Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Great Winter Dive Trip

photo thanks to PD

I'm beginning to think more about scuba again, as you can tell from the blog frequency. I don't know if it is the new year or if it is that spring is on it's way.

I was going to write about my most favorite dive. But they all tend to run together. Except for one, that wasn't even a dive. It was a snorkel.

A few years back we had the opportunity to go to Florida over spring break. We are older and didn't want the whole spring break crowd thing. We went to see the manatees.

They stole my heart. I don't think I ever adored an animal before until after I had seen a manatee. What an amazing creature. But here is the whole story.

It ended up we left early - the night I got out of school, rather than wait till the next morning. We had lots of driving to do (17 hours) to get to the Crystal River/Homassas area in Florida. We had prearranged everything through American Pro Dive Center (great place and I would recommend them for any visit to the area)

Except because we left early, we didn't have that night arranged. We drove and drove and drove. We got stuck in the Tennessee mountains behind a bad tractor trailer accident. I tried to sleep but in the upright position, it just wasn't working. Finally I looked at hubby and said, "I gotta lay flat." It was 2 in the morning and we had to find a hotel. It wasn't much and it wasn't clean but at that point I didn't care. He got us up after about 5 hours and we headed on down in bright sunshine and warm weather.

I have to say I got a little nervous when I started seeing all the pools and such enclosed in fences. We were going diving. Alligators live in the water. I am much more afraid of an alligator than a shark.

We had rented a "bungelow" (which was a trailer) which was not what we expected but it was right on the water (Homassa River) and it was quaint and clean. It was a small park like setting with boat docks right there and a restaraunt/bar dock maybe 200 yards away. The weather was beautiful. The water was beautiful. The scenery was beautiful.

After getting unpacked we headed out to explore the area and ended up sitting down on the dock drinking beer with our feet hanging over. I said, "Wouldn't that the be coolest thing if a manatee was right here?"

And not 30 seconds later, there it was. RIGHT THERE! below our feet, nibbling on the algae and growth of a pontoon boat. We were in awe and shock and amazement. It wasn't scared. It didn't run or hide. It just kept eating while we stared, slack-jawed. Neither of us had ever seen one except in pictures.

That one moment was spectacular.

The next morning we were so pumped - we were going on the manatee snorkel with the shop. We watched a video about what we could and couldn't do (Florida laws) and headed out. It was a small amount of people, maybe 10, plus the guide and the boat driver.

We actually got to snorkel with them. I petted and scratched a momma and her baby. They were such amazing creatures. So calm and gentle. Yet powerful.

We did other dives down there - King's Cavern, Rainbow River, and a couple others that were fun but nothing compared to being with those manatees.

There are a lot more stories as this ended up being over a week long vacation, but the manatee encounters were truly the best and the highlight of the trip.

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