February 7, 2012

Holy (Sea) Cow!


This past weekend we had an absolute blast with our friends Jenny and Jeremy exploring Homosassa Springs which is located about an hour and a half west of Orlando. 

Our plan was to have a relaxing weekend away as well as swim with the manatees.  Mike and I have had the manatee experience twice before, and couldn’t wait to share it with J and J.





After meeting up and driving to Homosassa after work, we stayed in, ate homemade lasagna and played a new to us game called Triominoes.  It’ just like dominoes, but in triangular form.  A lot of math, but very fun. 


We had to be up and at ‘em early Saturday morning, with the arrival time at the Manatee tour office scheduled for 6:30 am.  Needless to say, we had an early bedtime.





Upon arriving, we got our wetsuits, masks and snorkels and waited for our fun to begin.  After a few late arrivals and a boat switch, we ended up on an 8 person boat with Captain Donna who was more than hospitable. 

Mike and I have swam with the manatees before, but this was a first time for Jenny and Jeremy.  The weather was perfect, cool but not cold, and before we knew it we were anchored and in the water searching for manatees.





We were so lucky to see TONS of sea cows during our swim.  There were a few other tour boats at our same location, so it did get a little crowded around the sanctuary area (the manatees’ safe place where no humans are allowed to go).  There were at least 25 manatees resting in the sanctuary with many people just standing and watching. 

We decided to snorkel around to see if we could find any that were actively swimming and ended up hitting the jack pot!  There were quite a few that were out and about near the back of our boat with just a small crowd of people that we got to interact with.  Mike kept exploring and waved us over to where he was. He had a juvenile manatee (usually the most active and playful of all sea cows) that was hanging out near him.

After the four of us caught up to him, and were in our own area, we had about 2-3 manatees all to ourselves.  It was amazing.  We got to pet them for a good 10-15 minutes before they swam away.  Definitely an amazing experience!






After the swim, we were starving and decided to hit up a local joint that was recommended from Capt. Donna and also received good reviews on Tripadvisor.com. 

It was a restaurant called The Freezer and is located in an old building that used to be a meat Freezer that they have turned into waterfront dining.  Pretty cool…no pun intended!







It is a hole in the wall, with a limited menu, but fun atmosphere.  Mike got the 1/2 order of shrimp and had Old Bay stained fingers by the end of his meal.  With $5 pitchers of beer and $1.25 soft pretzels, it was a great midday treat.



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After lunch we headed back to get our stuff ready for part two of our Saturday extravaganza – pontooning! 

We rented a 16’ pontoon boat for half a day and set sail on the open water.  With Capt. JD at the helm and Mike as the first mate, we had quite a relaxing afternoon.  We spent lots of time catching rays and spotted lots of manatees swimming by our boat, a perfect way chill out.




We ended our boating experience by circling “Monkey Island”.  Quite unique, but definitely popular with the tourists.





After such a fun day on Saturday, Mike and I still had to think about our marathon training.  We had an 8 miler to complete, so we were up and running by 8am. 

Because there were no sidewalks along the road where we were staying, it was a bit of a trail run, but effective none the less, until we found out that one of the roads we tracked on Map My Run didn’t exist anymore.  We went a little out of the way and ended up running 9.5 miles instead of 8.  Needless to say, afterwards, we were starving!

Mike and I quickly stretched and iced our knees and then the four of us headed out to find breakfast.  Our choice ended up being a pretty good one:  Grannie’s Country Cookin’ in Crystal River.





Voted “Best of the Best” locally at least 8 times, this place was adorable.  Friendly service, big portions and inexpensive prices.  The biscuits were delicious and grilled onions with the home fries made the meal even better.  It tasted so good and was well deserved!




After filling up our bellies, before heading back to Orlando, we made one last stop: Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park.




Pardon the outfit, still in running clothes!





The wildlife park had lots of native Florida animals as well as a GIGANTIC hippopotamus named Lou.  He weighs 6,000 pounds, with his head weighing 1,000 of that.  Incredible!




Even though we were only an hour and half from Orlando, this past weekend felt like we were on a relaxing vacation far away from home.  This much needed trip was filled with lots of manatees and even more memories. So much fun!



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