Friday, January 30, 2015



Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 70, low 41)


We have done absolutely nothing fun or blog worthy since our visit to Three Sisters Springs a few weeks ago.  If you missed my blog post of that gorgeous place, check it out HERE.  It’s an incredibly beautiful place with the crystal clear blue water. Three Sisters Springs may be the prettiest of all the amazing Florida springs.   If you want to see manatee in Florida, this is the place!

Al appears to be on he mend (knock on wood).  The  itchy rash has improved after we changed laundry detergent. Some of what we thought was poison ivy in Georgia, may well have been the detergent allergy.  He was never allergic to detergent before. I don’t know if he changed or the detergent changed.

We saw two terrific movies last week, and we highly recommend them both.   We saw American Sniper, and The Imitation Game. I was not much into history in school, but have learned to appreciate it as I get older.  The Imitation Game was a fascinating story.

from Wikepedia:

The Imitation Game is a 2014 historical thriller film about British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing who was a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany's naval Enigma code which helped the Allies win the Second World War, only to later be criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality.



We’re extremely anxious to get back to the Keys. Al goes back to the surgeon  February 9th,  and we’ll find out if he thinks it’s okay to head south.    He will have to continue therapy in the Keys, and luckily there is one in Key West which is under our health plan.  We’re figuring he will schedule his PT mid afternoon, so that when he’s finished, we can go right to happy hour on Mallory Square.   :)

Mallory Square, Key West

The doctor has been extremely conservative with Al’s therapy, since this is his third surgery on the right shoulder. It probably won’t be able to be repaired again.  Al is still required to wear the sling 24/7, so that limits what he can do with his right arm.  It helps keep him out of trouble.  :)

Almost every time we make a camping reservation, something comes up and we have to cancel.  We’ve paid more cancellation fees.  We got a little over eager, and reserved two nights at a campground in the Everglades for Feb 17 and 18th. It’s about a 400 mile drive to the Keys, so we usually stay in the Everglades a night or two.   The sites fill up quickly, so I grabbed two days while I could.  Of course that was before he had his last doctor visit and the doctor wasn’t too sure about those dates.   I knew when I made those reservations that I was likely jinxing us, but I did it anyway.

The good news is that the people who are renting our Keys lot want to extend their stay and are flexible with their departure date, so that they can stay until February 23.  As long as we’re not able to use the site, it’s nice that we’re collecting rent.   We’re still hoping to leave the 17th, but it will depend on the doctor.

In the meantime, we’re dreaming about the balmy sea breezes, crystal clear water and the island lifestyle.

I can almost smell these frangi pangi.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The “Real Florida”


Wesley Chapel, Florida ( high 75, low 60)


On Sunday we made the 60 some mile north to Homosassa, Florida and toured the Homosassa River Springs State Park.  If you missed the post, you can read about it HERE.

You can easily spend an entire day at Homosassa, but since we’ve been so many times, we made it a short trip.

So….after we left Homosassa, we decided to drive north a few miles to Crystal River Florida.  Crystal River is the place in Florida if you want to see manatee.

There are numerous dive shops that will take you snorkeling, or diving to the springs.  You can rent boats or kayaks.  Or you can catch a bus to Three Sisters Springs and walk the boardwalk overlooking the springs to see manatee without having to get your feet (or butt) wet.

Crystal River is a typical Florida River in that it is fed from underground springs.   Crystal river is mostly dark water and not particularly clear, but if you are near the different springs the water is blue and crystal clear, as you will see in the pictures below.

One tourist thought the springs were man made. He was shocked when he learned this was natural Florida.  There are many, many similar springs all through Florida.  If you visit Florida and only go to the beaches, you are missing the “real Florida,” and some incredible beauty.  Not all the springs are created equal.  Three Sisters is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful.   We prefer it in the summer months when there aren’t many people.  You might not see manatee, but it’s so incredibly beautiful,  we don’t mind.

Three Sisters Springs are a group of three springs on Crystal River.   We’ve kayaked there many times.  If you want to see if from a kayaking perspective, you can see it here from a previous blog post.  If you want information on where to launch a kayak, check out this post.  If you want to see more manatee pictures, check out this one.

Three Sisters Springs had been purchased back in the 1940’s for a condo development.  Fortunately, they had some financial problems and it was never completed.  It is now a National Wildlife Preserve, and highly guarded and protected.

Although we had kayaked there many times, we never had walked along the boardwalk that is behind the springs.  If you look at the pictures on the other blog posts I linked, you can see a nice boardwalk.  We understood that it was only open a few days a year and we could never figure out which days they were, so we had never been able to see the springs from the boardwalk.

