Thursday, August 20, 2015

Plantation At Crystal River, Florida - Manatees, Scallop Diving And Dolphins

I have an adopted manatee named Lily. If you'd like to adopt one too, check out Save The Manatee Club. Now granted, Lily is not the prettiest cow in the herd...

Lily

...but she is mine, with a face only an adopted father could love! And she enjoys spending her time in Spring State Park, FL. She's been a mother at least eleven times. Some of her calves are named Cowabunga, Chase, Lars, and Louie. She also has five grandchildren. Long ago sailors thought manatees were mermaids. Or for some, maybe they thought they were mermen. On my recent trip to Florida, I stayed at the eco-friendly and green luxury resort The Plantation On Crystal River.



Situated right on the Crystal River, they have world-class golf courses, several restaurants and bars, including a refreshing tiki bar at the outdoor pool. This resort also has a dive shop, kayaking, boat rentals or you can even dock your own boat right on the Crystal River, along side the hotel's property. The restaurant on site will cook your fresh catch and serve it any way you'd like it. And they also offer guided manatee tours as well as fishing and boating excursions. (I also did a scallop hunting tour which I'll talk about in a second.) To swim with manatees, we had to slip into wet suits to help maintain buoyancy.

Left to right, travel buddies Steve, Logan and myself
I'm a pretty good swimmer, but I sink. I've never been able to float, so I was given a rather large wet suit and it worked! It felt like what it must be like to float in space. Plantation On Crystal River Manatee Tours Our guide, Captain John Spann, really made our trip exceptional. He explained to us that we shouldn't disturb the manatees, we should just quietly float around and above them in the Crystal River. These are gentle giants and there is great concern for keeping them safe and happy.

A pregnant cow

Even though we were 50 miles from Spring State park, I still had hopes of seeing my Lily. Manatees are known for traveling great distances. Their main concern is staying in warm water that has plenty of vegetation. So I studied up on manatee calls and I squeaked out to her. But alas, she was nowhere to be found. I almost drowned calling out "Lily" in Manateeze underwater.

Three Sisters Springs
This is a professional aerial shot of Three Sisters Springs, which is part of Crystal River that we swam through. In the winter months, hundreds of manatees live here. On our return, we were delighted when a dolphin decided to join us.


The next day we went out with Captain Jeff Maudlin to go scallop diving. Plantation On Crystal River Scalloping.
Yours truly

Dizzy Note! As I have discovered before, when out at sea and when swimming, my dizzy and vertigo symptoms disappear. I think the rocking of the boat and water cancels it out. So, if you swim well, give it a try. Maybe I should get a job on a boat? 

An hour out into the Gulf of Mexico, in water that was just 4 feet deep and as warm as a bath, we anchored, put on our snorkel gear and started hunting for scallops.


Hard to spot at first through the sea grass, we eventually caught, with our bare hands, a plethora of scallops.


Travel buddies Elizabeth, me, Bev and Steve
And once again, on our way back to the Plantation, a pod of dolphins decided to play with us.


(If viewing this in an email, you might not be able to play the vid. If so, just go to the website, The Dizzy Traveler.)

Within an hour of returning to shore, the chef at the Plantation had prepared our scallops three different ways and added gorgeous veggies to the platter.


What an amazing experience. I truly can not wait to return to the Plantation and explore so much more that the Crystal River area has to offer, in particular, Crystal River Archaeological State Park. Going back at least 1,600 years, these pre-Columbian, Native American giant mounds, were depositories for food and some were burial grounds. But even more interesting to me is that two of them appear to have been used as giant astronomical observatories.

Crystal River Archaeological Site - Stairway To Heaven
It is thought that the placement of the mounds could be used to track the seasons by the way they aligned with the sun and other stars at different times of the year.


Thank you Plantation on Crystal River for a fantastic time. And special shout-outs to Miles Saunders and Adam Thomas. 



There's so much to see and do in Citrus County that my next blog will be all about the amazing things happening in the town of Inverness



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