Anyone that knows me knows that I am a huge fan of the adorable manatees that are native to Florida. They are some of the friendliest, cutest and docile mammals I have ever come into contact with and they are Florida’s state mammal! Affectionately referred to as “sea cows”, manatees are herbivores that can grow to be between 10 and 12 feet in length and weigh between 1,500 and 1,800 pounds! Their diet consists of a combination of sea grasses and freshwater vegetation; it's amazing that such large creatures thrive off such a simple plant based diet!
So, when I was down in Florida in April, the most important part of the trip for me was seeing a manatee and maybe even getting in the water with one. Lucky for us, during our trip we were staying right near one of the biggest manatee refuges in the country; Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Crystal River NWF is the only refuge specifically created to protect the threatened Florida Manatee; it has freshwater springs throughout the area that keep the water at an ideal 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Manatees from all over come to this refuge to feed, socialize, and sunbathe; especially during the winter months when the water can get much colder further north.
We took a day to explore Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge by kayak and it was such a treat! The water was brilliantly clear; you could see right to the bottom of the river bed from your kayak. We brought our snorkel gear and when we arrived at one of the main sections of Crystal River NWF, the Three Sisters, we went for a little swim around the warm springs. Three Sisters is a group of three freshwater springs and it is one of the manatees’ favorite hangout spots. We were lucky enough to spot a few in the water from our kayaks so we got in and swam with them as well as some really cool fish and vegetation. Check out the picture below to see the gorgeous sea cow we got to swim near; he had a big white spot on his back; probably from their most common cause for injury, boat propellers. You can see the whole video from our Florida trip made using my boyfriend's GoPro Hero 6 here:
If you want to learn more about Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge check out their website, https://www.fws.gov/refuge/crystal_river/