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.
CM Kits: All Roads Lead Home, Cheerful Power Palette, Swimming
Fonts: A Year Without Rain, Cat Shop