On a recent cold (for Florida) morning, my 9-year-old nephew, sister and I drove 1.5 hours from my home in Tampa north to Crystal River. Our mission: to swim with the manatees. Just that week, an estimated 300 manatees were spotted in Crystal River’s natural springs. The reason for their migration into the springs was simple — they needed to warm up!
Like us, manatees can suffer from hypothermia if they are in cold water too long, and need to be in water at least 68 to 72 degrees to stay healthy. And so, when winter temperatures arrive in the south, manatees seek out warmer waters, and Florida’s springs provide just that, maintaining about 72 degrees year-round.
After checking in with the team at Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours, my nephew and I donned our 3-millimeter wetsuits (my sister opted for the ride along instead of snorkeling) so we would keep warm in the 72-degree water, too; the air temp when we snorkeled that morning was about 45 degrees. Before boarding the pontoon boat, we watched an education video introducing snorkelers to manatees, as well as going over passive observation and what to do — and not to do — once we were in the water. My nephew, ever the rule follower, watched with rapt attention.
A quick boat ride from the dock and we were ready to swim with the manatees! As the captain carefully dropped anchor, a baby manatee approached the boat deck, seemingly welcoming us to her winter home. One by one our group of seven snorkelers, plus our guide, lowered ourselves down the ladder. Together, we swam to where the manatees were congregating, keeping aware of the rope floating atop the calm water that designated a no trespassing zone — only manatees were allowed to go beyond the rope; we humans were to stay back.
In no time, manatees surrounded my nephew and me. One and then another and then another swam by, as curious of us as we were of them. They came right up to our masks and snorkels, and brushed against our stomachs and hands (we were not allowed to touch them, but they could touch us) as they glided past.
Side-by-side my nephew and I quietly swam with these gentle giants, and became a part of their magical underwater world, if only for a little while.
West Hartford was named one of the country’s best cities for raising a family and one of the best cities of the decade. See all it offers with the family and explore this small Connecticut town, five miles west of Hartford.
By Hainan Airlines
Thinking of booking a cruise with your grown children? Or are the kids wanting to take your parents on a trip to celebrate a milestone birthday or anniversary? When we mention “cruise” your thoughts probably turn to the Caribbean, Bermuda or the Bahamas. But we suggest setting your sights farther west, to Princess Cruises’ seven-day Mexican Riviera Cruise.
The Americans With Disabilities Act made it possible for people with disabilities to go places beyond what was previously possible, but traveling with a family member with disabilities still poses some challenges, especially when those disabilities are severe. All hotels are required to have wheelchair-accessible rooms — usually limited to extra-wide doors to accommodate wheelchairs and roll-in showers with benches. Thankfully, some hotels go to great lengths to make sure all families get to visit fun destinations without leaving anyone out.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
In Southwest Germany, close to the Swiss and French borders, the Black Forest region is best known to travelers for its beautiful, half-timbered villages. But for savvy European families, the Black Forest Highlands is known for its winter sports and money-saving Red Inclusive Card.