I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved the idea of manatees. I even picked Save the Manatees for my trailer’s Florida license plate. I tried to see some last winter, but the unseasonable cold had chased them out to the Gulf and my niece and I came up empty in Crystal River. When friends camping two hours south said they’d kayaked with manatees this last week, I realized I might have a shot. I was heading south anyways to meet up with some RVing buds and the park with the manatees was literally on the way home. I practiced folding and unfolding my new Oru Kayak and then loaded it into the car, along with paddle, PFD (with whistle attached), and booties.
I woke up at 5:30AM today (thanks, end of daylight savings time) and checked the weather forecast. Rain? What??? I was so bummed. I ate breakfast, packed up, and checked out of the hotel, and decided to head for Blue Spring State Park anyways. It rained on me when I stopped at the ATM, and it was still spitting as I paid the $4 fee at the park entrance. I drove down to the boat dock and sat in the car looking at the clouds scudding overhead. And then I thought, I’m already here, I’m gonna go for it. If I get wet, well, it’s 77F so I’m not going to freeze.
I unloaded the kayak and origami’d it into kayak shape, then carried it down to the sandy beach and launched it. I should have christened it, as it was the first time it’s been in water other than the pool back in Gainesville, but I don’t have a good name yet so I skipped that part. It did feel good as I paddled around and got used to how it handled. And, oh, wow, is it easier to paddle than my almost-ex-inflatable kayak! After the kayak check, I headed over to the manatee spot.
Look, there are manatees! Mama manatee and baby manatee!
Three manatees in a row! Same mama and baby with a friend!
Manatees resting on the sandy bottom!
I would have had a photo of the one who surfaced about a foot away from me but I didn’t want to scare it away so I just stayed really still. Also, manatees are BIG and I didn’t want that one to flip turn and maybe hit my kayak.
It was SO COOL to float among the manatees. They are graceful and calm and it was like a little moving meditation thing to have them swim by me. For about 15 minutes, it was just me and them on/in the water and it was magical. One more thing checked off my bucket list, too.
I do not want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.