It all started when I decided to take advantage of some of Jack's toys. I grabbed a kayak and headed down the canal towards Buttonwood Sound. I didn't get far before I saw something floating in the water. It looked like a huge, mossy log.......but it moved. I had been told that there were manatees here, and after a couple seconds the light came on. It was a manatee!!!
I stopped paddling and slowly drifted towards my very large friend. He (or she) noticed me and actually came my way. I was a little nervous. Jacks kayak was narrow, fast, and not nearly as stable as our inflatable kayaks. If this big guy bumped me I might end up tipping right over. He turned out to be a very gentle giant though. He raised his head and let me scratch it. Then he let me rub his back and even rolled over so I could rub his big belly.....very friendly.
I headed back to Jack's house to let everyone know about all the excitement. Then I put on the mask and fins and headed back down the canal. I saw a lot of fish including several 3-4' tarpon but no manatees. It was still a good swim.
When I got back to the house, Stacy and Monique were ready to go kayaking. Monique got in a single and Stacy and I jumped in a double kayak. We headed down the canal and soon ran into my friend.
It's a manatee!!
Monique named him "Manny"
We took turns petting Manny from the kayaks. He seemed to love the attention and went from one person to another.
I had my mask and fins in the kayak and after a few minutes decided to join Manny in the water. He immediately turned my way, his big face coming straight at me. I didn't even have time to put my fins on. I rubbed his head and back. Once again he rolled over so I could rub his belly. He moved very slowly, more floating than swimming.
Up close and personal with a 1000-1500 lb manatee.
After petting Manny for a few minutes I eased away, but he kept following me. Then Stacy pulled out her water bottle. Manatees love fresh water. As Stacy started dribbling fresh water over the side of the Manny turned his full attention towards her. He was soon enjoying a fresh water treat.
A little drink for Manny.
After spending about 20 minutes with Manny we continued on our way, heading out of the canal and into Buttonwood Sound. Eventually we headed out around Pelican Key, which is covered with mangroves and is a bird sanctuary. We saw a wide variety of birds, but mostly just enjoyed paddling around.
Life is sweet....................
A few facts about manatees:
There are three species - West Indian (Trichechus manatus), West African (Trichechus senegalensis), and Amazonian (Trichechus inunguis). The West Indian is further divided into two subspecies - the Florida (Trichelus manatus latirostris) and the Antillean (Trichechus manatus manatus). All are rare and threatened with with extinction.
The dugong is a close relative of the manatee. Dougong can be found in the western Pacific and in the Indian Ocean. There was another relative, Steller's sea cow, that was hunted to extinction around 1768.
There are about 2,400 Florida manatees living in the wild.
An adult female may reach 13' in length and weigh more than 3,000 lbs. An average adult is about 10' long and weighs about 1,200 lbs.
Manatees have good hearing when it comes to sounds like dripping water, but seem to have trouble hearing in the frequency range of the sound made by a boat motor. This could be one of the reasons that they get hit by boats so often.