This post brought to you by Summer of Groupon. All opinions are 100% mine.
One of the things on my list for this summer was to take a romantic trip with my "poopsie" (don't tell him I call him that). In fact, I wasn't allowed to do another work trip until we spent some alone time! We couldn't do anything too far away right now because summer is so busy for us workwise, but that was okay – there are plenty of adventures locally!
So we decided to go to Florida, stay in a bed and breakfast, and swim with the manatees. And we found our trip on Groupon in their Summer Shop.
I've actually loved manatees since I was little. They are gentle giants (well, at least compared to humans) of the sea. They are mammals, grow up to 1,300 pounds and live 50 – 60 years. They are very peaceful creatures and actually on the endangered species list . . . so there are limited places you can see them. One of those places is Florida, lucky for us. So we booked a manatee snorkel trip with American Pro Diving Center, and we were on our way!
I felt like a little kid again going on this manatee snorkel tour. I get to wear a wetsuit! And flippers! And snorkel! And the door to the diving center has wood manatee handles!!
I also got very excited about the gift shop. Am I the only one who LOVES gift shops? I always have to buy a little something. And there was plenty of manatee goodies and underwater themed trinkets to be had.
Our leader was Captain Phil – a Coast Guard certified guy who knew how to drive a boat and scuba. Also the whole process of snorkeling with manatees is taken very seriously. You have to watch a Fish & Wildlife video before you go about how to approach the manatees, interact with them, and "be" in their area. They are an endangered species, and there are (thankfully) a lot of guidelines. And as you'll see, they are truly beautiful creatures!
I was impressed with how quickly Captain Phil got our boat into the water. If you need a boat captain, Phil is your man!
Before we set sail, Captain Phil told us everything to expect and how to be responsible on the boat.
Then we set sail onto the gorgeous Crystal River. It was truly a beautiful day and we were ready to see some cow-like water mammals.
Catching Captain Phil searching for manatees! They move quickly – but your boat can't move too quickly. I was shocked to learn that they can swim up to 30 miles per hour!
My sweets was just enjoying the ride. And then . . .
WE SAW THEM! And even more exciting, it was a mama and a baby!! So we parked the boat and got in the water. And that is when my funny story begins.
I got called to the front to come into the water for my turn, and I was still wearing my sunglasses and didn't realize. I had my snorkel and goggles (?) and my GoPro on my head. Flippers were on my feet and I had a life vest to float on top of. As I got into the water and put my goggles down, I realized that my sunglasses were on. So then I had to pull my goggles up because they didn't seal down on my face, and so my GoPro goes flying and then the snorkel pipe separates from the goggles. So I start recording video as I'm flipping around near a baby manatee:
I can't seem to get my act together, and I turn around and realize I am RIDING A BABY MANATEE . . . backwards. The little thing came up under me and I was on his/her back. I don't know if this baby wanted me to ride it . . . ? It intentionally swam right under me! Then it took off.
So we got back to the boat and went to a different area, and found a male feeding. I got into the water again, and recorded some additional video. It was then I realized that I'm not a great manatee videographer, especially in murky water. But you can see how close I am to these huge (gentle) beasties!
I wanted you to see a real video of the manatee experience though, so Captain Phil said I could use his shots. Take a peek:
It was truly an AMAZING experience. If you are anywhere in the southeast and have the ability, go see the manatees immediately! There are really no photos and videos that can capture how awesome it was. To be that close to such a peaceful and endangered species . . . there are no words!
To cap off our trip, we headed to Gainesville and stayed at the Sweetwater Inn . . . a quaint bed and breakfast with multiple cottages that we found on Groupon Getaways. The property was absolutely gorgeous. There was a special event area and a honeymoon cottage, so we could tell that a lot of people use this property for weddings. And I don't blame them. It's beautiful!
If you've never been to a bed and breakfast, they are typically very unique in 1) their decor and 2) their breakfasts. This is what I love about them. The lodging feels very cozy, like a home – we even had a clawfoot bathtub! And the breakfast . . . oh em gee. French toast casserole, an egg bacon tart, yogurt, grits, fresh fruit, and more. I cannot even explain to you. If you are looking for a romantic getaway, hop on Groupon Getaways and find a local bed and breakfast in your area. Prepare to relax, be pampered and eat.
I had a blast on my trip and can't wait until the next adventure! What else will I do for my Summer of Groupon? Well, you'll just have to come back and see. In the meantime, visit their Summer Shop for the latest deals in your area!