Every visit to Three Sisters Springs offers new experiences. These manatees were hanging out today. It was fun seeing a baby manatee, called a calf, flip over and lay on his back for this photo opportunity.
Here are some photos of the different Herons seen at Lake Apopka today.
Lake Apopka is is the fourth largest lake in Florida. If you are looking for nature, head to Lake Apopka. Lake Apopka features many different birds, reptiles and mammals. You can enjoy a nature lover’s paradise by taking the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. You may want to take water with you and a snack. The drive takes about 90 minutes, but you are going want to stop and enjoy the all the wildlife Lake Apopka offers.
Remember never to feed any of the wildlife.
One never knows when an excellent photo opportunity will arise. On the day I took these photos of the softshell turtle riding on a manatee I decided to take a ride to Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River. I was going to try out my new CPL filter which helps filter out glare when shooting subjects on or just under the surface of the water. I was walking on the path and came across two people who later introduced themselves as Don Markham and Wendy Pate.
While we were talking Don noticed a softshell turtle hitching a ride on a manatee. He moved over and gave me the shot. Not too often do you get the opportunity to get an exciting shot like this where two different species are peacefully interacting with each other.
If ever you encounter a manatee while in the water you should know riding or even actively interacting with manatees is illegal. A manatee can come up to you and often will. The young manatees, or calfs, are extremely curious, but your interaction with them must remain passive.
I am sure this turtle gets a pass since the law is to keep humans from harassing manatees because they are so docile and gentle.
Softshell turtles are one of the largest freshwater turtle species in North America. The shell of the softshell turtle is soft, flat, and rubbery. The edges of the shell are pliable with small spines. As you can maybe see from the one photo, the turtle’s nose is long and piglike. The softshell turtle spends most of its life in the water.
#wisconsinfloridaadventurers #manatees #softshellturtles
When the cold weather reaches Florida, the water temperatures of the Gulf of Mexico cools down. Manatees need to be in water that is no colder than 68 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent hypothermia. Florida has now had a few cold fronts come through. These cold fronts are bringing the manatees into Three Sisters Springs where the manatees will winter. Hundreds come in to enjoy the water of the springs which is a constant 73.3 degrees Fahrenheit. These photos were taken on December 5th, 2020.
Wildlife photos can be viewed and purchased at https://wisconsinfloridaadventurers.picfair.com/
Crystal River, FL, is a cute little coastal city that sits about 75 miles north of Tampa Bay. Crystal River rests along spring-fed Kings Bay. Crystal River is the home of the National Wildlife Refuge. Here manatees are sheltered year round.
In Crystal River you will find Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge. Three Sisters Springs features close up views of manatees via their boardwalk. In the cold winter, hundreds of manatees seek the warm water refuge of the springs. The manatees, the crystal clear water of the springs and the surrounding flora creates an amazing viewing experience.
One of the best ways to experience the area is while on the water. There are a few different ways to get out on the bay and into the springs. We rented kayaks from Hunter Springs Kayaks.
Hunter Springs Kayaks offers a wide variety of rentals. They have clear kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, regular kayaks and hybrids. You have many options to choose from which will make your on water experience one to remember. Parking is limited at Hunter Springs Kayaks, but you can find free public parking just two blocks away at the corner of 1st Avenue and 5th Street. After you park, just walk two blocks south on 1st Avenue and Hunter Springs Kayaks will be on your right. After you book your kayak, your on water experience starts at Hunter Springs Park. Hunter Springs Park is just another four blocks south of Hunter Springs Kayaks. The whole set up is rather convenient.
Once on the water you can enjoy kayaking in Kings Bay and into the Three Sisters Springs area. We took our kayak trip at the end of June when the Gulf and Kings Bay water temperatures were warmer. In the summer you will find a few manatees in the bay area, but most of them are no longer resting in Three Sister Springs. In the winter hundreds of manatees can be found in Three Sister Springs where the water temperature is a constant 73 degrees. In the winter, kayaking into Three Sister Springs may be restricted as to not disturb these gentle mammals.
