The weather is cool this time of year in the mornings, it's around the upper 50s and by mid-day after the sun comes up, it reaches the low 80s.
A good friend and past client Martha from New Hampshire emailed me saying she was going to be down to Southwest Florida for the next few weeks and would like to get together for a paddle so she could some get some photos of some manatees. I said I was free the next week and that I would keep my eyes open for a few small pods of manatees on my next kayak tour on the back bay.
The problem I was encountering was that the wind picks up this time of the year and it makes it hard to get a decent picture with a chop on the water on the back bays.
I watched the weather for the next few days, but there was still going to be some wind.
When this happens I look for "Plan B," some thing or some place were the wind would not be a factor, like inland. I emailed Martha that I thought we should go to the lee county Manatee Park across from the FPL power plant. It is inland and on the Orange River with cover on both sides of the river to block the wind. To get there you go south on I-75 to exit 141 then go east about 1 1/2 miles till you see the FPL power plant, then across the street a large blue sign with Manatee Park on it.
Martha was free the next day and she had company for the rest of the week so the next day it was.
I got up early but it was still kind of chilly, in the 50s, as I thought it would be. That's why we set it up to have a 10 a.m. launch.
I got there about 930 a.m. and Martha had already set up her yak at the ramp.
I went to the bulletin board in front of the office and rest rooms, were there is a box of envelops and a drop box. The fees for the park are $2 an hour or $5 a day. I took an envelope and put my $5 in it and took the tag with a number on it off. As per the instructions on the board, then placed the tag on the dash so they could see we paid. Martha gave me a hand unloading my yak and gear at the ramp and I then went to park the truck. At my age, I find it always smart to stop at the rest room before we shoved off. We were on the water by 10:05 as planed.
There is a small trail to paddle through the woods before you get out on the Orange River. To the right is a canal that has a large fence across the opening to a canal. The fence stops boat and kayak traffic from going up the canal. The fence is above water level so the manatees can swim up the canal.
As we turned to the right, we saw many canoes and kayaks siting at the opening under the fence.
There were about 20 to 25 manatees on top of the water and maybe a few more still under the water.
Now if you are not familiar with what a manatee is, let me explain.
First, as I always say, a manatee is about 1,200 pounds of love. They are truly gentle. They have a round shaped head and a body like a seal, and a tail like a beaver or mermaid. There skin or hide is like that of a elephant. They have two small flippers or hands. There toe nails are like an elephant also. Why?? Because they are related to elephants not dolphins or whales. They have no ears like we would call ears but a dent behind there eyes that picks up vibrations.
They are mammals so they breathe air like us and have babies like we humans do.
The baby takes about 12 months to be born. Then when the baby is born it weighs about 30 pounds. Mom eats manatee grass, a lactating mother must eat up to 300 pounds of grass a day to be able to supply the baby with the nutritious milk. The baby will gain about 1 1/2 pounds a week just from just moms milk.
Mom is taught to be a vegetarian. But she has been known to eat branches, bark, leaves and berries if there is no grass, so she is also a herbivore .
Martha and I stayed for a few minutes so she could get some pictures of the kayaks and manatees.
We stayed out on the water for a few hours and paddled out to the Caloosahatchee River and went to some of the bird islands across from the I-75 bridge.
On a said note, we did encounter one small dead manatee along the way up in the mangroves. If you should ever come across a dead or sick manatee or a dolphin, take GPS readings or get as good a location as possible and call Fish and Wildlife. They will respond with a team and help or remove the body.
All and all we had a great time, and we are looking forward to doing it again.
Should you like to go kayaking with us on another adventure please give us a call so we can tell you what we have available that week.
Don't forget to look us up on Google under Mel the Guide and see some of our other fun paddles we have done. We now offer many launch sites in Southwest Florida to cover the back bays to island adventures on north captiva as always
Thanks for "Paddling With Mel the Guide," 941-661-8229.