How do you find a manatee? Look for clumps of people staring down into the water at a marina like this:
We were hugely excited when we saw our first manatees surfacing at the South Seas Plantation Marina. They’re an endangered species so we figured it was pretty special to catch sight of them. Then we saw them at the next marina where we docked…and the next one…and, well, the thrill sort of settled into a comfortable familiarity. However, we still took gazillions of photos, some of which I share with you here.
Often your first hint that manatees are in the neighborhood is the sound of air being expelled explosively as they lift just their nostrils above the water to breathe. My Darling Daughter had an authentic encounter when she was sitting on the dock, dangling her bare feet over the edge. A manatee nose rose just under her and blew manatee snot all over her toes.
Fun facts: Manatees grow up to 12 feet long, and can weigh 1,200 pounds, most of which is NOT fat, contrary to their rather rotund appearance. They eat vegetation, such as manatee and turtle grass. They can hold their breath for as long as 20 minutes when resting. As far as we could tell, they rest a lot. My brother-in-law, a stern New Englander, was quite appalled by the manatees’ apparent lack of work ethic. In truth, they spend a lot of time feeding—6 to 8 hours a day–where we can’t see them. Manatees are closely related to the elephant although this one looks more like a seal.
They move slowly and breed slowly, only once every 2 to 5 years, so it was pretty cool to see this mom and her baby. The baby was quite playful, spiraling around her mother in the water, and swimming away and back as though teasing her to play chase, something I can’t picture an adult manatee doing.
In addition to manatees, we saw lots and lots of dolphins. They move a lot faster than manatees so they’re much harder to capture on film. Most of our photos barely show a fin, and my Darling Daughter is convinced the dolphins were deliberately taunting her every time she got out her camera to photograph them.
We caught quick glimpses of sea tortoises (way too quick for photos) and saw lots of fish. On land, we met another endangered critter, the gopher tortoise (one of the Earth’s oldest living species). Doesn’t he remind you of the Slowskys in the Comcast television commercial?
And we found a colony of fiddler crabs, reminding my sister and me of childhood days at the beach.
Despite all our critter encounters, we still missed Brodie the Devil Dog who was visiting Rover Ranch and Spa while we were gone. We were happy to get home for a fur fix.