Before your kayak trip, you are required to watch a video on the proper way to interact with the manatees. You can google various resources which will inform you on proper manatee interaction etiquette. You can also go to https://myfwc.com/education/wildlife/manatee/viewing-guidelines/ for more information on the rules regarding manatees.
On our kayak experience in June, we were lucky to see two different manatees. We saw one by Hunter Springs Park, just after we started our adventure and we saw another one in Kings Bay. The scenery in and around Kings Bay and Three Sister Springs is breathtaking. The people at Hunter Springs Kayaks were friendly and very informative. They will make your first experience on the water a positive one and any return trips equally as exciting.
#kingsbay #threesisterssprings #huntersprings #hunterspringskayak #manatees #crystalriver
Ginnie Springs is a privately owned park in Gilchrist County. Ginnie Springs is located on the south side of Santa Fe River, to which it is connected to.
Ginnie Springs has all the resources needed to maximize your enjoyment while visiting. Tubing along the Sante Fe River is a popular choice among visitors. Tubing is just a small part of the possibilities of activities you can partake in. You can also simply swim, or if you are up for an adventure, rent a mask, snorkel, and fins and explore all the natural wonders the springs have to offer. From paddleboarding to volleyball, there is something for everyone at Ginnie Springs. Ginnie Springs also offers a wide variety of overnight accommodations should you want to extend your stay for a few days.
In the Ginnie Springs area there are 7 springs total to enjoy.
TUBE THE SANTA FE
Do you want to enjoy a relaxing day? You can always tube lazily down the Santa Fe River? You can enter the water at the Beaver’s Landing river access point with a tube or raft, and spend an hour or so floating down the river to the Tube Exit at Twin Spring. When you exit, just follow the Tube Trail back to the Ginnie Spring parking lot. It is about a fifteen minute walk. Tube rentals are available at the Ginnie Springs General Store. There is a free air fill station for tubes and rafts if you choose to bring your own.
- Single Tube-$6 per day.
- Double Tube-$12 per day.
SWIMMING & SNORKELING
You can enjoy and explore the wonders of our seven springs with a swim. The water is rather chilly, but swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear 72 degree water is fun year round. Masks, fins, and snorkels can be rented at the Ginnie Springs Store. When the Santa Fe River clears (typically in the summer and early fall), snorkeling in the river may reward you with glimpses of large gar, bass, mullet, catfish, turtles and many other critters. If you do snorkel, don’t forget a diver’s flag and float along. The Santa Fe is a navigable waterway, and state law dictates that you must have a flag and float with you at all times. If you don’t have your own flag, you can rent one.
All rentals require a deposit and are due back by 6 P.M. on return date.
|Mask, with Snorkel||$6.00|
|Mask, Snorkel and Full-Foot Fins Package||$10.00|
|Fins, Snorkeling (Full-Foot)||$6.00|
DIVE AT GINNIE SPRINGS
Your day’s experience can include experiencing the underwater world that Ginnie Springs has to offer. The park has three different dive sites for certified scuba divers to experience: The Ginnie Ballroom, The Devil’s Spring System, and the Santa Fe River. No need to worry about bringing your own diving equipment to join the fun! If you are a certified diver, you can rent scuba diving equipment for the day.
Their full-service dive center is located inside the Ginnie Springs Outdoors camp store. You can reach us at (386) 454-7188.
CANOES, KAYAKS, & STAND UP PADDLE BOARDS
Take a canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard out on the Santa Fe River. This is a great way to experience the beauty of the springs. You can bring your own canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard or there are rentals available. There is no pick-up service available, so you may want to paddle upstream first.
