Saturday, April 6, 2013

Swimming with the manatees

This is Joe filling in for B to write about a fun trip that we recently went on with two friends from my office. Florida is known for a number of tourist traps: Disney, Universal Everglades, South Beach and more, but one lesser known attraction is at Crystal River Preserve on the Gulf coast: swimming with the manatees! We've been in Florida for over 2 years, but we had yet to see one of the famous "sea cows" before we took a weekend trip to Gainesville and got up close and personal with these fascinating animals.

The dogs came with us on this trip, so our first stop was Dogwood Park just outside of Gainesville. This is no ordinary dog park, it costs a few dollars to get in but the dogs had about 13 acres of space to run free. Lily and Ruby had fun chasing a tennis ball across a big open field:

It turns out that Gainesville isn't very interesting outside of the University of Florida. The campus is very nice, but the rest of the city had lots of traffic. However, one highlight was trying some Korean food at Garlic & Ginger. We sampled all sorts of traditional Korean food, I really enjoyed my Korean BBQ:

Finally on Saturday morning it was time for the main event. We went with "Manatee Fun" tours, which is basically a private boat operated by "Captain" Broderick. It was nice to be alone on the tour and have some privacy. The tour left at 8 AM so it was a chilly 48 degrees when we headed out. However, Crystal River is a favored Manatee gathering place because of the natural hot springs, which keep the water temperature warm, even in February. The preserve is a very popular tourist destination and there are a number of ways to see the manatees including a nature trail on shore, paddleboarding, kayaking, and of course snorkeling! We opted for the up close and personal experience (that's Becca waving to the camera):

The fenced area to the left is the safe zone where the manatees can go if they don't want to interact with people. There were around 20-30 manatees in the general area. They are very gentle creatures and were happy to come right up to us. We had an old fashioned disposable camera so I quick snapped a picture when a little one came up to say hi to me:

I also took a picture of Becca when she was swimming by:

After about an hour, it started to get too crowded, so Captain Broderick moved us to a more isolated location. He was an interesting character, he told us a poem that he wrote to a long lost love among other odd anecdotes. We were...entertained. The private cove turned out to be really cool because we had a private swim with a mother and baby manatee. Swimming with the manatees was a unique and really cool experience for a reasonable price, we would definitely recommend it! We still need to go snorkeling on the coral reef in the Keys before we leave Miami.

On Sunday we make one last stop before heading home: Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. The gardens are an attractive destination because they are dog friendly so the girls could come along. I managed to get Lily to sit still long enough to take a photo:

I also took one of Becca with Ruby:

We really enjoyed our weekend getaway. One advantage to living in Florida is that you can take a road trip in February and enjoy summer-like weather. The dogs also had a great time and were asleep the whole drive home. We'll check out a coral reef sometime this May.


  1. I've been to crystal river twice and loved it! I am so impressed that you swam with the manatees, I chickened out. Your posts have been fun and helpful to feel attached to your lives

  2. I just wanted to thank you for the lovely blog comment on my blog! The recipes are all my own, except those that are adapted (which I'll link to). The snickerdoodle ones are fabulous!

    Lovely blog!