Wow! What a birthday! The day was a bit overcast and there were storms nearby, but we were prepared to paddle board for my 45th birthday – so off we went.
We left Shell Point Beach to paddle board as the wind picked up a bit from the storm. Paddle boarding and wind do not go that well together. A long 20 minutes later (and not a far distance) we crossed to Live Oak Island and got to rest out of the wind. We passed two enormous Osprey Hawks perched on roof tops overlooking the water. I thought to myself that they were probably the highlight of the day, so I took his picture!
After debating whether to head back into the wind and go further along the coast, we finally decided to take a break and float down wind a little bit. As we were floating along, there was a very big splash and commotion in the water just ahead of us.
We assumed it was dolphin, but then nothing came up. We paddled closer and waited. All of a sudden a very large shape came out of the water, but I could not identify it. Then my husband realized it was a manatee. Wow, maybe up to six manatees! Amazing.
We watched them a long time. When they use their tail to dive forward and down, it leaves a very neat oval shape of flat water, so you could see where they were going.
They were busy causing quite a commotion at times, with the water boiling up all around us. It was the most movement I have ever seen from manatees and with about six of them swimming and diving, it was a lot of activity. I even think there was one younger one with her mother, or maybe just a smaller manatee.
We would see a tail, then a snout, then hear one breathing on the other side. They went under the boards, around the boards and then they would dash away. Some would come up for air together and it almost looked like they were kissing – very cute.
Many of them had obvious injuries to their tail. One had one v-shape notch, and another had about four notches in his tail that looked like it was on the losing end of a propeller or something. It was almost unrecognizable as a manatee tail when it came out of the water. Most of their bodies had many scars. The scars show up in the pictures as light brown areas. They are very large, odd-shaped, animals, and yet they move so gracefully in the water.
The sound of their breathing is similar to the blowing sound of a dolphin; one sounded like he had a cough and you could hear him blowing repeatedly to clear his throat, so to speak.
When they went under the board, it was a little bit scary, as they were 2 inches below the board; any movement one way or the other, and we were in the water. We kneeled down so that we had better balance; fortunately none actually knocked us in the water!
What an amazing day and birthday! I plan for the next 45 years to be just as awesome.