Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Crystal River (hoping for a manatee)

It was October 9th when I left my parents at the airport and all I knew is that I needed to be in Texas the following weekend (i.e. over a week away) and in Peoria by 10/25.  So what to do in between.... :)

I love to snorkel and had previously heard about snorkeling in the Crystal River, which is north of Tampa a couple hours or so.  I headed in that direction.  One of the draws there is that there are manatee which you can snorkel with as well.  However, early October still is too warm and they haven't really arrived yet (the manatee mostly winter here).  There are natural springs which are about 72 degrees year round.  So when the gulf waters cool, the manatee migrate here and soak in the warm waters.  It looks like if you come in December/January there are tons of manatee and you can't not see one (double negative intended).  

I was unsure if it was worth my time to stop, but I got there at dark, stayed at a hotel and rented a kayak first thing in the morning.  Because it's the off season and a Friday morning, there weren't many people out.  I had the kayak for a couple hours and paddled out to the spring.  The water was super clear - I was really surprised as I'd been skeptical.  People live all along this and have their own boats and whatnot, so I wasn't confident it would remain clean.  But it was great! The area of the springs had fish to see and fallen trees in the water - it was crazy clear.  No manatee though.  I headed out to paddle some more and just look at the houses.  On my way back, I saw the tail of one shoot under my kayak and then it was gone.  Then there were some tour boats that found some and I learned that you look for the bubbles at the top of the water.  Another one went right under me and I saw that one a little better.  Not fast enough for a picture, but I saw it! Yay! Objective accomplished.  I would really like to be back in the winter though. 

Here are some pictures:

I look crazy happy but I'm not sure why.  No manatee yet :)

The water was crystal clear in the lagoon/springs area :)

Some of the fallen trees under the water - the depth of visibility
just from my kayak was impressive.

I get some great tan lines in these sandals :)

This was a unique picture that captures what's under the water,
but also reflects the trees from the shoreline.

Another selfie :)

A group of snorkelers followed me in, it's hard to see but they're there.

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