Saturday, March 6, 2010

Snoop Dogg Does Manatee Park

If you build it, they will come! Manatee have been coming to the warm waters off the Orange River for decades, attracted in the winter months to the warm discharge from the power plant. The county finally got the smart idea to build a park along these prime manatee winter feeding grounds, and invite people to come see them out in full force.

We went kayaking out here a couple of years ago, and we were surprised to have a manatee appear from out under our kayak, where it promptly flipped onto its back and sat there and licked our kayak for probably over 10 minutes. Who ever knew that a kayak could taste so good? Unfortunately we didn't have a camera on this day, when we were so close to a manatee that it would hit us with the spray from its nose when it snorted!

Since that day we have been eager to have a similar encounter. So I've been waiting all season for just the right day-- a day that was still cool enough for the manatee to be hanging around, but warm enough for us to be out on the water. I decided that last Saturday was the day.

Evidently everyone decided the same thing! We showed up at Manatee Park to find the place overrun with people. However we had no trouble getting a kayak. Normally I prefer to have my own kayak, but given the shoulder trouble I've been having lately I decided it would be better if we shared one.

We went down to pick up our kayak, and I was amused by this sign.

My mind saw it as meaning not to feed the gators by falling or diving in, or tossing in crabs.

Everyone else seemed to be doing canoes, which I am no longer a fan of. Kayaks all the way, baby!

When you first start heading out from the launching point, you have to pass under this bridge.

The water was so shallow through this whole pass that we kept getting stuck and have to dig in our paddles and try to shove ourselves along and break free of the sand and muck.

But finally we made it out into the open Orange River.

Usually we head left when we come out, which gives a more scenic route and allows us to flow with the current on the return trip. But this time we decided to try right, towards the Caloosahatchee, since that is supposed to be where the manatee prefer.

We didn't get too far before coming across an osprey eating on top of a dead palm tree.

I got video of the osprey as well...

We were amazed by these huge canoes that we spotted. They would easily hold 10 people, and were styled after more traditional native canoes.

We had a big stretch of water in front of us, but it didn't take long before the manatee appeared.

At first I was really nervous, given how HUGE these things are! Some were about 10 feet long and a 1000 pounds. Very intimidating when you see a manatee bigger than your kayak going underneath it, and the water is only about 3-4 feet deep in many spots. So I would worry that we would run up over one, and there wouldn't be enough clearance in the water and we might tip. Here's a video I call "Nervous Nellie"...

Here are a couple of other videos of the manatee...

We probably spent an hour out kayaking, and then headed back in. Then we went to check out the manatee from the manatee lookout.

I think we counted about 18 at one time right in front of us.

Manatee have no natural enemies, but most of them carry the scars of boat impacts.

On average, manatee come up for breaths about every 3-5 minutes, but may stay submerged for up to 20 minutes when resting.

I got a little video of the manatee from up top. It's funny. I had just overheard a tour guide tell a group that manatee aren't like porpoise-- they don't leap out of the water and splash around and play. At least "not unless they're getting freaky" or something. And just moments later, I saw a large splash from the manatee.

Snoop insisted on getting in on the action as usual.

Look at that tail...

Lovely creatures.

We did notice what seemed to be a big boulder off to the side...

...but found that it was a baby that was sitting off by itself. I wound up asking a volunteer about it, and whether there was any reason to be concerned that it was away from its mother. He said that they weren't concerned yet, but were keeping an eye on it. He said that the mother was probably nearby, and they were most likely aware of one another through little clicks that they use to communicate.

I was just concerned, as usually babies are seen with their mother for a couple of years, like this guy...

We watched...

...and watched...

...and watched.

We enjoyed watching the manatee for awhile, and then we walked through the gardens for a bit. I like this flower. Looks like firespike or something...

This was the view from the bridge, looking back at the kayak launching area.

...and down the other way.

Oooooh. Pretty flowers!

We came across this gator on the path...

Snoop got a little too close...

We were going to leave him to suffer the consequences of his recklessness, but then we saw this...

...and decided to rescue him.

We headed out to the dock to look around, and I spotted a ranch across the water. While I watched, I saw one of the horses excitedly gallop up to the barn. He must have heard the owners messing around in there, and was probably hoping for a snack!

While I was taking pics of the ranch and horses, these guys showed up...

The guy that is waving proceeded to hold up a finger as if to say "wait", and then acted as if he was going to moon us. We laughed, and the woman with him said, "Don't tempt him! He'll do it!" Funny.

Some other visitors to the park took a pic of the three of us, and we reciprocated and took their pic...
It was a good day. We've waited all year to get a chance to kayak with some manatee, and I hope to do it again next year. Hopefully by then maybe I'll be less of a "Nervous Nellie" when they show up on the scene!

1 comment:

Neabear said...

Sounds like you had a great day. How far is this from where you live? I really enjoyed the pictures and the videos. Thanks for sharing.