Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Downstream with Manatees

A paddle on the Wakulla River is a great thing to do with a visitor from Wyoming. The sun came out as we meandered downstream to the sounds of purple gallinules and the sightings of gators and river birds. It was late in the season, but we were hoping to show Hendrik a manatee which we often see here in the summer (Oct. 28). About halfway down, in the distance, we saw the telltale puff of mist and a boil on the surface. We had to contain our excitement so we could approach quietly and calmly. There were 5 manatees feeding in the shallow clear water. Soon three of them broke away and headed slowly downstream. One jumbo, one large, and one small... presumably a family. We floated alongside for over an hour, all the way to our take out point. Each of them had scars on their backs from previous encounters with boat propellers, but they had no fear of us. The Papa travelled with Hendrik, often right under his 10 foot kayak, outsizing the boat. Once he even came up just beside Hendrik, blew his misty breath up at him and then nearly capsized the boat as his huge fan-tail lifted the stern. We said goodbye, thanked them for sharing their day with us, and blessed them on their journey out to the Gulf and beyond. (click here to see.)

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