And the answer to that question is yes, I did just swim with manatees! Want to know what’s even cooler than that? It was on our Vision Board and we just checked it off our list.

When we moved to Florida my husband and I decided to update our Vision Board with our new goals. One of the pictures that we added to the board was of two Manatees swimming together in crystal clear waters. We didn’t write any goals about it, just added the picture.

And then we truly didn’t think much of it, except that we would see the picture every day when we looked at our Vision Board.

Then we planned a trip to Panama City Beach for our anniversary weekend. In checking out the different things to do, we saw that Crystal River was on our drive to Panama City Beach. Crystal River is an aptly named small town on the Crystal River, which is mildly famous for being fed by 30 different springs.

The springs are important because they keep the river at 72 degrees year-round. In the winter, when the waters of the Gulf of Mexico start to get colder, the manatees come to Crystal River because they cannot live in water that is colder than 68 degrees. Apparently, in the winter there are around 400 or more manatees that stay in these waters.

After April, when the Gulf of Mexico warms up again, most of the manatee leave Crystal River, but a group of about 40 stay there year-round. And there are numerous tour groups to take you on a manatee experience.

Snorkeling with Manatee

We picked the group Fun2Dive for our manatee snorkeling tour. And we paid a little extra to be in a group of 6 or less…it was actually just us and another couple. Before going out, we had to watch a video on the manatee, manatee safety, and the laws around tourism and manatee encounters. The bottom line is that you are not allowed to touch a manatee. You get to float into their territory to look but not touch.

I can’t say enough about the two people, Ray and Kelly, who took us out. Ray found the manatees and then Kelly took us on our snorkeling encounter. We were given wet suits to wear for warmth (when the air temp is in the ’80s and the water temps are 72, it gets kind of cold if all you are doing is floating) and a mask and snorkel.

You’re also given a noodle to put across your chest and under your arms to aid you while floating. And this is the only problem I had, I couldn’t stay atop of the noodle, I would spin. The only way I could stay in the floating position was to put the noodle ahead of me and keep my arms overhead atop of the noodle. This, in turn, meant that I couldn’t do the required legless doggy paddle. You weren’t supposed to kick your legs or use big arm movements because it would spook the manatee and ruin the experience.

Today, it's just a Florida state of mind as I explore some of its symbols for the Sunday Stills state symbol challenge. #SundayStills #FloridaStateOfMind #Manatees #SabelPalms #Alligators
Mother and baby manatee swimming side by side

To my rescue came Kelly who pulled me into position, numerous times. She made sure that I got the full experience. Our encounter was with a mother and her baby. When Kelly first pulled me into place I didn’t realize it was over the baby and I commented on how big it was. Then she pulled me over towards the mother and I realized that the baby wasn’t even one quarter the size of the mother!

And that is how we checked off one of the items on our Vision Board. It’s not something that we had a big focus on during the past few months. It was just something we knew we wanted to do. When the opportunity came up, we went for it.

Which is how a lot of your goals happen. Seeing an opportunity when it becomes available and then going for it. By the way, we closed out the weekend with a sloth petting experience! An anniversary weekend worth remembering.