Nathaniel has been obsessed with manatees for years. I'm not sure how or why it happened, but it did and we've all adapted to it.
On each of their birthdays, I give my kids the option of present or adventure. I don't tell them what the adventure will be, just that they will definitely love it. Sadly, they almost always go for the safety of present. I'd actually come up with Nathaniel's adventure years ago and was just waiting for him to get brave enough to ask for it.
Happily, this year he finally did! The adventure was a trip to Chrystal River, FL to swim with the manatees! I found a hotel right on the river that basically was made for Nathaniel. It was all about the manatees. What I did not realize, was that the entire county was all about the manatees as well. He was in heaven and insisted that we stop for LOTS of pictures.
And here is the photo dump from the fantastic trip!
|So early in the morning, but so excited to be on a plane travelling to FL!|
|At the Tampeco Manatee Viewing Center. This was our first stop after arriving in Tampa before we headed up to our hotel.|
When we arrived at our hotel and checked in, Nathaniel was given a bag full of information about manatees, several pictures of them, and a stuffed animal manatee. It was as if he'd met his people. Finally, people who understood the obsession and speak his language!! He was ready to move there post haste! He may still be looking for banking jobs down there for Todd!
We'd woken up really early that morning to catch our plane and went to bed really early that evening because the next day we got up just before 6 to have breakfast in the hotel dining room and then head over to the hotel dive shop for our swim with the manatees!
|There are no pics of me in the dive suit. Because I looked like something that could be clubbed on an ice floe...|
I have to extract the underwater images from my other (mostly dead) computer, but let me tell you, it was an amazing experience. The gulf water was murky but the water we swam in at the springs was clearer than a swimming pool! We saw nursing manatee mothers and babies all over. There are VERY strict rules surrounding the swimming and contact with the manatees, but I will say that it was a fantastic experience and that if you are ever able to experience it, you definitely should!
|Post dive. So cold!! It was literally freezing back home, but FL water in November is still chilly. Not cold, but chilly.|
|Our captain was great! Just the right amount of strict and funny. That being said, he's a scalloper from Maine, so he was completely unsympathetic when we complained of the cold water.|
After the dive we were exhausted. We'd been out on the water and/or wrestling in and out of wet suits for 3 hours by then, so we went back to our room and collapsed in our beds and watched mindless tv until we felt guilty about not enjoying the sunshine. So, we went out and about and discovered that we really were in Nathaniel's world! Manatee everything was everywhere!
But first I insisted on a little drive to the actual Gulf. It was only a couple miles from our hotel and I needed to dip my toes in it since I never have before. I've never even been on the Gulf side of Florida before, always on the Atlantic, so a new experience was necessary!
And all passed out from the excitement of the day. A boy and his manatee. What could be sweeter than that?
The thing I loved best about this trip was that Nathaniel was so very himself. He wasn't being the annoying little brother, or teasing big brother, or nerdy 8th grader, or surly son who hates to do chores. He was just being him; a clever kid who really, truly loves manatees. I liked spending time one on one with that kid.