My trip started with breakfast at The Club at RDU. This is an airport lounge in Terminal 1 at RDU just across from Gate A-21. Shown below are a few shots of the entrance, the bar, and one of the sitting areas.
From there, I took an NRSA flight on Southwest from RDU to MCO to go swimming with manatees at Cap’n Mike’s. The flight left on time and arrived about 15 minutes late after being diverted around a thunderstorm in northern Florida. We met some family for dinner at Bravo Pizza (a Florida location of Bravo Pizza NY) in The Villages, Florida and overnighted at their house. We woke early the next morning for the 1-hour drive to Homosassa, FL where we had a 6:30am appointment for a 7:00am launch out of Pete’s Pier aboard the BP Sucks–which I got a kick out of.
We spent about an hour or so on the waters of the Crystal River in Kings Bay (the entirety of which is proposed as a manatee refuge) before spotting our first manatees. This is typical for a summer tour. During this time, there are about 40-50 manatees in the bay, whereas in the colder months, approximately 600-700 manatees seek the warmer waters of the springs. Water temperature near the springs is about 72 degress Farenheit year-round. At the sight of these manatees, we all piled into the water in our snorkling gear and floated around hoping for interaction with the manatees. Nearly everyone on the tour (there were 18 of us) had a chance to see/be touched by the manatees during this first dunk. There were about 3 of us that missed out; but it was a great first exposure to get used to the waters/gear. We cruised around for a while longer, during which time we went by one of John Travolta’s houses in the area (first picture). About an hour later we located 2 more manatees (a mother and her calf) that were there to play. The calf was particularly playful–at one point giving “kisses” to my wife (I let it slide this one time :)). The calf was about 6-8 months old, about 8 feet long and weighing in around 700 pounds. The mother was about 11 feet long and about 1200 pounds. These are not small animals. This time, everyone got in on the action and we had a boat full of thrilled folks.
After a great morning tour (about 4 hours in total), we stopped at Crackers Bar & Grill for lunch, where I had an extremely oversized mushroom/swiss burger with too many fries. I’m not saying it didn’t taste great, and that I didn’t eat it all, but it was a lot of food 🙂
Instead of catching the return trip, I drove back with my wife and kids who were planning on driving back a few days later but cut their trip short so that we could ride back at the same time. All in all, it was a fantastic, if short, trip!
Up next: 2 nights in Carolina Beach, NC at Atlantic Towers. No loyalty programs this time around. The hotels on the beach in the area that are associated with loyalty programs are just not as nice as Atlantic Towers. Maybe we’ll rent a car with that free weekend day from Hertz…