Just when we feel like we’re familiar with where we live and have developed a routine, this great state of Florida shows us what more there is to explore. With an abundance of bays, freshwater streams & rivers, the Gulf of Mexico and even the Atlantic Ocean, water sports here are endless. Kayaking is one of our favorite activities – a cooler of Yuengling, a bright blue sky and miles of quiet mangroves make the perfect retreat. But recently, we’ve discovered the majestic underwater world through snorkeling Florida’s natural springs.
For my 25th birthday, the two of us decided to have an adventure and explore Crystal River, FL – about 2 hours north of St. Petersbug. At 6am, we slithered into wetsuits and hit the water with our Captain.
In the winter, she told us, the manatees congregate in the rivers because the water is warmer than the Gulf. In the winter, there are 500-600 manatees stuffed like sardines in all of the river canals, eating, sleeping, floating, playing…. there are so many manatees, “you could walk across their backs.” We came at the end of the season when the manatees have moved back into the Gulf of Mexico but we still saw 18 of the gentle giants feasting on seagrass and floating lazily through the water!
Swimming face-t0-face with these animals was incredible. They were so focused on eating that we could get just inches from their faces and they would hardly notice we were there. The ones that weren’t eating would just float in the water, resting, sleeping – they are very lazy animals – which made for great photo opportunities.
The last stop on our snorkeling adventure was an area called Three Sisters Springs – 3 natural, underwater springs accessible only by swimming or kayak. The hanging moss and clear, turquoise-green water made this remote spot absolutely breathtaking.
At first, we snorkeled into the springs. We treaded water in place as we took in the view. This tropical lagoon was one of the most beautiful sites I have seen since snorkeling in Thailand. There were fish everywhere! Underwater, the sand was bright white and seagrass swayed with the currents. The springs looked like giant craters with fish hovering over the openings, relaxing in the warm bubbles. Fallen trees were suspended under the surface and as September swam over the springs to explore, I couldn’t believe how tiny she looked compared to the vast world underwater. Unfortunately, we don’t have a waterproof camera but trust us, it looks just as beautiful under water as it does above.
After our snorkeling tour, we rented kayaks from our hotel and paddled back to the springs to take more pictures. September took a nap on the kayak as I sat quietly and absorbed the scenery, quietly planning a future excursion back to this hidden oasis.
Crystal River made for a wonderful adventure! The manatees were gentle giants, the springs were beautiful and the getaway was relaxing. We’re already planning our next trip and we can’t wait to go back!