Written by Becky, Greg’s wife
We just got back from a week vacation to Crystal River, Florida. Gregs parents, Greg and Eve and brother Chuck and sister in law Christal came from NC to meet our family from Texas there as we rented a house on a man made finger of the river. We all had things that we wanted to do while there. Conner wanted to go to the nearby mall and try samples from their food court. Chris wanted to build a sandcastles on the beach and see whose got knocked over first from the tide. Macy wanted to have a coconut drink and fish/crab. Also on our list were Ginnie Springs and swimming with the manatees at Three Sisters Springs. Of course, with a little relaxation and some yummy seafood a time or two.
Well, we did our coconut drinks, fishing and crab pots, beach and yes, even the local mall food court and then it was time to get wet. We spoke to a few dive shops in the area about where to go, boat rentals and wet suit rentals. Some were super helpful and some, not so much.
First, Ginnie Springs. http://ginniespringsoutdoors.com/dive.php
We hopped in our convoy of cars and headed out early. The girls at the desk were great and bubbly even though there were several others waiting to be helped. We weren’t rushed through. Our kids needed wetsuits and they took the time to ’fit’ them for rentals. We thought we’d have a while to dive and snorkel but because of it being winter and getting dark so early in the evening, we only had 3 hours. It was a beautiful experience. Greg, his dad, brother and sister-in-law, along with our boys (Chris and Conner) went diving. They were so excited to come up and tell us about a ’cavern’ that they saw. It was weird and exciting to watch them go down and disappear but then see their bubbles come up through the rock. Macy and I snorkeled and saw lots of fish. It was so clear! If you’re with someone who doesn’t dive but they want a great experience too, they won’t be left out going to Ginnie Springs. Like I said, snorkeling was amazing and while a little cold, put on a wetsuit and after a short time, you won’t even be thinking about the cold. Greg’s mom was awesome surface support grabbing extra weight, new fins, defogger, etc.
Then we snorkeled with the Manatees. http://www.divebuddy.com/divesite.aspx?DiveSiteID=1087
Oh my! Something none of us will EVER forget. It truly was a family experience. We decided to rent a boat from a local dive shop along with a few wetsuits again. All 9 of us fit perfectly on the pontoon with our dive gear and snacks. The kids were excited just to be going on a boat ride but as we got around the corner and to the bridge by Three Sisters Springs, all we could think was, “how in the world can we get one of these home for our kids?” Everyone was so excited in the boat when 2 manatees swam by. We looked at pictures and video at home before we left to FL but nothing can compare to actually being there. Pictures showed kind of funny looking creatures with lots of blubber. They kind of made me think that they were so ugly that they were cute. We anchored the boat and started getting ready to hop in. They have all kinds of rules like no loud talking, don’t touch the sleeping manatee and no diving down to touch them. Oh. Another thing is that you can’t dive in Three Sisters. They only allow snorkeling. Before we got off the boat, our daughter Macy was the first one ready to hop in. It was the neatest thing. A manatee swam up to the boat and put its head up out of the water for her to rub him. She was in awe and felt special that she was the ’first chosen one’. Finally we were all in the water and snorkeled over to the main area. Wow! The water was a bit dark because we swam over the main boat lane and all of a sudden there they were. Absolutely huge creatures just laying there, resting. Their bodies were as round as big, plump, well fed cows. We learned that they are closely related to elephants. They weren’t worried about all of the snorkelers above them. It was kind of humbling knowing that they were several times bigger than us. Luckily, they are vegetarians so that helped me and the rest of the group with nerves. There were many swimming on top of the water getting breaths and we rubbed them and they would come up to us and kind of bump us like “Hey.. rub me too!”. Some of them had healed scars from being hit with the bottom of boats that went over them and some deeper because of propellers. It was sad. One had a huge chunk out of his tail fin. Many had barnacles or algae growing on them but they were still beautiful. I think we have a picture but it really was a ’you needed to be there’ situation because we saw a smaller manatee right up under a larger one. It’s mouth was under the larger ones fin and was moving with a sucking motion. Come to find out, that’s where it nurses from it’s mother. Again, something that was just the neatest thing. While snorkeling over to the main springs, a volunteer (there were many and they will give you “tickets” for disobeying their rules mentioned above) told us about a younger manatee that had been tagged. We looked over and there was a little marker above water which lead down to a smaller manatee. He had been orphaned shortly after birth and while super gentle, he had ’social anxiety issues’ so they wanted to always know where he was to check on him. When we were heading out, Greg and I were the last ones on the boat. I felt like a celebrity with all of the manatee following us and wanting us to rub them. They would just swim along side and nudge us a little. They’re so playful and beautiful.
Finally on the last night of our wonderful vacation, we had seafood. I didn’t want a Long John Silvers kind of dinner. I wanted fresh SEAFOOD! My sweet husband looked into the best places in the area with the best reviews and decent prices since we had a big family with us. He found Pecks Old Port Cove. It was going to be a 30 minute drive and we were hungry then but the menu that we found online looked amazing so we went for it. After driving out into the middle of nowhere and feeling like ’there can’t be a good restaurant out here’ oh boy, YES there was! I will certainly be writing grand reviews for it on restaurant websites. The food was great, service was amazing and again, pricing is important to us with the kiddos! We were very happy and it was a great last night of our stay.
Saturday morning, we packed up, headed our separate ways and once we got back home, got back to the reality of work and our sons semester final exams.. Cross your fingers. He has a few today and tomorrow..