Monday, November 24, 2014

Abby's Birthday Present

We decided to give Abby an unusual birthday present.

We got up early this morning and drove an hour and a half from Orlando to Crystal River, Florida and went to River Ventures.

For Abby turning 11 we booked a tour to swim with Manatees.

After a safety and rule briefing we got on our wetsuits and headed to the boat.  Everyone had a mask and snorkel and was required to carry a noodle for flotation (and also to differentiate you from all the other snorkelers on the river at the same time) as the idea isn't as much to swim but to do a dead man's float breathing through your snorkel and watching Manatees.

Thumbs up and Abby's 11 and ready to go.
Both kids did great getting used to snorkling very quickly, and along with another family on the boat we got ready to swim with manatees.

So we headed over to observe a manatee in the river.  It was a large male that was named Hugh.

Oh, the Hugh Manatee!

The kids were amazed to come face to face with a sleeping Manatee.  Every 15 minutes or so, he would rise to the surface, take a breath and go back down to sleep on the bottom.  Basically you let sleeping Manatees rise (and don't get in their way or bug them). Very big and very cute but not very interactive.

Then we moved on toward the Manatee Sanctuary to get a more interactive experience than just one sleeping Manatee and we were not disappointed.

There were many manatees in the sanctuary, where we could not go - you couldn't even touch the boundary ropes, but there were many manatees that went swimming out of the sanctuary right by us and it was amazing to watch.  Note that as endangered species, you can't reach out and touch or chase a manatee, they have to come to you, and these ones swam right by.

How close do they come by? Very Close indeed.

Leah and a Little Manatee
Here's a video of a close pass.

A cute baby swam by along side its mother as well.  Cuteness factor was off the charts.

It was a great experience to snorkel beside these gentle giants.

Abby announced it was the best birthday ever.


Old NFO said...

That's a great video! Glad y'all got a chance to do that...

ProudHillbilly said...

Happy birthday to Abbey (did anyone ever tell you that your daughters are spectacularly beautiful?). And I am so jealous...seeing a manatee is on my bucket list.

Aaron said...

Old NFO: Thanks! The water was kinda silted up due to all the people mucking up the bottom but I did the best I could.

PH: It was an awesome experience indeed and well worth doing.

Mcgyver said...

Awesome gift. I'm sure she will always remember this one.