Friday 24 December 2010

Florida days 4+5-Swimming with Giants

I decided to go back to Kings Spring on Wednesday, The day before had been soo addictive i was on a real high, I kept relaying the experience to my wife who couldn't come on the boat as we had the dog with us, I have been shooting wildlife for more years than i can remember and have had the pleasure of close encounters with numerous endangered species as well as some memorable times with common species but to have a close and i mean close encounter with a huge mammal is amazing but the thing that makes its fairly unique is the interaction between you and the manantee, You can get close to bear,tigers, lions etc but thats it, here you have more than that, eye to eye contact and touch make this amazing, The way that they come up to you and look you in the eye from a few inches like they are either trying to tell you something or are trying to read your mind is incredible, I made a friend at kings spring, It was a barnacle covered female, I again was the first to get to the spring and clear water, 3 manatees came straight over and checked me out, One being the barnacle cover one-i called here Barnacle Betty-dont ask me why we always have to name something but it seemed apt, Two of the 3 had some interaction with me and left, Betty stayed and when i swam off she came with me, If and when i had other mantees with me she would nudge me for a tummy rub, At one point i swam off and left her and had 2 other manatee right in front of me and all of a sudden Betty swam under me and decided to surface, problem was i was above her, I had here pretty much to myself for an hour, A few times 'the pod' got together and surrounded me, Side by side with 2 large Manatees like bouncers in a nightclub, Manatees infront and behind and also below, Nothing else to do but float, nowhere to go, the big females are 1500lb+ so no chance of moving them out of the way, The water at Kings Spring is very green, quite clear over the spring but murky elsewhere when there are so many manatees in one area, I tried my hardest to stay right over the spring, If you are there just to swim with the manatees then anywhere in the kings spring area will give you the thrill of a lifetime as the manatees come so close visibility doesn't matter but for photography some more clarity is nice so a very small area over the spring became my place whilst i was there, My wife's back clicked out that morning so we spent the afternoon relaxing and grabbing some much needed sleep, The weather had clouded up anyway and became windy so i dont think i missed anything
One thing i think i should mention is that i don't really like water and am not a strong and confident swimmer yet i have no problem of snorkelling for a couple of hours with the manatees, The water is fresh which is a bonus, the wet suit allows plenty of buoyancy and as long as you breathe normally and relax its easy, I am not sure you will be getting me cave diving or even deep sea diving but never say never,
Thursday morning and its my last day with the manatees, i arrived early and got changed, I had a chat with the captains and they asked where i would like to go, there were 3 boats of people so very busy, i said that although Kings spring was the business and that 3 sisters had been fairly quiet and cloudy the day before i felt it was the best place to offer good clear water if the conditions were good so the other boats were sent to kings spring and just the one boat went to 3 sisters, On arrival there were manatees everywhere but leaving the area, a couple came up the boat as soon as we stopped, the group stayed with them as i shot off up stream to try and get some good clear water shots, problem was there was plenty of dirty water coming down from the spring above, a couple of manatees-mother and daughter had a play and as the light was still low i had a play without thought of shooting, I went up to the spring before anybody else and turned right at the top, The water quality was dreadful and you could barely see the bottom which looked like a battleship graveyard, hundreds of sleeping manatees strewn all over the bottom, They look dead when you first see one and they look extremely creepy, I made my way to the far side of the spring, it was like swimming in gravy-zero visibility although a lot of nose and tails were breaking the surface, They had started to mate as the weather had warmed the water, I left the spring down the very narrow inlet to the main river, some manatees were heading down as well and you have to pull over and give them the right of way, at the bottom our group had decided to move up into the spring which left me on my own and soon the water started to become crystal clear, The mother and calf came and went, the mother being very playful and i would try to manoeuvre away from her and get the sun behind me and wait as she came from distance out of the murk and into the clear water, The group came down after 30 minutes and most had had enough and got out and dressed, i stayed another hour mainly on my own and enjoying fairly decent light and water quality, It was my best day photographically by far, nearly as good as i had hoped, The wardens were out in force and i made sure that i never got between the mother and calf although at some points that was very difficult, I went and said good moring to a few of them-doesn't hurt to let them know that i knew i was being watched, there is even a remote camera surveying the area all the time-big brother is watching
Once we had finished i changed and said my goodbyes to the captains Donna,Chris and Rhonda who were amazing and left, Packed the car and we left and stopped in Savannah Georgia for the night to break the journey up
The end of an extremely magical week, Its very tiring and i am looking forward to getting back into my own bed and enjoy the Xmas break
Here are a few from the last couple of days,Again quickly processed on my laptop

Barnacle Betty

They love anchor ropes and suck on them, using them abit like dental floss, Even if you dont get in the water you still get superb views of the manatees

Sorry for waffling on but as you tell these creatures get me very excited and i can wait to get back and shoot them again

1 comment:

  1. Stunning images again, thanks for bringing us pictures of this magical underwater world of the manatees. Execellent report of the days event also.