You could take the kids to Sea World. Or you could do one better. If you’re headed to Orlando, Florida, make plans to swim with manatees — in the wild. And there’s no better time than the winter for guaranteed sightings. Mothers and their calves swim in to warm themselves around the hot springs.
American Pro Diving offers day trips: They rent all the necessary gear (wetsuits, masks, fins, snorkels) and shuttle you via pontoon boat out to the best spots. For the manatees’ safety, there are a few rules, such as no reaching for the gentle giants, that must be observed. But play nice and you’ll enjoy every minute of the encounter.
You could drive the two hours back to the mouse’s lair, or you could opt for local accommodations and lodge at the family-friendly Seagrass River Resort in Homosassa Springs. As you wait for dinner at the Seagrass Pub and Grill, let the river be the canvas for the night’s light show: start with the watery reds and pinks of the sunset, then watch as the boats’ signals flicker like red and white pixie dust across the ripples.
They might not remember that third ride down “It’s a Small World,” but they’ll definitely remember a day spent petting these wrinkly swimmers.
Special thanks to Muenzer for the fun manatee photo.