Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

I Had The Time of My Life

Friday February 28, 2014
Blue Spring State Park
Orange City, FL

 

 

 

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At the end of our paddle to Hontoon State Park we are a little tired.   We stop along the outside edge of the spring run at the barrier which prevents boats of any kind from going up the spring run.   We don’t see any manatee inside the barrier and David goes on to the dock.

I stay to experience the sunset on the water.  I’m starting to turn around and head for the dock when I look over to my right and just about where I’m going to put my paddle in the water is a very large manatee.  I gasp I’m so surprised.   He slides right under my boat.  I hold on to the sides just in case he decides to rise up.   It’s amazing to see a manatee tail under your kayak.

 

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He goes on under and then turns around and comes back to my boat where he nuzzles the side as if looking for algae.   Then he puts his nose up right on the edge of the boat as if to smell it.  Then he puts his face out of the water as if to look at me.  I am sitting completely still not even hardly breathing.  I cannot believe this.  It’s amazing to see his eyes.

 

 

 

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He goes under and up on the other side.  He hangs around the boat for what seems like a very long time.  I don’t move.  I think he is leaving but no he turns around and another manatee comes back with him.  Now I have two of them investigating the boat and I suppose me.  

It’s just amazing.  I feel like I’m in a wonderland watching them.   They put their heads up, their backs up.  

 

 

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They roll, they swim up to the front of my boat and arch their backs.  They come next to my boat and arch their backs.  I see them open and close their nose holes to breathe.  It’s fascinating.

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Their skin looks leathery.  Like their elephant kin.  I am very surprised about that.  I don’t know what I expected but not that.  Slimy maybe.  Or more like a fish. Their whiskers are bristles.  Their eyes are gentle.  Am I anthropomorphizing to say they seem kind??

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There is no one here but me and the manatee. 

Then there are three.  Two of them under my boat at one time.  I don’t care if they dump me in.  I’d love to swim with them.  

The light is getting dim.  I know I need to go in.  David must wonder what happened to me.  But I just can’t leave. 

The pictures here aren’t even the beginning of my time with them.  It was hard to take any at all I was so fascinated with just watching them.   But I knew I would want to remember this time forever.

 

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They are on both sides of the boat.  I’m talking to them and telling them I can’t pay attention to them all if they are on two different sides.  They keep putting the tops of their heads out of the water.

 

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Finally after about 25 minutes, as the sky is losing all its light they are far enough away from the boat for me to get my paddle in without hitting them or frightening them.

I say good bye and thank you for one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.  I turn my boat around toward the dock and paddle away.

 

 

 

 

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When I get back to the dock David is there waiting.  He can see I am as excited as I have ever been.  I was very calm during the entire time with the manatee.  It must be their gentle presence.  But now I feel like I could explode

He takes multiple pictures of my reactions as I try to both describe what happened and get calm enough to get out of the boat.

 

 

 

 

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Recalling this now it is still thrilling. 
It was just more wonderful than I can possibly express; something I will never ever forget.
I had the time of my life and I owe it all to them.

 

I know some will suggest, if I’m so crazy about manatee,  why don’t I go over to Crystal River and swim with them.  And the reason is that I would feel like I am supporting an exploitive commercial operation.  I’ve kayaked up there and the number of boats in the area is absurd.  I am assuming there are actually some wildlife persons assigned to protect the manatee there but the small area they have roped off for them to “rest” in seems not enough to me.   And after this simply fabulous encounter with no motors, no one yelling and screaming- no one else anywhere around - I feel almost as if they chose me. 

 

62 comments:

  1. how very wonderful!! so happy for you! lovely shots of those sweet faces too :)
    Maggie

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    1. Many thanks Maggie. Good to see you here! Hope you aren't snowed in AGAIN!

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  2. What a magical fantastic time! I have only seen manatees in photographs. They impress me as gentle somewhat shy creatures. Obviously, they are also curious. How lucky that you happened to be where you were and they graced you with their presence! No wonder you were excited! I'm so happy that you got to experience something so special. I think that I agree with you about swimming with them. Do they explain how the manatees are protected in that area? Feel the same way about wild animal places where you can pet tigers and lions or places to ride elephants.

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    1. Magical is just the word. There is a "safe area" roped off area at Crystal River for the manatee but it seems pretty small to me. See Karen's comment about it below. Lucky me is right.

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  3. So perfect, I knew something must be happening, but did not think to put my boat in and go back - I was sure you would be fine and come along when you were finished. I think my not being there probably made it less threatening for them and really more personal for you. I would have loved to have been there, but as it happened , I think it was meant to be that way for you. You REALLY did appreciate it like no one else could. ;)

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  4. What a thrill for you! ;->

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

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  5. A million dollar adventure and you got it for free!!!

