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Merlinos

Free diving with manatees.....

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Hi folks,

 

During december, I plan to realise my dream: free diving (and photograph them) wit manatees in crystal river.

 

- What is the better place for this?

- May i swin alone....or shoul I need a manatee tours ?

- What is the best period etc....etc....

 

I need ur advices men!!! ;)

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You need a boat to get to most of them. We have always gone out with a shop. But once on site you are on your own. In some areas there are roped/buoyed off sections you are not allowed to go. These are areas the manatees can escape to when they have too much of the humans. Have fun...

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Bonjour et Bon Chance

 

Plan A:

 

Use these people

 

http://www.birdsunderwater.com/

 

For best chance of good photographs you must go out very early, before the noisy people show up.

Snorkle as quietly as possible. You don't need scuba.

The manatees are friendly and will usually approach. Let them approach you. They sometimes like to rub on your wetsuit !

You are not allowed to chase or harass them.

Water will be about 72d F. Wear at least a 3mm suit or more. Bring a jacket for the boat ride.

 

There is a an adequate motel (Best Western) & good restaurant (Charlie's Fish) next to Bird's.

 

 

Plan B: Get a room at Plantation Inn (nicer hotel) and rent one of their canoes or kayaks and paddle yourself to the Springs. (if you are good with boats & maps)

 

Plan C: try Homosassa Springs, Manatee Springs State Park(Chiefland), and Blue Spring (Orange City) State Park if conditions are unfavorable at Crystal River. Blue Spring is near Orlando.

 

As long as you are in the area, if time allows, arrange to snorkel, drift dive on scuba, or kayak the Rainbow River (Dunellon) or Silver River(Ocala). Both have crystal clear water and lots of wildlife.

 

PeterV, Florida

Edited by peterv

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"Wear at least a 3mm suit or more"

 

I'm fairly warm blooded and rarely get so cold I shiver. After 2 hours in 70 degree water with a 3mil, getting out of the water was torture. I was fine in the water but once I got out in the 58 degree air soaking wet I began to shiver uncontrollably. Most people were in 7 mils or drysuits and I found out why. Luckily I packed a drybag with clothes (Birds has a changing tent). Along with dry clothes, my jacket and a cup of hot tea or cocoa (Also provided by Birds) I was fine.

 

The manatees are inquisitive and if you pursue them for a shot they move away from you. If you remain still, they seem to just flock to you. A couple of times I was dinking around with camera settings and looked up to see Manatee bearing down on me. My best moment came when a youngster decided he (she?) was going to harass me. It was comical. He kept trying to put his big hairy mug right on my mask. I couldn't keep him far enough away to take a photo!! In any case, definitely a top 5 underwater experience for me. Hope for a chilly morning and all the manatees will be hovering around the spring which is a constant 72 degrees.

 

BTW, if you've never been, Birds underwater is a good operator and will get you aquainted with your subjects and the laws surrounding them...

 

Gary

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"Wear at least a 3mm suit or more"

 

"After 2 hours in 70 degree water with a 3mil, getting out of the water was torture. I was fine in the water but once I got out in the 58 degree air soaking wet I began to shiver uncontrollably. "Gary

 

Wuss ! :)

 

I don't have a warmer suit, so I make do with 3mm & a hooded vest.

I'd recommend a big Waffle House breakfast at 5:30 AM before you go. The subsequent indigestion takes your mind off the water.

Edited by peterv

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It has been since the early 80s since I was there. All the above advice is good. I would use a 7 mm suit which worked fine. No tanks. We rented a canoe to paddle around crystal river (which is really a lake). Now days I would use a sit on top kayak. Rainbow river is great also. You might want to visit Ginne springs if you have time.

 

Get on the water at the crack of dawn. That is what we did. Don't know how much more built up the lake is now. But we paddled to some of the smaller springs on the lake and had manatees to ourselves while larger groups motored around looking for them.

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Wuss !
:) Nothin' like cold water to make a little girl out of you!

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I've swam with the manatees the last three years in the Crystal River. It is really enjoyable. This year there were a LOT of tour operators ... it has become a bit of a cattle boat type of thing - lots of inexperienced people kicking around stirring up the buttom scarring the Manatees. Birdsunderwater charges about twice the rate other places.

 

My recomendation is to go with the crystal lodge dive center. A snorkle tour with them is $15 ... however I recomend going on your own. rent a kayak for $8/hr (minimum of 2 hours) or rent a 14-16 foot pontoon for $10/hr.

 

If you are a SCUBA diver, tanks are $8. There are some small caverns to check out.

 

Interacting with the manatees is beter with a snorkle. Just don't kick around, scratch them under the flipper, you will eventually find one who wants to "play". I had one swim right up to me bumping his nose into my mask then he gave me a hug with his flippers ... it was unreal!!! It's best VERY early in the morning before the cattle boats go out. The manatees hang out around 5 spings (all within a 5 minute boat ride)

 

Crystal Lodge Dive Center (and hotel)

352-795-6798

www.manatee-central.com

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We went there after DEMA and went out with "Birds" mentioned in another post. Birds said they were mostly booked in Dec, so I would get a reservation. We left at 6:30 am and there were 12 on our boat. Some serious shooters and some spastic bottom kickers! We shot Nik 15 mm and 17 mm housing. A small fill strobe helps if you can find any semi-clear water. NO scuba, just snorkeling

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Spastic...

