Sunday, March 4, 2012

Manatee Madness!

I have to start this post by admitting that I have never been a big manatee fan.  Not that I dislike them--I just never quite understood the appeal.  Sure, they're cute--if you can see them from underwater and you like large gray lumps of floating blubber.  I have seen a few on various trips to Florida, all of them at Blue Spring State Park.  Last year we even had one swim very near our kayaks, which freaked us all out--what if it surfaced under our boats and flipped us?  Not the water I want to take a dip in, black and infested with alligators. 

But manatees are why most people come to Blue Spring, as it is place where the manatees can find relative warmth during the chill days of winter.  The water that comes out of the spring is 72 degrees.  Manatees, being warm blooded, need warm water in order to survive.  In very cold winters there can be a 100 or more crowded into the warm waters of the run.  This year, due to the relatively warm winter, the numbers were down.  I heard a ranger mention that there were only 14 there that day.  That still seemed like a lot but what do I know.  Lori was excited to see manatees so I was happy there were any there at all.

So up until this trip I had really only seen manatees as most people had--from an observation deck, looking down, the animals flattened out by the refraction of light through the water.  They always seemed so sedentary, lifeless almost, and the most exciting thing we ever saw happen was one lift its nose out of the water to breathe.  What was the big deal?


We were getting ready to head back to the boat launch after our potty break at the day use area.  Lisa overheard a ranger telling a couple in a canoe who where on their way in that there were a few manatees very near the end of the run, where it meets the river, if they wanted to paddle back and take a look.  The area is cordoned off--they don't allow boats of any kind in the run when the manatees are present--but boats could be pulled up to the rope.   We had already paddled near several manatees in the river that day, and at least one was in the lagoon with us, but we decided to paddle over and take a look.

When we got there, this is what we saw:


Manatees were splashing and playing and rolling in the shallow waters.  I couldn't get my camera out fast enough!

Manatees in pairs and threes frolicked in the run.  Playing?  Mating?  Both?  Who cared, it was fascinating to watch.

Our water-eye view combined with the evening sun made the perfect combination for watching this spectacle.  We were absolutely in the right place at the right time.


We were in awe.  We had no idea these animals would put on such a show.  They came closer and closer, so close that I couldn't get them in the frame.  A few even swam under our boats, much to the delight of Lori and Lisa.  There was much squealing and laughing, and we were so glad we had stopped to take a look.

I took over 500 photos (thanks, 8 GB card!) but only 100 or so were worth keeping.  I won't bore you with all of them, but you can look forward to at least one more manatee post!


  1. I'm so happy you fell in love with manatees, Marie. I adore those lumbering blobs of cute blubber. If I lived in Florida, I'd have a manatee license plate. But, er, I'm glad you didn't fall into alligator-infested waters.

    1. Me too! We had a blast watching them, spent probably an hour with them. What gentle creatures they are, and what a treat to see them showing some personality!