Thursday, March 3, 2016

Manatees

Sunday morning we slept in till 9 am. We got up and I made breakfast on my birthday griddle, yes, I remembered it this time. The pancakes were perfect but I need to work the temp to get the eggs right, they weren't bad but they need some tweaking. Full of pancakes and coffee we walked down to the spring and with great pleasure we saw 8 manatees sleeping in the swimming area. We walked around the spring so we could see them better. A group of tourists were standing on the ramp but none of them had ventured further into the water. I, of course, had to start something so I stripped off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants, and waded down to the end of the ramp.
Even though manatees look "fat" they really have very little fat on their bodies which is why they need to winter in warmer water.
There was a group of divers enjoying the spring and several of them even swam right up to the manatees to film them on their GoPros, the manatees couldn't have cared less. I wish I could have found my underwater bag for my camera for the trip, I need to track it down soon.

Another group of visitors at the spring were a committee of Black Vultures. They hung out on the fence by the spring and weren't a bit scared by the people that came to watch the manatees.
I love vultures so it was a special treat for me. Who knew vultures were such hams? These guys were constantly barking (adult call) at each other and trying to steal what ever they could get their beaks on. One tried to take off with our flipflops while we were swimming and one had it in it's head it really wanted the life ring. It is a pretty damn cute sight watching a vulture pulling on the ropes of a life ring and trying to take off with it.

As a special treat Hubby and I booked seats on a 1.5 hour pontoon boat tour on the Suwannee River. The tour was $35 a person but it included dinner and two drinks at the BBQ stand in the park. Since we had some time before the tour we walked back to the campsite and ate some popcorn to hold us over till after the tour.
Views from the long boardwalk
Red seed pods

Christmas wreath lichen or cryptothecia rubrocincta growing on the trees in the swamp. It has a prominent red pigment.

The pontoon tour boats took off from the dock at the end of the long boardwalk that went along the branch of the river that connects the spring to the river. While we waited we were lucky enough to spot a big Florida Gar surfacing right by the pavilion. 
A cormorant sunning
We were the first to board so we grabbed the seats in the front. I love boating, I have many fond memories of my dad and I boating (and breaking down) from when I was younger. We didn't see much wildlife but the wind off the water was invigorating. When we got off the boat we had our lovely late BBQ lunch then retired to the campsite. 
As it got dark we cooked dinner over the fire and gazed at the amazingly bright Jupiter.  Later in the evening as we left the bathroom after brushing our teeth we spotted two posts on the walkway that weren't there when we first walked by. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness we saw that the posts had ears and were really two does and there was a third right behind them. The deer slowly turned and walked in front us us down the walkway, we followed slowly as not to spook them. They walked all the way down to our site and started to graze in the empty spot next to us. Even though the moon was still around half lit it hadn't risen yet when we had our deer encounter, I wish it had been up so we could have seen them a little better. 

It was at least 5 degrees warmer Sunday night than Saturday night making it much more comfortable, even though we still slept in hats and gloves. It's not often you pack both your ski mask and swim suit on the same trip, I didn't end up wearing my ski mask but I was glad I had it in case my nose had been frozen. Sometime after midnight a tent camper came in after hours and set up by headlights, that happened to shine right in our tent, luckily I was so zonked out I didn't even notice.
Monday morning I made us pancakes and eggs again, I did scrabbled eggs and they turned out a lot better than the day before other than the splash over I had on the slightly lower end of the table (mental note, add a level to our gear for leveling the table). After breakfast we packed up our gear then went to the spring to relax and swim. There was a little manatee in the spring but it didn't like a diver invading it's space so it swam away before we could get in the water. However when we got in we had a school of mullet , several large carp, and teeny baby gulf flounders keeping us company. The spring has a constant water temp of 72 degrees which was a little warmer than the air temperature but it still felt pretty cool once we got in. I swam out a little ways but wasn't feeling very adventurous so I didn't swim to the deepest point over the spring. Swimming works up an appetite so enjoyed a lunch at the BBQ joint again. 
 The spring was absolutely gorgeous the day we left.
When it was time to leave we didn't want to. We fell in love, we will be camping Manatee Springs again for sure. Before we left we hiked the short Sink Trail, it was aptly named since it had so many sink holes.
 When thinking of Florida most people conjure images of while sand, blue water, and luxury hotels. This here is my Florida- springs, beautiful woods, hammocks, and palmettos, the natural Florida is the best.


Until the next time,

Some Bunny Loves You!