    The manatee poked their heads up to get a good look at you, the greatest nature lover in the world! Just think how excited they were to have met you! :c)

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    1. You just make me laugh to think they were excited to have met me! But you are right that the experience was priceless!!

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  6. How exiting for you! It's enough of a thrill when it happens with dolphins but it would be even more so with manatees.

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    1. Dolphins are on my list. Trouble is they are mostly in the ocean and I'm only swimming there. I don't have a boat with a motor or a sail and my kayak isn't ocean going. Hmmmmmm how can I manage to have a similar great time with dolphins. All suggestions welcome

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  7. I am so excited for you!. I would be awake all night reliving every moment in my mind. I think you definitely were chosen.

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    1. That is exactly how I felt. Thanks for sharing my excitement.

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  8. Cool beans, Manatee Woman of Blogland!!

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    1. HA! Judy. Too funny. I think I'll have to have a lot more adventures with them to earn that title.

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  9. Great experience ... it's the quiet encounters with wildlife that are always the most special.

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    1. Yes Erin the quiet part of it was a big part of the wonder.

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  10. :) :) :) :) :)
    They are curious creatures. :) :) :)
    Syl

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    1. They certainly were curious and my face was almost breaking from all the smiles. Happy happy!!

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  11. What a GREAT experience... well, have to admit it was worth waiting for (us) to hear the whole story!!! What great pictures too.. definately a time to remember!!!

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    1. Thanks Loree. I just couldn't tack it onto the end of the post on the paddle which was already too long.

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  12. Oh that was so neat!!! We are in Jacksonville and St Augustine for 5 days -- hope I get to see just one manatee!!

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    1. Jenny I hope you do too. I don't know if they are over there on the ocean side or not. Have you talked to anyone about whether they have seen them in the St. John's river in Jacksonville.

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  13. Having read your blog these past months, as we get ready to start out on our own adventure, my first thought was you were certainly deserving of the gift they gave you. I could not stop smiling the whole time I read the post.

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    1. Welcome aboard. Glad to have your comments. I really love hearing from the folks who take the time to read my blog. I'm so glad I could bring a smile to your face. They certainly brought one to mine. Good luck on your adventures. If you like, next time you post, you can use name/url and put your name in but skip the url part. Sometimes blogger puts anonymous comments in spam and I wouldn't want to miss you. Although now you are a mystery person! :-)

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  14. The one I swam with (purely by accident) came up right next to me with its head out of the water. I had a ways to swim back to shore and I had no idea what kind of creature it was. I thought it was going to bite me so I was scared, but it just sort of swam along with me poking his nose on one side of me and then the other. Had I known what it was, I would have enjoyed the experience as you did, but I'm afraid I was glad to reach shore and get out of the water. Only later did I learn what gentle creatures they are. I'm glad you had such a wonderful experience--it's almost as though they gave you a gift.

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    1. It was definitely a gift Nancy. What an experience you had. That's just amazing. Too bad you didn't know not to be scared. But manatee weren't nearly as popular before they became endangered so no one knew much about them.

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  15. Sherry what a great post. I can only imagine what a thrill that was for them to swim alongside your kayak. Question for you. What size is your MH? We stayed at Blue Springs SP a few years back, but we were in a fifth wheel at that time. I would love to re-visit if we can fit onto a site.

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    1. We fit our 41 footer in a site there. I believe it was number 18.

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    2. We are 35' but I'm pretty sure there are sites that you could fit in to. We looked at site 18 which is right by the walk to the spring but it doesn't look as though we could fit in there so I'm thinking Karen has the number mixed up. Go on to Reserve America and put in your rig size and they will tell you whether there are sites you can fit in to. The problem here is the sites aren't all that level.

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  16. Ear to ear grin on this end!! What a wonderful experience....and I know just what you mean as far as it having that feel of magical and mystical. I believe such experiences are a gift from our wildlife friends in appreciation for our sense of respect for them. What an honor! What a wonderful memory!

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    1. I'm still grinning Anne and it was 4 days ago. It was an honor. You clearly understand exactly what I was trying to convey. Thanks for your comment.

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  17. That is so fantastic! I'm so happy for you that you got to experience something like that. The photos were beautiful and what an AMAZING happening! I think what Anne said is so true...

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    1. Thanks Jeannie, I'm glad you liked the photos. I was so excited, I'm amazed any of them came out.

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  18. Very fun! It is amazing how curious they are about kayaks and the people in them- So-glad you got to have a nice encounter. What is better than enjoying the sunset with new friends :)

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    1. I can't think of any sunset I've enjoyed as much.

