It was time for a fun adventure and since we were heading to Tampa, we thought it was a good time to visit with the manatees at Crystal River in Florida.
We did not want to take our paddleboards for this trip, so we rented boards from Manatee Paddle so we could paddle in the Kings Bay area. The people were very nice and helpful, and they delivered the boards to the water’s edge and we were on our way. We had been on the water for two minutes, and this young manatee showed up to check us out. It was like he had been waiting to visit with us, came right up to the boards, and swam with us while we stayed in the area of the pier. How could you resist this face?
Since we wanted to go see the Three Sisters Spring (even though it isn’t currently open due to restoration efforts), we had to leave our little friend and head out. The part I thought was most interesting about paddling at Crystal River was that we were basically in everyone’s back yard. Literally, 10 feet from most of the houses. It is really pretty, but not sure I would want that many tourists in my back yard…
We couldn’t go into Three Sisters Spring, but it was interesting to see the entrance. You cannot enter with a boat, you have to swim or kayak or paddleboard in. The entrance is very narrow, which is great for the manatees in the winter because it provides a nice protected area. We stopped at Idiots Delight, which is right next to the entrance to Three Sisters. The water was crystal clear and cold! It was very refreshing when we took a quick dip to cool off. We can’t wait to return to swim in Three Sisters after the bank restoration is complete.
After cooling off at Idiot’s Delight, we headed towards Hunter Springs. The water color at Hunter Springs was beautiful! Nearby there are fences surrounding newly planted eelgrass. There is an on-going project, the Hunters Cove Revegetation Pilot Project, which is designed to create desirable habitat for fish and wildlife and improve water quality in Kings Bay.
We didn’t know this at the time, so all we saw were fenced off areas that appeared to be “under construction”. There were several tourist boats and swimmers nearby and loads of manatees. We saw a mother and a baby that was nursing – so cute. We realized that the manatees in the area were congregating around the fence because although they couldn’t get to the main grass inside, there were pieces floating around. So at one point, there were more than 10 manatees all with their snouts in between the fences eating the pieces of floating grass – like horses at a trough!
After we left the manatee feeding grounds, we had to head back to the dock. As we approached the dock, we saw one last manatee in a small protected area near the pier. Then I noticed that there was something near the large manatee. At first I couldn’t believe how small it was, but it was a very tiny manatee. Based on a baby manatee we saw at Sea World several years ago, I would guess this baby could have been just a couple of weeks old. The mother was huge, and the baby was unbelievably tiny by comparison! Then to confirm that this was indeed a baby, he came up for air and I was able to take his picture!
Maybe next time we go, this guy will be the one that wants to play with us! We will return again soon and we hope to see you there!