Swimming with Giants!

– My name is Coyote
Peterson, and as I stare into the shadowy waters, I am
witness to an ominous shadow. Cast by an ancient creature,
it slowly circles the boat as I prepare to enter the water. Sounds dangerous, but
the good news for me is that this is one of
the friendliest animals on the planet. Get ready to swim
with the manatee! (intense music) – [Coyote] As the sun burns
through the morning haze, our boat slowly motors
up the calm waters of the Crystal River. Welcome to King’s Bay, a
series of maze like canals and scattered islands,
that serve as a protective wildlife refuge
for many species; but none more famous
than the Florida manatee. Look at this, we are
literally surrounded by manatees right now. These gentle giants return
to this area each winter to enjoy the consistently
warm temperatures of the natural springs,
which are essential to the manatee’s survival, as they
are susceptible to cold and cannot survive for
extended periods of time in water temperatures
that fall below 68 degrees Farenheit. Got my goggles ready
to go, snorkel. Gonna get in the water. This is a little intimidating,
I’m not gonna lie. And all of this
disturbance in the water, yeah, that’s about 50
manatees, and I’m gonna go swim with them. Throughout King’s Bay,
there are various places to spot these majestic
marine animals. You can frequently see
them coming to the surface of the cloudy waters
in the main canals. They’re distinguished footprints
flattening the water’s surface, just before
they breech and disappear back into the abyss. For a clearer look, you can
visit Three Sister’s Preserve. Established as a refuge for
the manatees, it’s considered the crown jewel of King’s Bay. And its crystal clear water
is the perfect habitat for all types of
marine creatures. Just make sure to stay a
respectful distance from the manatees, as this is
where they come to sleep. However, if you are looking
for a more personal experience, there are designated
areas, like King’s Spring, where you can get in
the water and swim right along side them. My goal was to have the
closest encounter possible, and with manatees being
most active in the morning, King’s Spring at sunrise
was exactly where we needed to be. Alright, we’ve got manatees
surrounding the boat right now. I’m trying to be as quiet
as possible, we don’t wanna disturb them. Now this is the moment
of truth, I am… diving in… with the manatees, this
is gonna be awesome! There are no words that
can describe the feeling of what it is like to enter
into the realm of the manatee. These giants can grow
to 10 feet in length, tipping the scales at
well over 1,000 pounds. Based on size alone,
they are definitely an intimidating animal. And while at first glance
they resemble something between a dolphin and a
walrus, these marine mammals are actually more closely
related to elephants. From their prehensile
lips and rough skin, to their nail bearing
flippers, and innocent eyes. At a closer look, you can
easily see the relation to the planet’s
largest land animal. Okay, so we’re headed back
to the springs right now to get up close
with the manatees. My mind raced with nervous
excitement as we swam toward the spring. Here we were, bipedal
strangers, in a foreign watery land. Will the manatees welcome us
with open hearts and minds? Or would they turn the other
way to these masked invaders? See, when it comes to having
an encounter with a manatee, it’s all about the
manatee choosing you. And the moment it happens,
your life will change forever. Beneath the water’s surface,
I suddenly saw myself surrounded by manatees. They gently maneuvered
around me, an innocent curiosity drawing
us both closer. Until that perfect
moment finally happened. The moment where
manatee makes contact… with man. As I floated between
them, time seemed to slow, and a calm came over me. In that very instance,
I suddenly felt at one with the giants. We are absolutely surrounded
by manatees right now, this is awesome. This is where the fun began. And before I knew it,
playtime was in full effect. From barrel rolls,
to belly rubs. We were having a blast. He’s coming up to the
surface, look at that! See his little opened nostrils? Holy cow, that’s amazing! When actively swimming,
manatees can stay submerged for roughly four minutes,
before returning to the surface for air. They’re incredibly social
animals, and rely heavily on touch and sound
for communication; especially between
a cow and her calf. A cow and a calf
move right down here, why don’t you back up a
little bit, we’ll go down, so we can get a great shot. Being around youngsters,
we were witness to several unique behaviors; including nuzzling,
nursing, and cleaning. I even made friends with a
little guy we named Douglas, who is absolutely
smitten with our cameras. Right now we have the most
playful little baby manatee swimming around with us. There’s no doubt about
it, Doug was definitely the highlight of our trip. Once you are swimming
with manatees, it’s almost impossible to leave. And while the 72 degree
temperatures are nice at first, after several hours
in the water, you really begin to get cold. So it was time to
return to the boat. Woo! Holy sea cow, that was awesome! It really is just like they say. Swimming with manatees is
truly an amazing experience. I’m Coyote Peterson,
be brave, stay wild, we’ll see you on
the next adventure! Man that was awesome! Once nearly hunted to
extinction, the manatee has made an astounding comeback. Strong conservation efforts
continue to protect these magnificent creatures, ensuring hope for
a bright future. The soul of the
manatee is as gentle and as kind-hearted as it gets. Their ability to recognize
and accept a stranger into their world, is
what sets them apart from the rest of
the animal kingdom. And if you ever have
the chance to swim with a manatee, I promise
it will change your life. I will certainly never forget
the time that I was welcomed beneath the water’s surface,
to swim in the presence of giants. If you thought that
was one wild adventure, check out the time I got
up close with another marine mammal, the
northern elephant seal. And don’t forget to subscribe
to join me and the crew on this season of
“Breaking Trail.” (animal sounds)

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