The first encounter occurred while Bob was out kayaking with our visiting grandson. They spotted the two just near the entrance to the lagoon we've explored several times. Our daughter-in-law caught a glimpse of a tail once while out there but that was it until someone told us about a marina where there was a fresh spring that fed into the salty waters of the Florida Bay.
While manatees don't need fresh water daily to survive they do enjoy imbibing and so a family of five manatees has taken up residence among all the boaters there. It's a little hairy I'm sure trying to maneuver your boat out safely with manatees popping to the surface for air every five to fifteen minutes. The manatee is a mammal and must surface to breathe like whales or dolphins. One of the gentle giants (grown manatees are about 10 feet long and weigh between 800 to 1200 lbs.) we observed had a scar on its back probably from getting too close to a propeller.
Manatees are herbivorous and feed mostly on the turtle grass on the bottom of the Bay. You can tell when they've been around feeding because as they bite off the sea grass, it uproots and there are pieces of it floating in the area where the manatees have lunched.
The manatee is a rather bulbous shaped creature with a fanned tail and two forward flippers. From what I read, they are distant relatives of the elephant. That relationship is evident in the snout which is almost trunk like although very short. The snout of the junior sized manatee found our kayak an interesting object to explore. We were surprised when junior surfaced and swam to us to put his snout on the side of the kayak. We're still not sure if he thought we were a toy or something to suck on for juice (our kayak is orange) or water.
Entertainment was provided us as one boater began rinsing his boat off and the manatees all scrambled (I use that term loosely as they move very slowly) for a spot at the back where the water drains through the scuppers. They put their mouths around the scupper and drank to their heart's content. The boater explained that they seem to know instantly the sound of the hose when it goes on and they are right there.
We spent a whole hour just bobbing around the marina and taking in the manatee entertainment. It was a beautiful encounter--one that we will return to when we can.