CANOE, KAYAK AND PADDLEBOARD RENTALS
|Canoe/Kayak Paddles||$5.00 (free with canoe/kayak rental)|
|Personal Floatation Devices||FREE|
|Canoe or Kayak – 3 hours||$12.00|
|Paddleboard – 3 hours||$12.00|
|Canoe or Kayak – 6 hours||$20.00|
|Paddleboard – 6 hours||$20.00|
Tent sites are scattered throughout our 200 wooded acres and include many river-front and spring sites. Most sites have a grill and a picnic table. Running water is available on some sites. Primitive sites are occupied on a first come, first served basis. No reservation is required.
Check-In Times: Check-in begins at 8:00 a.m.
Check-out Times: All passes expire at sunset on your last day. Reminder: Campers entering the park before 8:00 a.m. will be charged for the previous night’s camping.
Upgrade Your Camping Experience
At Ginnie Springs there are 129 water and electric campsites right across from the park’s store where you can camp with all the comforts of home. These sites may be reserved and reservations are recommended to ensure you will have a site. None of the water and electric sites are located by the river. Each electric and water sites holds a maximum of 8 people, 2 vehicles, and 2 tents.
All water and electric sites have a picnic table and grill. There are no sewer hookups on the site, but a dump station is available for campers to use.
Please check our Reservations & Cancellations page for more information about our electric/water reservations.
Check-In Times: Check-in begins at 8:00 a.m.
Check-out Times: All passes expire at sunset on your departure day. Reminder: Campers entering the park before 8:00 a.m. will be charged for the previous night’s camping.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Create a getaway with all the comforts of home with a stay in the Ginnie Cottage. The Ginnie Cottage is the perfect place to come back to after a fun-filled day experiencing everything Ginnie Springs has to offer. The cottage has a fully-equipped kitchen which will allow you to enjoy a nice homemade meal as you unwind after a great day experiencing the outdoors. A stay in the Ginnie Cottage will be one you’ll never forget!
Reserve the Ginnie Cottage.
Ginnie Springs offers everything a person could want from a trip into the wilderness. Swimming, tubing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, and camping are all offerings. Anyone at any level of adventurism will enjoy spending time here. What are you waiting for.
About halfway between Key Largo and Key West in the Florida Keys is a great little place called Marathon. Marathon is set on 13 islands and is known for its beaches and barrier reefs. Coco Plum Beach and Sombrero Beach are two favorites. Curry Hammock State Park is also a great place to spend some time. The Dolphin Research Center and the Turtle Hospital are on the Gulf side. If you are looking for a great places to eat, you won’t be disappointed. While we were there, we never experienced a bad meal. Be sure to call ahead for reservations or possible wait time. After your meal there is nothing like enjoying a tropical cocktail while you sit, relax and watch the sun melt into the ocean at a Tiki Bar. Experiencing a Florida Keys sunset is a fantastic way to end your day’s adventure.
The Keys offer a lot. If you do decide to spend your vacation in Marathon, you will never be bored. When there, you must take one of the snorkeling or diving tours. We spent an afternoon snorkeling with Captain Hook’s.
Whether you are a novice or veteran snorkeler, Captain Hook’s can accommodate you. Before you leave the dock, you will get an orientation on what you need to know while on the boat and while snorkeling. The crew is certified in water rescue and safety is always in the forefront. You can bring your own gear, or you can rent gear.
Captain Hook’s regularly visits the Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPA’s) that are a part of the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. The Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary is the third largest living coral barrier reef system in the world. These are biologically important areas that help sustain critical marine habitats and species. They offer beautiful coral reef formations and a diversity of fish and some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Keys.
For more information on diving with Captain Hook’s Dive Tours go to https://captainhooks.com/
A couple of things to remember. Please don’t touch the coral when snorkeling. You will kill it. Bring reef safe sunscreen, but not spray on.
The Turtle Hospital
The Turtle Hospital is a fascinating place that you have to visit. The tour is highly educational. You learn about the threats to the sea turtles and how you can help keep them safe.
The tour takes about an hour. First you spend time inside where you get educated about the facilities and sea turtles in a classroom setting. The tour then takes you outside where you actually get to see the turtles that are currently being rehabilitated. You learn about how they treat various issues the turtles come in with. They will give you information on what to do if you find a sea turtle in distress.