 

Is that a PC word or have we got more liberal minded these days..

 

Dive safe

 

DeanB

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Myself and Carol (Seagrant) go many times each season as we live about and hour and a half away. Birds runs a great operation. They will check multiple locations for the best Vis and the most Manatee and stay out until everyone comes back to the boat. I would reccomend them above most others - not that others are bad but Birds is a no gamble, you will get the best conditions and best Manatee numbers that can be found the day you go. The dive shop is great and they have full rental gear. The water is 72 degrees all the time a 3mm is good, can get cold if you are standing still waiting for a shot but nothing unbearable. If you have a 5 or 7 that might be a little better.

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Hi All

 

We've been freediving with the manatees in Crystal River just after DEMA this year.

 

The first day we went with an organized tour and quickly understood that it was better to rent a small boat for the day...

The manatees are easy to find and the rental place will tell you everything about regulations regarding the manatees etc.

 

By going on your "own" boat, you'll be able to dive with them between the organized tours and enjoy very quiet waters and calm manatees.

 

I must say that it's one of the best uw encounter you can have!

 

Hope this help!

 

Here's a link to some of the images we did with them:

http://www.nektos.net/show_images.php?IDcat=manatees

 

 

Fred

 

www.nektos.net

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WOW !!!! Was a great trip!!!! First of all, I have to thak everybody for the good infos!!! Birds are really the best manatees tour.....

I snorkeled 2 times with manatees....but conditions was awfull: we arrived during an holiday week-end....ans it was very very very crowded ! The worst week end in the year said Ron the captain! But, with Ron's help, we finally achieved in some good pictures. Visibility was less than 3 feet.....so we snorkeled in green water. I stroke a manatee with my head 2 times :) ! ! Water was so turbid!

 

Manatees are rally incredible creatures.....so cute....so friendly!!! It really was a great experience. It was also the first time in USA.....and I was really surprised by american's kindness. Everybody was very friendly.

So....I will be back for sure!! B)

 

 

And to have conditions' view ....

PARTICULES.jpg

 

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512_DSC_2598-finale.jpg

 

 

 

512_DSC_2602-finale.jpg

 

512_DSC_2630.jpg

Edited by Merlinos

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512_DSC_2718.jpg

 

512_DSC_2734.jpg

 

512_DSC_2743-2-finale.jpg

 

512_DSC_3090.jpg

 

512_DSC_3222.jpg

 

 

 

The second day, i met Doug allan, wildlife film maker (Blue planet, planet earth!!!! :):unsure::blush: ) and his wife Sue. They are really nice people, and we had good time speaking of wildlife and photos even if he had an huge scotisch accent! :lol:

 

www.dougallan.com

 

So, this trip was really fantastic. :)

Edited by Merlinos

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Hi Laurent,

Nice pics, aren't these guys great? I was just there this last weekend. I had lot's of fun interacting with these guys but viz was just not good enough to get the pics I wanted. You definitely did better than I did.

I went with American Pro Diver - organized through our local dive store. Now that I know the setup, I would likely go with Birds Underwater in the future.

I'm glad you enjoyed the US; come back again. (I'm considered a native now, as I've been here over 25 years)

Edited by loftus

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Got a date with mermaids on February 12th. Can't wait. It ranked up there with one of my best trips of the year last year.

 

"and I was really surprised by american's kindness."

 

Hopefully not too surprised...we're not all from Texas :):lol:

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Got a date with mermaids on February 12th. Can't wait. It ranked up there with one of my best trips of the year last year.

 

"and I was really surprised by american's kindness."

 

Hopefully not too surprised...we're not all from Texas :lol::)

 

 

:unsure: u know how its working: untill I met real people, the only vision of american was the TV one..... :) . And in france, we dont all have beret and handlebar moustache! :blush: (but we have all french loaf under arm!!)

 

One of my best trip in my life (better than polynesia, martinik, Egypt, etc...)

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Political preferences aside, Texans are probably the friendliest people of all. :)

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"Political preferences aside, Texans are probably the friendliest people of all." As a diehard republican I was poking fun at my favorite Texan. It would be an interesting topic to have people post what they felt were the most friendly places to dive/vacation...and the least friendly.

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I'm going with Bird's Underwater in about two weeks. I had never photographed the manatees before and my I would like to know which lens would be the best choice, the Nikon 16mm or the 10.5mm ?

Thanks

 

David.

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I'm going with Bird's Underwater in about two weeks. I had never photographed the manatees before and my I would like to know which lens would be the best choice, the Nikon 16mm or the 10.5mm ?

Thanks

 

David.

 

David,

 

I use the Nikon 16mm.

 

I've posted a lot of "stuff" on manatee/crystal river recently - do a search and read it. It really helps to educate yourself on what is going on and conditions you may encounter.

 

I explained a little in this post about how I focus close with the 16mm, and the first "practice" pics I got with the lens/setup - I have better ones now, I'll post soon:

http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showt...&hl=manatee

 

Best, Carol

 

PS - Found this post/pics is still here, Ryan Canon posted pics he took of the manatee with the 10.5.

http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=10828&hl=

Edited by seagrant

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I found conditions for taking pictures challenging to say the least. I've been twice now and the next time I go I think I'll spend at least a couple of days with them. The first day always seems to be a re-learning experience for me.

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My favorite composition of the day.

 

 

 

Here's another near miss. Great pose...photo not so great.

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post-5434-1171468768_thumb.jpg

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