Return to the Crystal River

January 16, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Endangered Encounters, For the Family, The Wild Side | 2 Comments
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It had been just over a year since the last time I found myself in Homosassa Springs and I couldn’t wait to get back!  So in December, what started with just my two cousins and I wanting to see manatees from their world, turned into a much larger family trip of 12 of us. I had such a wonderful experience the year before, I wanted to make sure my family had the same great time.  And who do you trust with a dozen of your craziest relatives?  None other than Captain Glenn and River Ventures!  Once again, from the minute I had booked months in advance, the folks at River Ventures were awesome… making reservations was easy as could be, changing the reservations when more people wanted to come was just as easy, changing the reservations once again because we don’t do anything organized the first two times was not a problem either, and finally the day of was a breeze.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to coordinate 12 people ages 12 to, well, I won’t say the oldest age because I’ll be in trouble for announcing that on the internet… but they managed with ease.  I’ll tell you from being related to my group, that is no easy task!

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It was a chilly December morning, around 37*.  Steam was coming off the water from it being about 35* warmer and my family was shooting me looks of “Are you kidding me right now?!”  They had no idea what they were in for.  The chill in the air reminded me of how cold I got last time, though I wasn’t about to tell that to my sleepy mob.  Unlike last time, when, having visited just before official “manatee season”, the manatee sanctuary zones were up, a “human-free” area where manatees can hang away from people.

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Manatees and exhausted humans weren’t the only ones out early this morning.  There is a variety of wildlife in the area, including many kinds of birds, otter, even the occasional dolphin.  We were greeted at Three Sisters Springs by the sounds of singing birds, a Great Blue Heron hunting in the mist, and an Osprey that had just come in for a landing.  Of course, we were also greeted by the sound of manatees surfacing for air.


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Shortly after anchoring, the red carpet was rolled out and we had a welcoming committee playing with the ladder.  Everyone carefully entered the water, doing our best not do disturb our playful little manatee friend.  The warmer water was almost welcome… after the shock of water touching everyone anyway.  I waited back as my family slipped into the water one by one, ready to hand out floating noodles to those who decided last minute that they needed one.  Finally, after a little bit of madness and confusion what comes standard in my families DNA, we were all in the water and off to meet some new friends.

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To say that manatees were everywhere isn’t an exaggeration, they really were.  There were points in time where I was getting bumped from different directions by passing manatees… apparently I’m not much of a road block for a 2,000lb animal, which thinking about it as I write this makes me worry less about eating healthy today.  We headed toward the entrance to Three Sisters Springs slowly but steadily, admiring the many manatees as we passed.  Some were resting, some were feeding, some were playing; it was impossible to keep track of them all.  I spent half my time observing the manatees and the other half observing my family, all of whom seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

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The Springs were quite busy this morning, there were several tour boats, kayakers, and people on their own boats.  Naturally the more people you have in a crowd the more likely someone is not to listen.  I can proudly say I am actually NOT speaking about anyone in my family!  There was a couple on their own boat who, despite Captain Glenn warning them where they were headed and why they shouldn’t go there, managed to startle sleeping manatees.  The ones they startled went into a panic and ran into others, who did the same, and you can imagine the chain of events – a manatee stampede.  The splashing picture above doesn’t do the actual event justice, it was pure madness for a few seconds, and afterward there were manatees covered in sand like the one pictured above from the ground being kicked up.  Lesson of the day – Always listen to Captain Glenn!

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After the manatee rodeo, we headed into Three Sisters Springs to see if anyone was hanging out inside.  The current was quite strong getting inside!  The kayakers that were heading in to check out the beauty of the springs didn’t seem to be having as much trouble as we were.  We had to use the rocks to help us along, almost like a lateral rock wall.  But it was worth the fight of the current, the springs are absolutely beautiful inside.

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Once inside, the waters turned into a clear blue tone.  It wasn’t quite as clear as last time I was there, but last time I visited was during a slower time of the year, so there were more people present and understandably the sand on the bottom was being kicked up more.  Inside the springs there were a few resting manatees hanging out being admired by swimmers and kayakers who could easily see down into the water.  Fish were taking shelter under the resting manatees and keeping warm where the spring releases its warm water.  Even on busy days when the water isn’t crystal clear, it’s still worth the trip into the springs, even if just to observe your surroundings and take in how gorgeous this natural wonder really is.  The manatees being present just adds to the awe.

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Soon enough, we had spent nearly 2 hours in the water and it was time to head back to the boat and into the freezing air.  As one last goodbye, after a good amount of our group had already retreated to the boat, my cousin and I were approached by a friendly youngster.  He swam up to us and was rubbing himself on our legs like he had an itch he couldn’t reach.  As with a few others that day, he began playing with my feet and was even trying to take hold of them with his flipper and also held onto my leg as if he wanted it for himself.  This kiddo was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.  The last few of us holding out, afraid to face the much colder air, finally made it past the manatees blocking the ladder and back onto the boat… and directly to the hot chocolate kept on board to help thaw out human ice cubes.  It was an event that all 12 of us agree was truly wonderful.  If you have a family of 12, you KNOW this is a miracle in itself!

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This really is something to be enjoyed by people of all ages.  An adventure you can take on your own, or with a boat full of friends and family.  For sure, something to add on to your bucket list!  Try to go during cooler months and be sure to book in advance!

As I’ve said before, I can’t possibly say enough nice things about the crew at River Ventures.  They will take excellent care of you and your family.  For more information, visit them here…

This time around, we stayed the night in town.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express that we found on River Ventures web site.  Great accommodations!  They were all of 2 minutes from River Ventures, which is a HUGE deal at 6AM.  They have a continental breakfast, out and served before you go to your swim.  They’re also good about late check out so you can return and shower before you check out.  The rooms are clean and the staff is friendly, I’ll be staying with them again for sure.  Check them out yourself here…

You can also read about my previous visit here…



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  1. Wow !!!! just “Wow” !!!!

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