The hospital is an amazing facility. They are successful in returning many turtles back into the wild. Some turtles have conditions that are so severe they end up living at the hospital.
For more information on the turtle hospital, go to https://www.turtlehospital.org/
Marathon Florida has plenty to do and see. Where Key West is often the ultimate destination when traveling the Keys, make sure to leave some time to enjoy some of the other islands on the way. A vacation in Marathon alone would be a wonderful time. Marathon provides plenty of sun, water activities and science.
Manatees are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows. These creatures, who are closely related to the elephant, are extremely unique. Viewing manatees is fascinating. Swimming with them is exhilarating.
Crystal River is located near Kings Bay. The water temperature in Kings Bay is consistently 72 degrees year-round. The springs in the area are the reason for this stable water temperature. Because of the 72 degree water temperatures, large numbers of manatees migrate to the Kings Bay/Crystal River area during the winter months to escape the cold waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some of them stay in the bay through the summer months. This creates a perfect opportunity for you to get up close and personal with these gentle giants.
There are various vehicles which allow you to view manatees from a close range. You can view them from the shore, you can kayak around the bay or you can swim with them. Yes, you can swim with these amazing creatures and Crystal River is one of the only places in Florida where you’re legally permitted to swim with manatees in their natural habitat. But before you jump in the water, be advised there a specific rules on the do’s and don’ts of interacting with the manatees.
Swimming with Manatees:
River Ventures is the tour we took when we swam with manatees. The bars you see are not cages. At the time we were there, they were in the process of re-establishing the sea grass in the area. The bars are protecting the sea grass restoration process. The manatees were free to come and go.
The tour is about 3 hours from start to finish. Before you leave for the tour, you will be fully briefed on rules surrounding this activity. You will be provided with masks, snorkels and wet suits. A photo package is available at the end of the tour, but you are welcome to take your own videos and photos.
You are brought out to the swim area by a certified Master Captain. While on the tour, you will learn many things about the manatees and the history of manatees in the Crystal River area. In the water you will be snorkeling with pool noodles which will help support you. While in the water you are only allowed to passively interact with the manatees. The pre-tour briefing will explain the do’s and don’ts of passive interaction.
River Ventures claims you will never be the same after meeting the friendly gentle giants of the sea. We can guarantee their claim is true. The experience was exhilarating and yet amazingly calming.
River ventures Tour Center is located at 498 S.E. Kings Bay Drive Crystal River, FL. You can go to http://www.riverventures.com for more information and learn how to contact them for more information, tour schedules, pricing and how to book.
#manatees #swimwithmanatees #riverventures #riverventuresmanatees #riverventuresswimwithmanatees #riverventuresmanateetours
After our 2008 visit, we would not return to Florida for four years. When we decided on our next big trip which was in 2012, my wife remembered how a friend would go to Sanibel for three months every year. Carrie decided Sanibel would be our destination.
Our vacation day came and soon we found ourselves arriving in Fort Myers at Southwest International Airport. Southwest International Airport is a great little airport. It is easy to get in to and out of. Their car rental area is well designed and you can pick up your car and be on the road in minutes. This is one of my favorite airports.
After you pick up your car you can expect your drive to Sanibel to take somewhere from forty five minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes.
After we picked up our car we were quickly on our way. Before we knew it we were driving over the causeway and we could see Sanibel Island. The excitement we felt entering this tropical oasis was almost overwhelming. The view from the causeway was beautiful and our fantasy trip was about to begin.
Lighthouse Beach Park
Lighthouse Beach Park is at the southeast tip of Sanibel. As of 2018, parking was $5 per hour which is well worth it. The parking facilities are very nice and there is wheel chair access to the beach.
As we walked onto the beach, blue-green tropical water greeted us. Since it was late June, the water was bathwater warm. Behind us were tropical palm trees and the signature lighthouse towering over the trees.
