When I learned that my brother-in-law and niece, Doug and Lexi Burket, were coming to visit my husband and me in Orlando, I wanted them to have an experience beyond the usual touristy stuff. I wanted them to see the true beauty and majesty of Florida wildlife, and so I made arrangements with the American Pro Dive Center in Crystal River, Florida for us to snorkel with the manatees. We were joined by our pals, Sue and John Brennan, and what a day we had!
We started our trip being outfitted with wetsuits and snorkeling equipment, and then we watched a movie called ‘Manatee Manners’ so we would understand how to behave in the water with these gentle and wonderful creatures. Next, we followed the boat to the pier, boarded, and began our adventure by searching for manatees in Crystal River. As we searched the water, our captain regaled us with funny and interesting stories, all the while remaining in contact with other captains who were also looking for manatees. After about 30 minutes or so, a call came in with a location, wetsuits were zipped up, and off we went, ready to meet and interact with these sweet and beautiful mammals.
When we arrived, I stayed in the boat to take photos while the rest of the gang got into the water to make friends with what turned out to be a very friendly manatee. This particular manatee was rolling over like a puppy for us; and as the captain made sure that everyone had personal interaction, there were many happy cries of, ‘Oh, she feels slimy!’ We were in shallow water, and at one point, the manatee nibbled on the grass on top of my niece’s feet, and then sat on her feet! I was able to take lots of great pictures, and the captain also made a video of the experience that was available for purchase.
On the boat ride back to the dock, we all had huge smiles on our faces and many were already planning their next manatee adventure. I highly recommend the American Pro Dive Center’s Manatee Snorkle Tour, and will continue to bring visiting friends and relatives to Crystal River to play with the manatees.
A little bit about American Pro Drive Center: American Pro Dive Center, located in Crystal River Florida, has been in business for over 25 years, and offers manatee tours for both snorkelers and divers. American Pro is actively involved in preservation through hands-on education, and they are a recipient of the National Geographic Dive Center Award from PADI and N.G., as well as many other awards from state and local educational systems.
Thank you for reading my column! Here are links to an article and website where you can learn about manatees: