Saturday, August 09, 2008

Manatee Encounter

My friend Mai's birthday is approaching, so she wanted to do something the weekend before it. It is good timing since she is a teacher and school starts on Monday (faculty is back, but the kids don't show up for another week). She arranged a group outing to take the Manatee Encounter tour from A Day Away Kayak Tours. We had a fair sized group: Mai and Charles, Travis and Diana, myself and Johanna and few others Mai invited as well.

Kayak Friends
Originally uploaded by klbarrus
At the start of the tour.

We didn't have to look far for manatees! On the way out we paddled into a boat launch area, known as a gathering spot for the manatees. Within minutes, two very friendly manatees began to swim around us, checking out the group.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus
Very curious and friendly manatee.

The manatees surfaced very close - I could feel them exhale. They would flip over and swim under the boat, and circled us until we left. They would bump the kayaks and turn us in slow circles. The guide said it was OK to gently pet them, so when one was close enough, I stuck out my hand to feel it swimming by.

Mai and Charles
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

After we left the boat launch manatees, we entered a sheltered shore area. I saw a small jellyfish swimming by, so I lifted it up on my paddle. It is a little hard to see, but in the middle of the paddle is a lump - that's the jellyfish, a little one.

The tour also included a stop in shallow water where we dug for clams, and looked at NASA 12 miles to the south. The tour company also offers a few other trips that sound interesting, such as the nighttime bioluminescence tour. They also have a shuttle launch trip, which I think would be much better than being closer in viewing, on the NASA grounds. If the launch is postponed, at least you had the kayaking part to enjoy!

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