This was the conversation that followed our purchase of snorkeling gear in relation to my fear of sea creatures.

Me- “Now I feel like I have to go snorkeling when we get to the keys. (pause) My brother saw a barracuda there once.”

Brent- “Do barracudas attack people?”

Me- “Yes, they are very aggressive. That’s why there is a song called “barracuda”.”

Totally rational.

Thankfully, my first snorkeling experience as an adult was with manatees and not barracudas. We rented a boat with three other families and headed to Three Sisters Springs where manatees congregate in the warm spring waters. Despite their appearance manatees don’t have a lot of fat and during the winter they seek out the warmer waters of springs and power plants to survive.

We drove down the river our eyes squinting for signs of manatees. A ripple in the water, a large dark shadow, or a “floating rock” could be manatee. While we passed a few on our way to the springs, we weren’t prepared for what awaited us near the spring’s outlet. At least 50 manatees, probably many more, were lolling about under the turquoise waters.

We put on our snorkeling gear and slipped into the chilly clear water. Slowly we headed over to their sanctuary, a roped off area where the manatees can rest, to swim along its edges. Once near the sanctuary a ranger told us if we stay still a curious manatee was likely to approach us. Not far from us, a group of patient young girls stood with a manatee who had decided to rest in between their feet. So we waited and sure enough it wasn’t long before a manatee found us. He swam right next to Thing One rubbing against his legs like a very large aquatic cat with elephant skin. It was both exhilarating and nerve wracking to watch what I guessed to be a thousand pound giant get friendly with my hundred pound son. Another manatee even seemed to enjoy the boy’s attention rolling onto its back as if wanting a belly rub. Thing One and Two were happy to oblige.

It was magical.

They may be one of the most beautiful and odd creatures I’ve ever seen with their large paddle fan-like tails, small flippers, rotund bodies, square short snouts, itty bitty eyes, rough skin, and quiet nature. Time with these gentle giants passed much too quickly and stepping backing up onto the boat deck, I felt like I was was waking up from a dream. A wonderful dream filled with nonchalance, dancing beams of light, and creatures peaceful beyond my imagination.

Love and Laughter,

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