Friday, February 7, 2014

Manatee Trip Day 2

Day 2 begins with s 6:30 wake up call and a carb-heavy breakfast.  I push a lot of food on the kids so they don't run out of fuel with all of the swimming they will do that day.  After breakfast we try to get in our wetsuits and pack our dry bags for our first experience with the manatee.  

We meet out on the deck, add defogger to our masks, check our gear, and head out on boats. 

Students are always super excited at this point.   Experience tells me that a few won't be comfortable and will spend a majority of the time on the boat, but I also know that many of them have never done what we are about to do.

As soon as we get to the sanctuary area, I quickly go to the front and put on my fins and mask to show students what to do.  I was only in the water about a minute, when two young manatee immediately swam up and wanted attention.  Both were moving me backwards and wanting to be rubbed.  While one was trying to keep my arm on him by grabbing my arm with his flippers, the other found the lanyard on the back of my wetsuit and was pulling and unzipping at the same time.

Some of the students were excited, and worked to get in the water as soon as possible, while others watched from the boat deck.

Here is the mom and baby above.  We swam with these two for a bit until they moved on to the sanctuary area. 

The mom showed us how to take a manatee breath.

The kids and I swam into the keyhole area where swimmers are allowed, but found that no manatee were in there.  Since we had great luck by the boats when we first got in we checked around the boats and found the most active young one I've ever experienced. 

This baby was ALL OVER some of the adults.  Ms. Ray (Mrs. Davis' mom) became fast friends with this little one.  He wanted to climb into her lap and stay there.  He would not let her swim away.  

Eventually I got a turn, and at the risk of looking ridiculous..... 

Many of the students played with him, and one student (K.G.) had a super experience with him.

Mrs. Davis got her turn as well.  All too soon, the crew was ushering us back to the boat (alright, they actually were forcing the three adults back to the boat).  

Then we took the super cold trip back to the hotel.  

Day 2 Part 2 coming soon. 

Manatee trip Day 1

Our school has been offering a trip to Florida to swim with the manatee for about 14 years.  This year marked my 7th trip, and we are having a great time!

Our first day is a super long bus ride with a lunch stop at the Florida border.  We eventually get to our destination of Crystal River, Florida, drop off some of our crew members, and then head for Homosassa Wildlife Refuge.  

This is a place that takes in animals native to Florida who are needing to rehab an injury.  Some are there permanently and others are able to eventually be released. 

Our students walk around and see the various animals, but a favorite is all of the birds.  We learned from the lady feeding the birds, that most of these are actually wild birds that have learned when feeding time for the injured birds are and drop in to try to catch an easy fish.

These two girls went up and talked to the volunteer feeding the pelicans their fish, and trying to NOT throw to the herons, ibis, egrets and wood storks stalking her as well. 

We also saw a lot of reptiles...... of course.....

and a favorite, the otters.  They were running everywhere and playing.

We get to see a few captured manatee, and this is the first look at what we'll be swimming with the next day.  

We go to the  underwater viewing area and look at the snook, and other fish that are hanging out to take advantage of the warm spring water flowing in that area.

We finish up our visit with a presentation about manatees and learned a lot. Of course, we also knew a lot, and were pleased that we could answer all of her questions.  One of my students even recognized that this was a tracking device used to follow manatees released from their facility.

After our visit we headed to the hotel, tried on our wetsuits for the next few days, and had a hot dog supper.

Notice the weather?  It was pouring rain.  We walked around the wildlife center in the rain, and we ate in the rain.  After dinner we visited a souvenir shop and an ice cream parlor..... in the rain.... and you know what?  I never heard one complaint..... such wonderful kids and parents.