By Sue Erwin Photos supplied by Sue Erwin, Dusty Hopkins & the Crystal River Water Sports Dive Shop’s website. While observing a grey gentle giant effortlessly glide beneath me in a shallow area of the Crystal River, I cherished that first rare experience of swimming with manatees. The river attracts manatees during the winter months when the temperature of the ocean drops. There are springs throughout the waterway that keep it at a consistent 70-degrees all year. Crystal River Watersports is located about 175 miles north of Boca Grande in Citrus County. Always seeking a new adventure, I’m a member of a local dive club and as colleagues we try to venture out and experience new interesting places about once a month. One-gas-tank trips, if you will. So when I glanced up on a Facebook post that offered the chance to swim freely with manatees – an item on my bucket list – I committed to the trip even though I only had a few hours to prepare. But I didn’t care. There was room on the boat and I wasn’t going to pass on this opportunity. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday didn’t exactly make me a cheery person, but I grabbed my mask, snorkel and fins and started my journey. Although this wasn’t an actual scuba dive, but a snorkel trip, it was still thrilling to know that I’d soon be in the water discovering new things. 72 GASPARILLA ISLAND May/June 2017 I arrived at the marina shop at the north end of the Crystal River and found my friends. Terry Wells, our trip organizer, had arranged to rent a 21-foot pontoon boat that would hold up to eight people. There were six of us going out on the water on this particular afternoon.
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