hour drive. 

We visited the area the day before to get an idea about the best place to launch the kayaks for free.  And Hunter Springs Park was it.   There was a small parking area, picnic tables, restrooms, benches overlooking the water, and a kayak launch. 

Clear water of Hunter Springs

 From the launch, we paddled around for about a half hour in the little bay and spotted a few Scaup (ducks) and manatees.  We were paddling with three or four commercial boats that take people on a tour to see manatees.  We saw several manatees in this area.  One small area was roped off and there were a group of people with masks and snorkels observing the manatees there.

Enough here.  We paddled off toward Three Sisters Spring.  We rounded Pete’s Marina and followed the steady stream of boats headed that way.   It was less than a mile paddle, so it didn’t take us long to get there. 

Headed to Three Sisters Spring

Once there, ‘watchers’ were stationed to show people the right way to go into the Three Sisters Spring area.  It was rather crowded.  We were instructed to follow a roped off area and stay to the right going in.  It was only about 50 feet going in and then it opened up into a small cove that was just enchanting! 

Cove at Three Sisters Spring

And everywhere you looked into the water there were manatees. 

Manatees everywhere!

It was pretty crowded with kayaks and people snorkeling, but it was such a unique experience!

Snorkeler with Manatee Surfacing for Air

The water was clear and the sun highlighted the manatees below the surface. 

Mama and Baby Manatee

A few facts about manatees.  Manatees weigh between 700-1200 pounds.  The Florida Manatees can be found in the warm spring waters of Florida during the winter.  In summer they can be seen in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, and a few other coastal states.  They are mammals and must surface every few minutes to breathe.  Manatees reach sexual maturity about five years of age and carry their young for about a year until birth.  The mother helps the new baby to the surface after birth and within an hour the baby can surface by itself.  They nurse underwater.  They are considered to be a sea cow and eat only grasses along the river bottoms.  When they lose a tooth, another grows to replace it.  They move slowly and are often injured by boat motors and carry the scars to prove it.  They are an endangered species, therefore, many laws have been passed to protect them and bring awareness to the public.

We stayed at Three Sisters for about an hour and began the paddle back.  On the way back, a manatee approached my kayak and it seemed it wanted to be my friend!  

My Manatee Friend Approaching

I wanted to touch it, but I was afraid that would scare it away, so instead I took pictures.  I got a couple of good ones.  

Smiling Manatee

Will you be my friend?

It surfaced several times while by my side and followed me for several yards.  That was such a thrill for me!  I have a manatee friend!

Back at the launch, there were many people trying to get out of the water, but they moved rather quickly, so we got out and packed up without a problem.
A quick stop at Publix for a few grocery items, then back to our home, sweet temporary home!  Another wonderful day as Yahoo Ramblers!


  1. Absolutely amazing!! Great pictures.. So happy for y'all. Keep having a blast

    1. Blake, it was a great experience. The manatees are such friendly critters. We hope to keep on with the journey!

  2. What an incredible encounter with the manatees! I was thrilled with our manatee sightings on the Ichetucknee River last winter, but now I want to go to Crystal River. Cannot believe how close you were to those gentle creatures. Great photos!

    1. When you come back to this area, check out Crystal River and Homosassa as well. Crystal River at Three Sisters Spring is a smaller area than Homosassa, but both have lots of manatees this time of year. The one came right to my boat and followed along beside me! Thanks!

  3. Loretta, we went there as well without benefit of the kayaks. We were on the tour boats. The manatees were amazing! Your pics are incredible! We hope to go back with kayaks next time. What a special place.

  4. Sandy, Thanks for the feedback on the pics! I enjoy photography and take hundreds of pictures each week. I want to go back and snorkel with the manatees. May have to use a wet suit.