Pennys Blog Header Kings Bay

November is one of my favorite months here on the Nature Coast of Florida. The weather is just about perfect. The sky is a pristine blue with puffy white clouds over the Gulf of Mexico. There is not a snowflake in sight! After years in the Midwest and the Northeastern U.S., I do not miss shoveling or driving in snow, not one little bit.

But transplanted Northerners like me are not the only ones attracted to Citrus County (seriously, that’s the name). Every year, endangered Florida manatees make their way from cooler climes to spend a leisurely winter in the warm spring waters at Crystal River, Homosassa, and Chassahowitzka. Although they are air-breathing marine mammals, manatees don’t have the same layer of blubber that whales have to protect them when the water turns chilly in autumn. If you’ve ever seen a manatee, though, you might find it hard to believe that those rotund critters aren’t well-padded with a layer of fat. But in truth, they need to move to warmer waters to survive. Fortunately, our freshwater springs keep the water at a temperature that the manatees find just perfect for a winter sojourn.

It’s easy to spot a group (herd? gaggle? manateam?) of manatees. Just head down to the waterfront at Kings Bay, or the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, or, best of all, Three Sisters Springs. Manatees are never in a hurry, so it’s easy to see them lazing along just under the surface. At the wildlife park, you can watch them from an underwater viewing area, and you can observe their feeding behavior. Entire heads of cabbage and lettuce are popular menu items. Outside the park, you can take a guided boat tour and have the amazing opportunity to actually swim near the manatees. (But not TOO near, please.) You can also kayak or paddle board around the springs, watching the manatees paddling beneath you. I haven’t done this yet, but I can hardly wait for my chance.

Meanwhile, it gives me goosebumps to know that just down the road from my home, hundreds of manatees have also taken up winter residence. They make the best neighbors.

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14 Responses to Blog: My Neighbors the Manatees

  1. adakallen adakallen says:

    Enjoyed your blog! Looking forward to learning more about you and seeing more of your work as time goes on!

  2. Great job on your first blog and those cute little manatees you created Penny! You are a wonderful writer, besides digi scrapper! So my big question is, are there any alligators in that river? I’d love to go explore someday, but not with an alligator alert!

    • Penny Peterson says:

      Maureen, thanks! And as for alligators, I would be lying if I said that the Nature Coast is alligator-free. Witness this gift shop gator – his sign reads “Send more tourists, the last ones were delicious.” However, I have never heard of gator sightings in the wildlife park (except behind bars) or in the prime manatee viewing spots. Probably because there is so much activity in those areas! I would not recommend fishing in isolated brackish water areas, though. 😉

      Gift Shop Gator

  3. Jan says:

    Welcome aboard, Penny! Fantastic first blog! I can’t believe Anne hasn’t commented on this yet. She and I have been trying to get to Homosassa Springs for ages! My favorite things, other than knowing you get to play with manatees are ‘manateam’ and being able to wave to you from the other side of the ‘South Coast’. Hey! xx

    • Penny Peterson says:

      Thanks, Jan! You and Anne should definitely swing by and visit! While you’re in the area, I also highly recommend Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs state parks. Maybe those will be topics for a future blog. I love the glass bottom boat rides at Silver Springs, and I am looking forward to tubing down the Rainbow River sometime soon. Meanwhile, we should set a date and time to bring our favorite beverages to our respective beaches, and have a toast across the Gulf! Cheers!

  4. debbie says:

    One thing I love about p2P is learning about other parts of the country–even the world. Very interesting and great pages

    • Penny Peterson says:

      I love that about p2P too. It’s so much fun to see photos and stories from all over the world. {Australia! I’m looking at you!} I have lived in 19 places so far, and I still want to experience more!

  5. shirley shingara says:

    What a thoughtful post and pages! Thank you for sharing. How did you do the manatee border element?

    • Penny Peterson says:

      I had fun creating these pages. But none of my art kits had a suitable manatee embellishment, so I made my own starting with a photo of a manatee bumper sticker. I used the magic wand to isolate the manatees, tweaked them a bit with the image editor, copied them a few times, and then arranged them on an strip of watery paper with a reduced opacity. The result suited the mood of my page perfectly, and camouflaged the fact that manatees are actually not very photogenic.

  6. Deanna Emmert says:

    What an awesome blog post! Have fun with those amazing manatees! 🙂

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