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  19. Well, I knew from the title post, this was going to be special...that movie is my favorite guilty pleasure! All I can say is oh my, oh my, oh my!! Several things come to mind, but particularly (and having experienced the crowds at Blue Springs) I am amazed you were able to have that experience all to yourself for that long. It was meant to be. A once in a lifetime very personal demonstration of the wonders of ALL forms of life, how special they are and how it is meant for us to coexist in peace. I am so happy you had this time.

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    1. Co-exist in Peace is well put Sharon. I think our species could learn a lot from the gentle manatee about how to co-exist. The only crowds we see here are on the week-ends. So we don't go over then. Early morning is wonderful here. Less than 6 people or so out walking around on the boardwalk before the park opens.

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  20. Amazing! They did choose you! They knew you were a kindred spirit somehow. They do look kind. Huge but kind and they didn't tip you :) What a once in a lifetime sort of experience that was! Yay!

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    1. Amazing is it exactly sweetheart. I hope they could "feel the love' as folks like to say.

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  21. Wonderful! Perfect way to end a day of paddling. I really believe animals can sense a kindred spirit and a kind soul.

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    1. I couldn't agree more that animals can sense our attitudes toward them. I'm happy to be described as a kindred spirit and kind soul. Thank you.

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  22. I totally agree with your thoughts on the commercialization of the manatees by some. I was so excited for you as I read this because I know exactly what you were experiencing. We had this same experience at the Manatee Park in Ft. Myers. The manatee are free to come and go by the power plant and not held at all. As we were finishing up our kayaking we had this this one manatee come to visit. Needless to say, we couldn't leave. I love how they don't touch the boats. That "little" face coming out right by the boat to look up was almost more than I could stand. He just swam back and forth, looking up and snorting. What a joy! So glad to see you had this experience also:)

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    1. Wonderful to hear that you got to have the same fantastic experience. It's certainly something none of us will ever forget. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  23. WOW, you are most deserving of all to have that experience.

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  24. Wow. What an amazing experience for you. I've kayaked with them often and had some come up to the boats, but never quite like what you got! Lucky you.

    You have to remember in Crystal River, they are also educating people about manatee safety, so people are aware. There are houses on those canals there, and people do have boats, so the education is important. There are rangers there watching for anyone to break the rules. I do know what you mean about the number of people. We prefer to paddle there when its not too cold and full of manatee. One or two at a time is enough for us. You really should give Three Sisters Spring a try some time. Just wait until after manatee season and you'll probably like it.

    Great post Sherry!!

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    1. Thank you so much for the compliment Karen. We have been at 3 Sisters a couple of times but there have always been power boats galore there. It's sad to see here that even with the signs posted over and over that say Manatee, No Wake Zone, the boats just fly down the river creating waves big enough to turn you over. I just don't get it.

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  25. WOW! WOW! WOW! I would say you found the manatees or I should say they found you:o)) Nature is absolutely AMAZING!! Such a great experience for a true nature lover and they appeared to love you back:o))

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    1. They did find me although I was hanging around where I hoped they might be. I sure do love them and they sure gave me a wonderful experience.

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  26. I had tears in my eyes reading that! What an amazing experience. They must have been so curious as to this blue "thing" in the water and wanted to share it with each other. I'm sure you just wanted to squeal with joy :-)

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    1. How nice of you to say you were moved by my experience. I did both squeal and cry. I was sort of surprised at how emotional I felt about it afterwards.

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  27. Such a fantastic experience! Sooo happy for you. I can hear the Manatees now, "there she is again! I wonder why she is looking at us....gee, I feel special!"

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  28. Wonderful!!! I think they did choose you and they were having
    just as much fun as you...or they would not have stayed to play
    with you!!!

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  29. Sherry, what a wonderful experience that must have been for you if you were so excited, you couldn't take pictures in the beginning. They must have sensed how much you love them. That's why they hung around so long. Awesome pictures, thanks for sharing with us.

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  30. Wow, that's so awesome! I'm happy for you, what an unforgettable experience.

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  31. OMG how absolutely amazing. Lucky you!!!

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  32. What a fabulous experience Sherry. We did go to Crystal River and swam with the manatee but did not go down to Three Sisters with the hordes. Our tour guide took just Terry and me to a secluded spot and the three of us got in the water. Within minutes we had manatee coming up to us. We had strict instructions not to touch them unless they brushed up against us. We also were not to get behind their tails or hover over them. It was a fabulous experience just to be that close. They seem very gentle and very inquisitive.

    On another subject, I am glad to see all is well with you. Don't know if you received my email but since I had not heard back, I was a bit concerned. Glad you two are still having some great adventures.

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  33. I'm a few days behind in reading posts, but I'm so happy that I came back to read this -- what an absolutely glorious experience you had. I believe the manatee chose you because of your deep love and respect for all of nature. I'm thrilled for you! (And I'd love to have the same experience!)

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