I'm an animal person. If you are, too, you get what I mean by this. I LOVE animals.
I've seen manatees at Disney World, and have longed to see one in the wild for years. Little did I know when I moved to the Emerald Coast that they'd be in my backyard! For some reason I thought I'd need to be further south to really see them.
I was relaxing on the beach yesterday when I saw something strange in the water. It was rounded and appeared to just come up briefly and roll back underneath. I saw a shadow under the water, and then it was gone. I scooped up Bodie, waded out into the water, but whatever it was seemed to just disappear. Strange. What could it be? After talking to some people, I convinced myself that it must have been a sea turtle. Cool, right?
Later that day I chatted with a marine biologist Instagram buddy who lives nearby, and she mentioned that it could have been a manatee. I was skeptical that I could have mistaken a 1000+ pound animal for a sea turtle, but maybe. Apparently there have been a few people who spotted them in Destin over the weekend. The water is really warm right now.
Fast forward to this morning, my husband and I had just gotten to the beach with our SUP board, when I spotted something similar to what I had seen yesterday. Ed jumped on the board, and yelled back to me that there were two! I Immediately knew they were manatees. A minute later he confirmed.
I grabbed my camera, waded out into the water, and hopped on the board. In case you're worried, I handed Bodie off to his dad. I gently paddled next to the manatees trying my best to observe them, while respecting their space. Wow. Just wow. First off, they are enormous. They were about the same length as my board. They'd stay underwater for about a minute, and simultaneously come up for air before rolling back into the water, tail last. I immediately realized that the turtle I had seen yesterday was in fact a manatee. From shore, they look like weird shadows in the water. Almost like the way a patch of June grass looks from the shore. They're very easy to miss. Oh, and yes they're slow compared to a dolphin, but they can disappear very quickly.
I felt so connected to these manatees. I know that may sound crazy... I was just so present and emursed in the moment that I lost track of everything. There was no sense of time or any worries. It was a pure blissful manatee meditation. I snapped a few photos to remember the moment... not that I'll ever forget. After some time, I said goodbye to them, and began the long paddle back. I met up with a pod of dolphins who ended up swimming right under my board. More on that in a future post!
When I got back to my husband, I told him what I had experienced, and that I was so grateful that he switched with me. He knew it was a dream of mine. He began to paddle out when all of a sudden, a third manatee showed up! I ran out with my cell phone (and Bodie), and took a video of Ed near the manatee. Ed slowly followed the manatee until he disappeared into the horizon. He showed up some time later.
I have spent the entire day thinking about those manatees. They were so beautiful, gentle, and graceful. It was by far one of the coolest moments I've ever experienced.
I'll be looking for more all summer!
Have you seen a manatee in the wild before? If not, would you like to?
***If you spot a manatee in the wild, make sure to never touch or bother it! Observe with respect and love.***