Category: Manatees

Prehensile Manatees!
So many incredible and memorable moments during our Springs and Manatee adventure. On our final day, our group was mesmerized watching the prehensile lips and fleshy region of a manatee known as the oral disc.

Slowing down the video, you can see the stiff thick bristles edging either side of the mouth that actually help grab vegetation moving it towards the mouth. To my knowledge, no other mammal uses stiff whiskers in a prehensile manner.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-2-31-20-pmHighly sensitive, these thick whiskers as well as the 3000 tactile hairs that cover their tough hide aid manatees as they explore a murky world.



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Over 25 years ago I saw my first manatee mating event. I was leading a program for the Smithsonian Institute and I will never forget it. Since then, I have snorkeled among an esterous herd, a rambunctious gathering of amorous males in pursuit of a receptive female.  Rarely have I witnessed  the  actual attempt to impregnate  the female. While female manatees reach sexual maturity at 5 years of age, male manatees are later bloomers. Typically they are sexually mature by 8 or 9 years of age though sometimes earlier. This young male who we have named Romeo certainly gave it a go but O2 or lack of it got in the way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANote in all 3 videos clips, the smaller male surfaces for air and then must start his amorous intentions over where he left off.  Females are often forced into the shallows by the advances of an esterous herd and will be mated by multiple males. We witnessed such an event in another area of the river.

Perhaps this female realized that Romeo’s  amorous  pursuit would be futile or perhaps later in the day he succeeded. Either way, it was an unforgettable and fascinating interaction to observe. We have named the female manatee Cougar…Life as we travel through the south lands with
Join Blue Water Ventures every February as explore the Springs of Florida!

Each winter as the Gulf temperatures begin to drop, The West Indian Manatees migrate into the clear warmer springs of Florida. By February, the manatees have been in Crystal River for several months. Most of the population will leave the river for the Gulf waters by late March. February is an excellent time to visits these springs. The weather in February can be very pleasant and there are typically plenty of manatees basking in the spring-fed water. We may experience daytime temperatures ranging from the 50’s to70’s.

Our trip will also include two days of exploring Ocala National Forest and the spectacular wilderness canoe run, Juniper Springs. During our canoe trip we may drift by basking alligators, river otters and a multitude of wading birds such as little blue herons, white ibis, great egrets and limpkins. By joining us in the wilderness of Ocala, you will be experiencing a slice of Florida that most visitors to the state never see.

My Manatee Story, Kim Powell February 2011

I have had the incredible honor to swim along side manatees for over 40 years. It began in the summer of 1969 when I saw my first manatee while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico near Clearwater, Florida. My father and I stood waist deep in water when something dark and large emerged next to us. My dad was a big guy with a personality to match. I started towards the shore as my father’s eyes widened and he belted out a gasp that was quite unfamiliar to my 11 year old Buckeye turned Cracker ears.

Later that day, when I found a large slimy sea hare oozing purple dye, I realized there was no turning back. Florida had won my heart. I would no longer pine away for the night crawlers, crawdads and painted turtles I loved to hunt in the suburbs of Cleveland, where we had moved from that summer. Marine mammals and invertebrates were my new fascination and the beaches of Florida became one great scavenger hunt.

Every February, my company, Blue Water Ventures, takes a small group of special women on a journey to the sparkling clear springs of Florida. Ponce de Leon once searched for a fountain of youth bubbling forth from Florida’s limestone plateau, but we will be in search of manatees. For centuries, sailors thought that these 2000 lb. herbivores were part woman and part fish, seductive fair maidens of the sea. Early sailors were known for their vivid imagination, and we too have certainly grown to appreciate the provocative nature of our mammalian encounters. Manatees belong to the order of Sirenian, which is rooted in the Latin word Siren meaning Mermaid.

Our recent 2011 trip will be remembered as the ‘Year of the Baby Manatees’ who chose to interact with us daily. As always, we had an amazing group of respectful, adventurous and curious women. With hearts pounding, we would patiently wait for the manatees to initiate contact. As the video reveals,
the baby would nuzzle its resting mother and then turn to approach our group, making its way to each of us.

Suspended in the 72 degree water and drifting effortlessly we became lost in the moment—spellbound.
After 40 years, I remain in awe of these gentle marine mammals and feel so grateful to interact with manatees in the wild. The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus ) is an endangered species that needs our support. To learn more about manatees and how to adopt a manatee through a $25 donation, please visit: The Mantatee Club.

Will you be one of 10 women to join us next February in search of the Manatees of Florida? For details please visit: Manatee Adventure
Kim Powell is owner, operator and head naturalist at Blue Water Ventures in Santa Cruz, CA. Offering naturalist-led field trips for students and adventurous vacations designed to be relaxing with an educational component for women. Kim has been organizing single and multiple day excursions to extraordinarily beautiful places since 1985

Sincerely, Kim of Blue Water Ventures