Back to Nature (Published on - Aug. 11, 2004)
Dreaming of manatees
Photo by Rick Tremmel
Manatees take time to swim near humans and share a few minutes of peace in north Florida.
Storms are a way of life in Florida. We prepare for them and most days we expect afternoon showers. Of course, some summers are wetter than others. This summer has been one we’ll remember with a few extra showers and storms. Those cooling rains fill our lakes, water reservoirs and rivers. My partner and I decided that the weather was perfect to go exploring up north Florida in our kayaks.

As we slipped our kayaks from the river bank into the clear spring waters, we checked the clouds overhead that were beginning to billow upwards. The rains wouldn’t keep us from going out but might keep us a little closer to land than usual. We discussed our plans.

“Let’s head out onto open water first before it gets too hot and then spend the remaining part of the day discovering coves, bays and springs,” my partner suggested.

We easily viewed the river’s nursery of a thousand fish through clear waters. Schools of shimmering silver flashes darted back and forth while other larger fish swam next to the kayaks as if in rhythm with us. Box turtles sunned themselves upon fallen trees while the occasional alligator drifted closer to get a better look at us strangers upon his sacred alligator turf. We glided stealthily under live oaks festooned with thick hanging Spanish moss.

Peacefully and quietly we paddled the river for five wonderful hours then we re-entered the bay where we’d first launched our boats. Neither of us was ready to head home. Although the clouds were closing in, we felt safe and not the least bit exhausted within the steep banks and sheltered waters. It was here where our adventure really began. We paddled to the clear 72 degree spring waters to observe divers descend below to the open caverns.

Afterward we learned that for hundreds of years the Timucuan Indians had made this spring area their home. The spring is also home to the endangered manatee. We’d observed a manatee earlier this morning at a distance. Now it was getting late and we were beginning to feel the fatigue of our adventure setting upon us, so we agreed to head for home.

At that very moment manatees suddenly appeared before our kayaks. One not-so-shy manatee visited closely to our kayaks and even swam up to my hand. We felt honored, not to mention excited. All weariness vanished from our bodies and minds. We floated along with the manatees. They swam under us and around us. One lazily chomped on water lettuce while the otherone swam back and forth between us giving us each the once over. Satisfied, she lingered a while then joined her partner then as quickly as they came they slipped away into infinity.

Nature allows us the time to rejuvenate and put our ordeals behind us.

Nature is genuine.

Later that night the thunderstorms rolled in. The tin roof of our rustic cabin sang rain songs as we dreamed of manatees upon cool, aqua-blue waters, peacefully lulled in sleep, back to nature.

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