Woke up to a voice telling me it’s 9:00 am, way too early for this boy. I touch the screen on the phone for ten more minutes of snooze and then, in what seemed like a minute, the alarm went off again. I didn’t want to, but it was time to get up, I needed to meet the others @ 10:00 am.
I got up, and out the door I went, making it to the house by 10:00. Lisa had planned for us to go to the Big Bend Power Plant to see manatees. We all squeezed in to Margaret & Ed’s rental car. It was a small Nissan Sentra, but with it’s impressive leg room and comfortable seats, we all fit in comfortably.
The power station is located across the bay from St. Petersburg. That meant we had about a 75 mile ride ahead of us. Took the freeway and made it in a little over an hour. I will say this about the freeway (I-75), it has enough lanes, it’s in really good shape, and traffic (even heavy) flows. Once there we found the parking lot full, oh-oh, then we saw a sign for overfill parking and went down the road about a 1/4 mile and parked. It was nice they had set up a shuttle from the lot to observation point.
Big Bend Power Plant discharges warm water into a man-made inlet, and in the winter when sea water temps fall below 67 degrees (approx.), the manatees come into the inlet where the discharged water has raised the temp to a level the manatees can survive in.
Only had to wait a few minutes for the shuttle to take us to the observation walk (and back). Surprised at the large number of people, Lisa commented that it hadn’t been this busy on her trips here before. Talking about it later, we concluded; because it was MLK holiday plus with the weather being ideal to see the manatees, it resulted in the much higher crowds.
The water was murky so visibility of the manatees was compromised. You could still see them well enough in person to make for an satisfying time but, when you add murky water and sunny sky’s, it makes for bad photos, and when the manatees can look like grey blobs, it makes for really bad photos. I’m using that excuse again as to why I didn’t take any photos.
It turned out to be a really neat place to go, while the backdrop of the power station 500 feet across the water didn’t do a whole lot to heighten the experience (although kind of cool in it’s own way), seeing all the manatees in the water (at least 25-30) was amazing. There were big ones and small ones, fat ones and, well, they’re all fat. I liked that you could see the manatees from the angle of looking down at them. This made it so much easier & better to see them. I really got a kick when they would come up for air. Like a big blimp they would slowly rise, and then the nose would come out of the water, nostrils open, then silently, back into the water they would go. In addition to the manatees, we were able to see a few rays, and a lot of big fish. This experience definitely lived up to the hype!
Went to lunch at a family owned pizza place in Bradenton. Able to order by the slice which was different than what used to, and it was I think, a more authentic New York style than used to. It was affordable and quite satisfying. Good company + Good food = Good Time.
After lunch, we headed to Myakka State Park to spend some time. This was the same park I had stopped and inquired about a campsite before going on to the State Forest campground. It’s a big park and impressive in its diversity, I can see why it was full when I checked.
You go to the ocean, what do people want to see? Sharks. You go to Africa, what do people want to see? Lions. You go to Florida.
People want to see Alligators.
Along with the gators we were able to see a variety of birds, deer, ferral pigs, and turtles.
At one point we took a short stroll down a trail looking for, you guessed it, gators.
We stayed at the park until near sunset and then headed back to East Venice, where we had started the day. It had been a long but enjoyable day.