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    Opinion... Michael Abrams

    Encounter with a manatee on kayak trip down the Wakulla River

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    June 08, 2016

    We set out before 9 a.m. on a foggy Wakulla river, about 20 miles south of Tallahassee, a river which flows from the famous Wakulla Springs down to the little city of St. Marks in Wakulla County.

    I had brought my small nine foot kayak and friends were testing their new green canoe over the dark waters of the beautiful, slow moving river.

    We put in near the TNT kayak rental place, where people can rent a canoe and spend the day riding the river without having to bring their own boats.

    Further north, on the Shadeville Highway, is the Wilderness Way shop, which owns TNT and where one can find a good selection of kayaks from which to purchase a dream vehicle for exploring Florida.

    Using the landing costs five dollars, fairly reasonable for the exhilaration such trips provide.

    Mine was a simple kayak and easy to maneuver as we set out up the river, against the current.

    One of the people at the landing said that she had seen a baby manatee earlier, and so we were eager to see one of the endangered animals for ourselves
    As we pushed along the river, I could see the beautiful pink wild roses along the side, along with the pink physostegia, sometimes called false dragonhead, which is a member of the mint family. It was abundant.

    Fog clung to the river as we paddled, and I spotted an alligator coasting along the side of the river. This gator had good speed and easily would have been able to overtake a kayak. Fortunately, the gator was not interested in the kayak and I was not interested enough to disturb the gator’s vigil. Gators appear and disappear at their own whim and always keep you guessing where they might show up.

    It started to rain heavily, and we sought shelter under a dock in our boats, along with a fellow from Deland, Florida, who had rented a kayak. While the rain poured down we talked photography and computers and it was a nice break from the paddling
    On the way back, my friends Raul and Sarah encountered a playful manatee and quickly called me over.

    When I got there, the manatee was swimming beside their canoe, looking at them, and they had petted its leathery skin. It seemed like the manatee wanted to play games as it went under and around the boats again.

    I reached out with my hand into the door water and felt the back of the manatee as it brushed by, and the back seemed like thick leather to me. The manatee quickly submerged like a submarine, and we saw it take off for other places.

    Thus was this encounter the highlight of the day. I realized that I was an intruder upon the waters, but that the manatee was unafraid to show hospitality.
    I remembered my youth in Miami where I and my friends were less than hospitable to these poor creatures.

    As I learned more about them, it seemed more evident to me that humans have to learn to live alongside with the creatures of the earth.

    That touch in the Wakulla is something I probably won’t forget.