Just got back from my Manatee trip with my students and T-Rex. It is a great opportunity to study ecosystems, and then see why we need to be careful with the animals and plants around us.
We happened to go when Florida is facing EXTREME cold. Yesterday I think it got up to 38. Thankfully the water is always around 72-74 degrees and we were actually warmer when we got in, but getting out of those wetsuits and into dry clothes was a very cold experience.
The good thing about the weather was that the manatee, and other fish, flock to the warm springs to maintain their body temperature. So yesterday when our boat cut its engine we were immediately greeted by 5 or 6 around each boat. There are very specific laws about how to interact with them, but it gets a little tricky when one is rolling over for you to scratch his/her belly and another one is nudging you for attention behind.
We spent awhile with them, and then started the freezing process of getting out of the water (which was 72 degrees) and into the boat (the air was 30 degrees). We were shivering our way back to the hotel when this pelican flew up and landed beside our boat watching us. Then when he fell behind he flew up again to watch us, and finally he just landed on the boat. The kids were absolutely thrilled. That bird just sat there hitching a ride until we got close to this tiny island that has an abandoned house on it and then he flew over to his friends.
T-Rex and I had a blast. We have a couple of videos I can't post here because some of my students are in them, and I'm calling them by name, but this trip is always magical for me. Students always have such bravado and think they'll get in and swim with these gentle giants, but being in the water is such a different, sometimes unnerving experience. To watch these kids, in two days figure out how to snorkel, and respect the wildlife around them is tremendous to watch. I'll never grow tired of it, even when it sounds insane to swim in 30 degree weather, and I definitely enjoy going on the trip with one of my girls. T-Rex learned a lot, and it has definitely had the effect on her that I was hoping for. She has always been fascinated by learning about animals, but swimming with them, in their habitat has opened her eyes to all of the controversies, and has started her thinking. LOVE THIS KID!
I'll post more when I get the next batch of pics back from the underwater camera.