I have a long-time hiking buddy who teaches at a university in Taiwan. A few weeks ago she told me one of her former students would be giving a presentation on some rehabilitation training she was doing with a manatee at a conference in the US and spending some time in Florida before heading home. This student, Mina, is a dolphin trainer in Taiwan and was traveling with her sister Tina. Mina works with a manatee at her facility, but had never see one in the wild.
My first suggestion was for Mina to contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. I figured since CRNWR was the only Refuge established specifically for manatee protection and I had a couple of non-manatee contacts with USFWS it would be a fantastic opportunity for one of the researchers there and Mina to get together – one professional to another. But no such luck, Mina never even got a response to her emails or letter.
So I agreed to met up with Mina and Tina at the resort they were staying at and we drove down to Crystal River on a quest to find a wild manatee. I brought down 2 kayaks and we rented a third one from Crystal River Kayak Company and we all paddled out to Three Sisters Springs and around through the canals and back, seeing several manatee along the way, including a mother and calf. The water was a bit murky, though, from several days of rain so the pictures we took were not that great.
When we came back Mary Morgan, owner of Crystal River Kayak Company, was in the shop. While Mina and Tina shopped for manatee souvenirs to take home I chatted with Morgan, complaining a bit about the water quality and not getting any good pictures of the manatee. So when I introduced Mina to Morgan as a manatee trainer, she arranged a spots for Mina and Tina on her manatee tour boat trip the next morning – free of charge – where they saw even more manatee and Mina was able to get a nice video in clearer water than we found on our paddle. We all had such a nice time, and thank you Mary Morgan, for inviting them on your manatee tour boat trip.
Mina in 3 Sisters Springs
Tina at 3 Sisters Springs entrance
Manatee in canal
Manatee and calf in canal
Fish at 3 Sisters Springs
Fish in 3 Sisters Springs
Inquisitive Anhninga sunning on a limb.
Double-crested Cormorant on Manatee sign