Sunday, July 12, 2009

Outdoor Wednesdays: Plantations and Florida Manatees

When my mother's 70th birthday approached I thought carefully about something special to mark the occasion. She had talked about swimming with the manatees for years and since she's not getting any younger or mobile I thought what better occasion than her 70th birthday to be adventurous! I flew to Florida, picked her up and off we went to a beautiful resort in Crystal River, Florida. This area has one of the largest populations of West Indian /Florida Manatees and they are on the endangered species list. Winter is actually the best time to see them...but Mom was born in June-so we decided to take our chances even in off season.

We stayed at the Plantation Inn and Golf Resort with all it's beauty and southern style charm. They accommodated us with a handicapped accessible room on the ground floor near the lobby where mom could easily get around.

The perfect porch rockers greeted us at the entrance and...

I couldn't resist taking a picture of the double knock out roses in front of the driveway.

The resort overlooks the canals and small waterways that eventually spill out into the bay and then out to the Gulf of Mexico. These small waterways and canals are where so many manatees are injured from boat propellers. There are strictly enforced speed limits now to help minimize injuries to these slow and gentle creatures.

The grounds of the resort were beautiful, with mauve pink crepe myrtles, gazebos, moss covered trees

and tropical plants. I especially like the large elephant ears.

After an evening of relaxation at the resort , early the next morning we boarded Captain Mike's boat in search of manatees. Everyone has to wear a wet suit if they go into the my 70 year old Mom put on a wet suit for the first time in her life..rather an amusing and cute sight!

We were all educated by Captain Mike and an educational video about the manatee and the habitat we were going to explore. After the rules and hefty fines for violations were discussed everyone was properly dressed and we started our adventure .

The Crystal River Wildlife Refuge is only accessible by boat....

The water was calm the day we were there making it easy to spot the telltale signs of manatees.

The captain stopped in an area he spotted the "ring" the manatees tail makes on the water when swimming and everyone went overboard for the hunt.... even my 70 year old Mom dove in.....

She looks happy, but later admitted she was a little afraid because the water was deeper than she realized...but she was a trooper and got to see her friendly manatees!

There were several very friendly manatees who came up to the boat and we all got to enjoy them for almost an hour. Such a calm and sweet animal that clearly was curious to see us too!

It was a great boat tour and we were all experts at spotting manatees by the time we got back to the dock!

Later in the day we visited the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Refuge for a up close look at manatees from the shore. What a wonderful way to see them without getting wet and the park has many other animals to enjoy as well.

They have six in captivity for research and viewing and give an educational talks while feeding them their favorite foods: romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes and carrots.

A view from the underwater observation area of manatees eating lettuce.

A beautiful fountain near the entrance

And of course no trip to Florida is complete without seeing gators!!!

Mom really liked her birthday present and she's planning to go back in the winter!

Happy 7oth Birthday Mom!


  1. This was the sweetest, kindest, most outstanding gift you could give your mother to celebrate her 70th birthday!! She just looked so tickled in her wetsuit!! I have to admit, I would be a little apprehensive getting into one and in the water for the first time.

    I learned a little about manatees through your post. Very interesting mammals. And cute! I love the inn you stayed at too. I hope you took some time from your water adventures to relax!

    Happy birthday to your mom and may we always remember that these adorable creatures are endangered and there are probably ways to look in to helping. :-)


  2. What a wonderful present, and it looks like she had a fabulous time. I know you really enjoyed it too. Such cherished memories. Hugs, Marty

  3. Sonia, I just have to agree that you gave your mom the best gift ever! She looks very happy in the pictures and it's something that neither of you will ever forget. :)

  4. That was such a thoughtful and wonderful gift! Love that place where you stayed. What an adventurous mother! You know she really loved it if she's already talking about going back. laurie

  5. Sonia, Happy 70th to your mom!

    This is one of the myriad reasons I love Florida so much. Manatees are wonderful creatures. I've had a SAVE THE MANATEE liscense plate. I adore them. So glad you and your mom got to have this great experience. Such fun and in such a lovely spot. That's one of my favorite areas of Florida.

    Thanks for sharing. Here's wishing you a Happy Outdoor Wednesday!


    Sheila :-)

  6. Amazing and a lovely post.

    Happy outdoor.

  7. What a great memory for you and your Mom. Your Mom is braver then me in the water! Lovely photos too.

  8. Hi Sonia,
    What a beautiful and sweet thing you did for your Mother, I so enjoyed all of your pictures, and she does look like she had fun, I must say she is so much more braver than I am, I would have been so afraid of the deep water. Please Tell her I wish her a most Happy and belated Birthday wish. Sue

  9. What a wonderful experience to share with your mother. We love our manatees in Florida and hope that as more people learn how special they are they will help us protect their future.

    Visit to see some wonderful pictures in their gallery.

    Thanks for sharing this today.

  10. I'm sending my daughters to your sight:-). Your mom probably had the time of her life. How very thoughtful you are.

  11. I agree what a wonderful present to your mom! This would be such a wonderful once in a lifetime experience - I have always loved these gentle sea creatures but my only experience has been at Sea World. To see them in the wild would be amazing and to swim with them even more.

    Your mother should be proud of the wonderful daughter she raised ;)

  12. That was wonderful.
    I am glad she enjoyed herself!
    Beautiful place!

  13. Thank you for taking us along on this beautiful adventure! It all sounds very, very special ... the best mother/daughter story I've heard in a very long time!


  14. What a wonderful birthday gift for your mother! She will always have that memory of a fun time spent with her daughter. Very special!


I love to hear from you!