Manatees and Masks in Florida

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So, I recently snuck out of town and flew to Florida (FL) with one of my besties…..against my better judgement I might add. Airports and planes don’t bother me so much, but there’s not a whole lot of mask wearing in FL. Way different than the streets of Boulder, Colorado.

We went the week before Christmas with the naive hope that crowds would be smaller. Nope, everyone was flying to Florida and doing all the things. Sigh. We walked around in our masks to be as safe as possible, sweating like pigs all the while.

95% of what we did on this trip was outdoors, so that helped. For instance, one of my bucket list wishes has been to see a Manatee in the wild. What a better way to do this than on a kayak? My limited research took us to Lover’s Key outside of Fort Myers, FL.

There were a few other primo Manatee viewing options nearby, but I thought we might have some time to explore the area. The Lover’s Key beach is supposed to be pretty nice. However, our kayak excursion was a bit of a death march to get the equipment back to the amazingly unfriendly desk clerk, Linda. We failed to deliver on time and probably proved Linda’s point – whatever that point was.

What’s a Manatee?

They are some of the most adorable and unique animals on the planet – at least in my opinion. Right up there with Pandas, Koala Bears, Elephants and Kangaroos.

I won’t give you ALL the stats on these babies, but here are a few things I nicked from the Smithsonian and National Wildlife Federation websites:

  1. These large, slow-moving marine mammals hang out in coastal areas and rivers – the Manatees in FL are the West Indian species – also know as “Sea Cows”.
  2. Once they reach adulthood, manatees average 10 feet (three meters) in length and weigh between 800 to 1,200 pounds (360 to 540 kilograms).
  3. West Indian manatees spend their lives on the cusp between salty and fresh water. They are able to maintain the correct balance in their bodies through an internal regulation system that works with the kidney to make sure salt concentrations never get too high
  4. Manatees evolved from the same land animals as elephants over 50 million years ago
  5. Christopher Columbus and other early explorers claimed to have seen female figures swimming in the ocean—the mermaids in the writings and drawings of this era. Whether they had been at sea for too long or it was a trick of the light, we now know that many of these encounters were with manatees.
  6. Manatees have no natural predators in the wild but humans have played a large part in making all three species at risk of extinction. BOO.
  7. Manatees are protected under the Endangered Species Act and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Today, the range-wide population is estimated to be at least 13,000 manatees, with more than 6,500 in the southeastern United States and Puerto Rico.

LOOK AT THAT FACE

Thanks Time Magazine (Creator: Carol Grant | Credit: Getty Images) for the adorable image!
I’m in LOVE!! Image from Pinterest

How did we find them?

We got to the kayak rental kiosk LATE in the afternoon, about 2.5 hours before sundown. Once we were in the water (this park is a mangrove protected estuary), we started heading north, not really knowing what to look for or where we would end up. On an amazing day, you may bump into Manatees, Alligators, Dolphin, Eagles, etc.

We passed 8 different people, 4 hadn’t seen a thing (other than birds) and seemed pretty disappointed. The other 4 mentioned they had seen 6 Manatees (6!) at the very end of the canal – 2.5 miles away.

Once we heard there were 6 within reach, we hauled buns as fast as we could to get to the end. I thought FOR SURE my friend would not be up for the intense paddling that ensued, but she was totally down with it (I’ll be forever grateful to her for doing this). Nothing like paddling into the wind – coming and going. Ugh.

What did we see?

To make a long story short, by the time we made it to the primo viewing spot, we had 5 minutes to see as many Manatees as we could, which meant we saw 3 (maybe). We weren’t sure if we saw the same one twice! It didn’t matter, it was a huge thrill for me. Had we had more time, we probably would have seen something like the image below. They will come up for air at some point! I would have probably fallen over if I these little faces greeted me in the water (right in the Jaws of an Alligator!).

Photo Credit: Lovers Key Website

However, since we were kayaking in brackish water, and literally had 5 minutes, this was our view (below) and one I am grateful for! I also saw a silhouette of one under D’s kayak.

Photo Credit: Adventure Kayak, Cocoa Beach

In the end, after a 2 hour tour, I left this experience with a great memory of seeing a couple of grey-ish/brown humps and a silhouette, sportin’ some pumped up biceps and paying a late fee for the kayak return. It was such a FUN day….I am thirsty for more. Next time I will plan a specific trip around these critters AFTER the COVID crisis passes.

Maybe I’ll even see a face and skip the Linda experience entirely.