The tide was going out exposing a plethora of shells. Carrie combed the shores and I snorkeled and free dived looking for shells.
Lighthouse Beach Park is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon or evening. There is plenty of beach. We often see dolphins playing in the surf. On our last visit, a manatee swam up to me, coming up for air about 10 yards from where I was standing. The clear water allows you to see plenty of wildlife under the surface. I have seen starfish crawling along the bottom. Crabs scurrying about is common. If you go out a little deeper you can feel for shells and sand dollars with your feet. Remember, it is illegal to take any shells and sea creatures that are alive.
Turner Beach and Blind Pass Beach
These two beaches are my second favorite beaches on the island. Blind Pass is a small outlet that separates Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. Turner Beach is on the Captiva side and Blind Pass Beach is on the Sanibel side. Your view is much different than on the Light House Beach. Here you look out into the gulf. Sunsets on this beach are breathtaking.
This beach has the potential to give you many different shells, but if you are snorkeling or free diving, you must be aware of the strong current coming through blind pass which changes with the tide. The biggest horse conch shell I have ever seen was pulled out of the water right next to me. Carrie and I have found a wide variety of shells, especially on the Blind Pass Beach side. Parking space is limited and the parking fee is the same as any other Sanibel beach.
This beach is a must stop if you are looking for shells.
Alison Hagerup Beach
This public beach is located at the end of Captiva Drive. Public parking is tough to get into at this beach. It seems to be a popular place. Make sure you park in the parking spaces made available. All of the beaches are regularly patrolled and you will be ticketed.
This beach also produces some nice shells and is a great place just to relax. The day we were there a pontoon boat came ashore. The pontoon had a small grill on it. They sold all kinds of novelties, burgers, hot dogs and drinks. I do not remember if that included alcohol, but it was cool.
Bowmans Beach is accessed by taking Bowmans Beach Road just off of Sanibel Captiva Road. There is plenty of parking at this beach. The parking fee is also $5 per hour. The beach has a nice little park. To get to the beach, you cross a small canal. The west view at sunset while standing on the bridge that crosses the canal is breathtaking.
Pretty much any beach on Sanibel or Captiva will offer up good shelling. Bowmans Beach does so as well. Low tide is always best for shelling on any beach. Beach combing is a relaxing way to increase your shell connections. Snorkeling and free diving always holds to potential of finding the bigger shells.
If you are there late, you will again be treated to a nice sunset.
Gulfside City Park (Algiers) Beach
Access to this beach is off of West Gulf Drive (Casa Ybel Road). Follow Algiers Lane. This beach also has plenty of parking for a fee. We have only been there once. If you are looking for shells, this beach has the potential to produce. Snorkeling and free diving always hold the potential to produce the bigger shells.
Beach Access from Motels
Every year we have visited Sanibel/Captiva, we booked our stay at motels with beach access. This allows you unlimited walking up and down the beach as long as you stay in the wet line. The shelling in front of these accommodations is as good as any public beach.
Our favorite places to stay are the West Wind Inn, the Sanibel Sunset Beach Inn and the Tween Waters Island Resort. The Tween Waters Island Resort has beach access right across Captiva Dr and a special treat right behind the resort. There you can kayak, paddle board or canoe around and about Roosevelt Channel and Buck Key Preserve. While kayaking in the channel, we have seen manatees, sharks and dolphins.
If you want full enjoyment of the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva, be sure to book beach front accommodations. The Gulf is just steps away and you will fall asleep listening to the surf outside your room.
Make sure to shuffle your feet when walking in the water. More than once I have disturbed a stingray while wading. It is not common to get hit with a stingray’s stinger, but it has happened and can put a small damper on your vacation.
Sanibel has so many other awesome things to do. Those will be addressed in the future.
#sanibel #sanibelisland #shelling #sanibelbeaches #sanibelcaptiva #captiva #captivaisland #Florida #Floridaadvenures #Floridaadventurers