February in Florida: Citrus County

Who cares about Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions about the coming of spring when you live in Florida?

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On the first day of February we launched the boat at Pete’s Peir and then spent the day on the water. We started the morning playing hide and seek with the fish. The fish won.

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Then we played a little Marco Polo with the dolphin as they would surface and hiss before disappearing.

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Next, we played Peek-a-boo with the manatee as they’d quickly peek their snouts above the water but then slide beneath the surface before I could snap a satisfactory picture.

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Finally, we quit playing games and headed to Three Sisters Spring where we knew we’d find manatee we could photograph.

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And we weren’t disappointed. Dozens of the swimming potatoes were moving out of the spring in the warm weather to feed before the next cold front chases them back to their warm, protected hideaway.

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The spring area also housed numerous manatee in the roped off portion of the river. A river congested with swimmers, boaters, photographers and people kayaking.

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Only in Florida is it possible to enjoy  what those living in other states would consider summer fun in February.

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Daycation: Crystal River

 

14 Down: Mission Accomplished

Well before sunrise on December 29th we started the day driving to Pete’s Pier in Crystal River to swim with the manatees, the final adventure on our 14 in 14 list. This was not our first attempt to swim with the manatee this year. A visit to Blue Springs in March found manatee in the spring area but swimming was prohibited. Then in July we swam in the springs in Crystal River where I hoped we’d by lucky and find a couple of manatee so I wouldn’t have to brave the cold later in the year, but they were not cooperative.

 

Since the only way I could possibly get in the water in December was with a wet suit, we decided to break down and pay to go with a charter company which turned out to be a great decision! Not only are wet suits included in the price, we didn’t have to trailer the boat for an hour on a foggy morning and we didn’t have to do battle to find a place to anchor the boat and then leave it unattended while we ventured back to Three Sisters Springs.

Instead, we eased into the not so cold water and spent nearly two hours enjoying the spring and the gentle giants resting in the area.

 

As our “captain” talked about the warmer than usual weather pushing the manatee back out to the open water away from the spring coupled with the sight of hundreds of brightly colored noodles with snorkelers from more than two dozen tour boats already in the spring, I thought the day was going to be a bust…a 5:00 wake up, cold water, a lot of people, no manatee…that sounded like  wasted time and money.

Fortunately, only about 30 minutes into our trip one of the tour companies starting rounding up their group taking well over half of the people out of the spring making for a more pleasant experience.

In fact, the six critters in the spring had stationed themselves in a manner that enabled the the humans to cluster in small groups of six to ten swimmers making it possible to get up close and enjoy the time in the water.

We only swam (actually floated) with six manatee, but a cow and calf made up one pair and there was a pregnant cow which is expected to give birth any day now according to the preserve volunteer. Now that would be a sight to see!

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What a wonderful way to end 2014! (And thanks to my wonderful underwater photographer and husband for capturing these images of the manatee.)

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We’ve lived only an hour from Crystal River for over 35 years. I have to ask myself what took so long?

 

Crystal River: Spring #9

We spent the day on Crystal River swimming and snorkeling in a couple of the springs in Kings Bay. Since the constant 72° temperature of the spring attracts manatee, we hoped to swim with the gentle creatures so we could check off another activity on the 14 in 14 list; but no such luck.

DSCN0022Manatee prefer the springs in the winter but finding them during the warm weather months is a bit more challenging. However, since I’m not fond of swimming when the weather’s cold, looking for the manatee on a summer day was worth a try.

We finally anchored the boat and made our way back to Three Sisters Spring, the ninth spring we’ve visited this year. Fortunately we avoided crowds by going on a Thursday morning, competing with only about two dozen swimmers and kayakers.

Even I enjoyed swimming in the refreshing water of the spring, and it was the perfect place for John to test out the underwater camera the girls gave him for Father’s Day.

We continuing exploring the Kings Bay region, and John jumped over for some more snorkeling. I decided to remain in the boat, afraid I wouldn’t be able to get back in without the aid of the shore (a good move).

No manatee, but an otherwise perfect day exploring yet another of Florida’s magnificent springs. And now we have an excuse to make a return trip!

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