…i choose this…

Pam

83 comments

  1. Florida seems so extraordinarily exotic right now!!!
    As usual you have your very special way to share your trips – “the memory of seeing a couple of grey-ish/brown humps and a silhouette, sportin’ some pumped up biceps and paying a late fee for the kayak return” – priceless!!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re safer away from Florida these days I guess…
        For some reason I was unsubscribed from your instagram account!!! Disgrace!!! Can you please accept me again 😙

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I’m working on it. I accepted a RN job vaccinating the masses but still waiting for a start date! I figured it would keep me busy and give me something purposeful to do. It’s only a temp prn job but that works for
            me. I really miss traveling!!!!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. What fun, Pam. Peggy and I saw Manatees last time we were in Florida, which was in July. We were at Clear Water at the time. We’ve had much better views north of Tampa where you can go into an underwater building with large windows and watch the delightful creatures. We are supposed to be in Florida now visiting with our son but opted out due to the way Florida is handling the pandemic! It’s insane. Has to be a kick to kayak out with the big guys, like kayaking with whales. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t blame you for not going back! It is a different world there then Colorado and Oregon – like nothing is happening in the world. It was bizarre to me. Admittedly, there was a part of me excited to experience what life will be like again one day….. while at the same time, worried. I now know more and more people who have gotten sick and it scares me. Anyhow, on a positive note, kayaking out there with them was REALLY fun – great little adventure in the middle of all the chaos!

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      1. Kayaking is a great way to social distance, Pam! 🙂
        A few years ago, Peggy and I went on a week long trip out of the north part of Vancouver Island that included Orcas. Some fun!
        I look forward to the time when we can once again live without worrying about Covid. But it is a nasty disease. So I will continue to be careful, but not paranoid. Masks, social distancing, avoiding group activities! – Curt

        Liked by 1 person

    1. NAILED IT! Totally her problem. I know, the FACE…just adorable, too bad we only saw humps. Happy just the same. I probably would have screamed and scared them had they put their faces out of the water. There were alligators swimming around and we were in those sit on top kayaks, not the most stable things in the world, so I probably would have fallen in and panicked – it all worked out – lol. It was a fun little adventure :-).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad to hear you had a chance to visit Florida. I wouldn’t mind escaping Ireland with its freezing temperatures and travel to Florida, too. But it might be a very long time before that happens. We are in the midst of the third wave of pandemic and the Government is considering closing all schools for the rest of Januy. And I can see why you love Manatees so much. They are such cute creatures. Thanks for sharing. Wishing you a very Happy New Year, Pam ☺️ Aiva

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know you have to be dying over there in there in some ways. I’m soo sorry. I had a bit of a meltdown this past weekend and now have an even greater amount of empathy for folks who cannot get out and do things they love or who feel stuck or isolated. It’s a devastating feeling. Sending some big hugs over there. One day, we will laugh about this right? Till then, hang in there! A very Happy New Year to you all as well, Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve always wanted to go snorkelling with the manatees. Seems like such a fun and playful experience. That’s too bad that you were late to spot them, but at least you did see them! All that paddling was at least for something!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a great little get away Pam! Seeing manatees in the wild is also a dream of mine. We’ve visited a few places known for manatees, but no luck. I’ve always wanted to swim/snorkel with them, but only if it’s possible to do in a way that’s not harmful to the animals.The photo of the mom and pup is so adorable!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a fun getaway for sure. When we were paddling with them so close, I did worry I was going to hit one with a paddle….the water was soo dark, I couldn’t really see that well until they were right there! It was a cool experience – I will definitely try it again and maybe allocate an entire day to it. BTW, someone recommended a Netflix documentary called Echo in the Canyon…it looks like it may be a goodie! Cheers Caroline!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my goodness! I love manatees! When the girls were young, we spent hours sitting in front of their tanks in the zoo just watching them swim. But to see them in the wild!!!! The thrill! Sorry you didn’t get to spend more time with them … trip to plan, as you say!

    Glad you were ok despite having to brave the crowds – it’s challenging to balance what to do and not to do at this stage. One’s life can’t be on hold definitely, but to balance that with safety. Sigh. Decisions become that much more complex!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re girls are lucky kiddos! What a fun memory!!! It was a total thrill to see even their backs in the wild – I’ll take it. It’s the little things these days!! I can’t say it was my best decision to go….especially with all the numbers going up. Now I have close friends getting sick who are very careful. Ugh.

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  7. Only you could sneak away almost under the radar (well, I’m not the best observer since I was off Instagram and Facebook and blogging for weeks in December)! I totally get your reaction to Florida, too. I had to go to Georgia to clear out my parents’ house when it sold in early December, and it was like being on another (very clueless) planet. Glad you got a few laughs with your friend and a change of scenery!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! I thought I told you! Before we saw anyone over the holidays, I felt I had to give the heads up that I had been in FL. In case that made Em feel uncomfortable! We did have some laughs – it was a good break. For a few minutes, I had a view into what life will be like again. Then I got stressed. Haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Once again … sounds awesome ! Had I known about manatees when I went to Florida 7 years ago, I would have loved to find a wild spot like this one to go and have a look. Instead, I went to the Keys and had a turtle encounter (THESE are my favorite creatures ever, along with elephants, koala bears and … moose !) !
    Anyway, yours sounds just like one of the funniest last trip of 2020 you could have taken, save for the non mask wearing and the unsmiling Linda. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ohhh, the Keys and turtles are wonderful experiences! I do love turtles too. And how could I forget MOOSE!! It was a good way to end the year with a thrill! Like u said even with the mask and Linda situation 😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think manatees are delightful, but have only seen them in zoos. If nothing else your adventure encourages me to go looking for them should I ever get to southern FL again. I shall, of course, avoid any unsmiling Lindas I meet there.

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  10. I’m so jealous that you were in Florida!! I do see lots of photos from there since many of my FB friends are still there and noticed the lack of mask-wearing as well. I’ve heard amazing things about Lover’s Key. I’m sorry you had a less than desirable experience with the desk clerk. That always stinks. I’ve never made it up there since I was spoiled by living in Naples. A couple of summers ago we went out kayaking from Isle of Capri (on the way to Marco Island). I didn’t see manatees but did see dolphins. And we had our paddleboard out a few blocks down from the pier when a manatee came swimming past. That’s pretty rare though and was wild. They are so big! When we had our boat at a marina in Jensen Beach, the manatees would come up around the docks during birthing (?) season. The mamas and their babies. I was always excited when we’d see them. I hope you get a chance to see their cute faces.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AMY! I thought I had responded to this! UGH, sorry for the late reply. I knew you lived in FL, but did not realize it was Naples! Naples is a really nice place – I can see why people move there. You were definitely spoiled lady! They are soooo big which is why I was slightly terrified I would actually see a face. lol. I do want to go back and explore more of Lover’s Key. Also, one thing I noticed, the beaches up in that area are really nice and look to be less crowded. Beautiful sunsets there which are some of my favorite things in life :-). Hope you had a great weekend !

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow Pam – your post generated some great responses! It’s really fun and the images you included are great (but where is the picture of the evil Linda so that we may avoid her evermore?!). i’ve seen manatees in the same area you visited (the brown lump version unfortunately) but perhaps more importantly, they are moving north and we’ve had several visit us here on Kiawah in the past year or two! I’m very excited about it and altho I’ve not seen them here myself a good friend who is a boat captain has seen several around the docks. I’ll be on the lookout for them, rest assured!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m glad you got to see the manatees! We saw one once, in Belize – we were on a night river safari with a guide from our hotel and a few other guests. The manatee swum under our boat as we were heading back at the end of the cruise. It was just a pale shape in the dark water but I was still excited to see it!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Hi, Pam, good for you for getting away! I used to live in Florida and visited the West Coast many times, so I, too, am a lover of manatees! We skipped a trip to FL last month due to the virus. The part of the state we visit has a high population, and I struggle with mask wearing in the heat, so we figured it was best to postpone. Poor Linda was probably jealous of all you folks having fun while she had to work! 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s rough wearing masks! I had one on for about 7 hours yesterday and it about killed me. I feel for healthcare workers. Good call on postponing – I wouldn’t recommend it right now. Yeah, Linda. I think she thought we were whimpy city folk. lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You have the art of storytelling in most hilarious fashion.. I was in splits on a couple of occasions. Your limited research has certainly garnered a lot of curiosity to explore and witness these adorable and distinct animals. It was informative, exciting, very engaging and not to mentioned funny to the core. “However, our kayak excursion was a bit of a death march to get the equipment back to the amazingly unfriendly desk clerk, Linda” LOL. Can’t wait for such excursion. Please keep writing and updating on your new ventures. Lots of love!

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