Swimming with the Manatees

Storm delays delivery of my Christmas present until we are in Florida this year.  His gift, I am thrilled to learn, is that he will accompany me on a swim with the Manatees.  Given that Storm has never worn a wet suit, does not like cold water and  has never shown an interest in communing with any wildlife, I am grateful for his willingness to share this with me.   I choose a late afternoon trip hoping that the air temp of 76 degrees in the afternoon will be more comfortable for us than daybreak temps in the 40s.

Ready for the Mantees, but are they ready for us?

Is this a Wet suit or a Sweatsuit?

An afternoon swim proves to be a wise choice, except for the wet suit conundrum.  Before our boat can depart, we learn we must don our wet suits.  Manatee like to swim in 72 degree water which they consider warm.  Humans (specifically Storm and I) consider anything less than bath water temps to be a little nippy.  To make our swim more comfortable, our guide selects a suit for each of us.  She claims that in order to keep us warm in the water, the fit must be very snug with no air pockets.  She hands us each a neoprene envelope that is supposed to be a size smaller than our bodies. 

Our suits selected, she leaves us to discover how many ways we can screw up trying to slither into this garment.  Suurrre… they are a size smaller until we try to get in them.  Could the sweat of our efforts be shrinking them?  I’ll bet she sells hidden videos of the contortions and mis-steps involved in this process. 

We spend 15 minutes essentially trying to force twenty ounces of toothpaste (us) back into a one ounce tube (the suit).  Covered in a light sheen of perspiration, Storm pirouettes out of the dressing room.  His arms flailing, gasping for breath, he has his suit on backwards.  I have managed to force one leg into a sleeve rather than a leg opening.  In Yoga, I believe they call the position that I have assumed the “double inverted corkscrew” or in  Sanskrit, amputalimbasana.  My misplaced leg has swollen to twice its normal size and I have lost all feeling in it.  I can’t extricate my calf from the sleeve and am nearly in tears.

Suited Up!

We eventually correct our mistakes and the guide zips us into our suits barely able to conceal her amusement.  Properly suited, we resemble two black boa constrictors after a feast.  Drenched from the inside out now, we offer to swim to the springs just so we can get in the water quicker and cool off.

 To my sister and niece who race Triathlons and own their own wet suits, I say this.  Once you get the suit on you should win!  If you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else during this feat, you should win first prize!  No further effort should be required.  I understand now why volunteers at the end of the swim portion of a race help rip those suits off of each participant!

Monkey Island

Monkey Island

An enclosed houseboat maneuvers the shallow water to deliver us to our swim.  Screeching primates greet us as we round Monkey Island.  This accidentally built man-made refuge is now employed as a habitat for mis-behaving monkeys from the wildlife park.  The monkeys escaped so many times while in captivity in the park, an agreement was reached to provide them a home on this resort owned island.  The resort provides food for the four monkey clan.  Nearby wildlife park employees monitor the monkey’s health.  Apparently monkeys can’t swim so the water provides a natural barrier to their escape efforts.

Storm, Sunny and the Manatees

Easing ourselves off the boat and into the cool water delivers welcome relief from the heat build-up we have endured since fighting our way into our suits.  Our captain finds a shallow place to anchor very near where Manatees are traveling between the warm springs and their feeding grounds.  Storm is never able to find a mask and snorkel that allows him to breathe without gills.  He swims awhile then enjoys most of the show from above.  The late afternoon sunbeams slicing the water serenely illuminate the transiting Manatees as they glide by us. 

At the end of the swim, I am thrilled that Storm chose such a thoughtful gift.  My friends who encouraged me to do this raved about their spiritual commune with the Manatees.  I do not actually bond with these graceful animals. Probably this was my fault.  My lapse could be due to the bubbly chuckles and aquatic grins the Manatees fail to mask as they drift by me.  What can I say, a wet suit is just NOT a good look for me!

About Sunny Weathers

Pilot, motorcyclist and full time RVer. Follow me as I travel all over the US in my Country Coach RV volunteering, making new friends and pursuing a constant outdoor temperature between 70F and 80F. I'll share the fun and the tribulations and any great survival tricks I learn!

8 Replies to “Swimming with the Manatees”

  1. Marcia Legates says: Reply

    This is my favorite post from you so far, I think! Manatees are awesome….when I was in Florida, we went someplace where I think there was a powerplant and people came to see the manatees swim up into the warmer water every evening. Very cool. Then we went out in our kayaks somewhere, and the manatees would bump us underneath. Once, I was given an inflatable kayak and we went out where there were gators…no one told me not to do that!
    Take care you guys! You rock!

    1. Sunny Weathers says: Reply

      Thanks Marcia! It is my favorite too and so much fun to do – I like the idea of Kayaking with the Manatees. Bet that was a hoot!

  2. We are disappointed that no pictures were taken of you both, wet suited.

    I know the feeling from some years ago, when it took the girl twenty minutes to discover she had nothing in an XL, and to insist that the L would for sure be big enough.
    Not even close. A very unfriendly zipper changed my sex life forever, and really, it is no revenge at all to pee the suit less than half way through the play. But it did seem to help the very gregarious manatee at some distance.

    N. Clement

    1. Sunny Weathers says: Reply

      LOL- I am afraid of the mental scarring my friends might have suffered if I had included pictures of us in the suits.

  3. Jim & Sandy Dukeman says: Reply

    I am without words, not something I would like to do but glad you shared it with us, cause now I DON’T HAVE TO and can still share the experience. :>) You might want to move further south this week, gonna get a little CHILLY in the northern half of Florida next week. Take care and continue to live the dream of us all. Thanks for sharing. GOD BLESS

    1. Sunny Weathers says: Reply

      🙂 We could not find any open sites in Florida to move south. I guess all the other snowbirds there beat us to the punch. We headed west instead and are now in Texas – not much warmer, but a little closer to the warmer weather that we are headed toward. Ya’ll stay warm too!

  4. Barbara Kauffman says: Reply

    I laughed myself silly. My ability to envision you both in a wetsuit was rich. Loved it!!

    1. Sunny Weathers says: Reply

      I am glad you enjoyed it 🙂

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