While at Homosassa springs, I asked a volunteer about the boardwalk, and she referred us to a shop in Crystal River, called River Adventures.  They offer manatee snorkeling trips, as well as trips to the boardwalk at Three Sisters Springs.  It turns out, you can now walk the board walk every day, but they have to drive you onto the property, through the locked gate.  It was $5 for seniors, $6 for adults and after we found out that it was a National Wildlife Refuge, we wondered if we could have gotten in free with out National Park pass.   They shop is not on the river, so they provide a bus to take on a 5 minute bus ride.  They dropped our group off and there were several volunteers there to keep an eye on things, and answer questions.  It was money well spent.  You can stay as long as you want, but an hour is enough.

We got a different perspective of the springs by standing up over them, looking down.  The springs are as  beautiful by land as they were by kayak.

After we got off the bus, this was our first view of the clear blue water. 

Three Sisters Springs

We walked onto the boardwalk. To the left is the river, to the right are the three different springs.

When you are on the main part of the river, and you come to a congested area, you know you have the right spot.  This picture was taken from a year ago when we kayaked the springs.  Notice the manatee by the yellow kayak?  The area on the top of the picture is the roped off sanctuary area where no people or boats are allowed, but the manatee enjoy people encounters and will frequently swim right up to you.



Next you come upon a narrow opening to the right, that is gated.    Snorkelers and kayaks can enter, but no motorboats. You paddle down a narrow channel into a narrow passageway. This was another picture taken from a year ago and it was much sunnier. 


You paddle through the narrow channel like the one seen below.

Three Sisters Springs

You might come upon a snorkeler…or a manatee.


Soon it opens up to a big “room”, and this is one of them. 

Three Sisters Springs

Incredible, isn’t it?   Remember, other than the board walk, this is all natural.  The dark spots you see are rocks on the bottom, but often those dark spots are manatee.


Most of the manatee were resting in the sanctuary area outside the channel to the springs.  The tide makes it pretty shallow in the passageway during low tides, so they mostly stay outside of the spring area in their sanctuary.

This roped off area, is the sanctuary.  No one is allowed in there. 

A few come out to visit the people.  The youngsters especially like to interact with people.


All of those dark spot are manatee.

Three Sisters Springs


The canal is pretty narrow, and if a manatee tried to swim in there to the springs, he is likely to meet up with a snorkeler.   The wild life groups are are trying to get the spring area closed down now while there are so many manatee there, but of course the local businesses are fighting it.   I personally think they should close it down, and only allow access via the boardwalk,  but in all fairness, we’ve been there when there were no other people, and the manatee seem to prefer the sanctuary people outside of the springs.  If you saw how shallow the entry way was, you’d understand.  Perhaps, it would be helpful to them to dredge it out a little.

You can see in the picture below this woman walking/snorkeling through the channel with a few manatee right beside her trying to get into the same area.

(Sherry, you may not want to see this)


Three Sisters Springs

One of these manatee is a baby.

baby manatee at Three Sisters Springs

His mom is right next to him.  Isn’t he cute?

Three Sisters Springs

We spent an hour or so walking along the boardwalk, soaking in the beauty of the real Florida.   We’ve been there many times, but it never fails to amaze me.

Three Sisters Springs

If you want to see manatee, this is the best place….and you don’t even have to get wet!



It’s even prettier on a sunny day.

Three Sisters Springs

Just beware though.  There are some strange critters in the Florida waters.


Three Sisters Springs

Pillsbury dough boy?   (God is going to get me for that)

Three Sisters Springs

If you want to snorkel with the manatee, you can take one of the many boats.  I believe it is $45 per person and that includes all the snorkel gear.


Kayaks can also be rented,  or you can walk on the boardwalk and get a wonderful view without getting wet.

This family apparently doesn’t see the the need for a life vest for those two small kids.  It’s pretty shallow where they are, but the entire river is not that shallow.  Shame on them.

Three Sisters Springs



Three Sisters Springs


If you are in central Florida, I would highly recommend a trip to Crystal River and Three Sisters Springs.   River Adventures dive shop  is the only shop that has access to the boardwalk, as far as I know.  The link to the shop is provided earlier in the blog. If you want to snorkel, there are many shops….but not all of them take you to Three Sisters Springs and the other springs are no where near as pretty!

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Blog Worthy Day


Wesley Chapel, Florida


Today was cloudy and rainy on and off most of the day, but yesterday (Sunday) was nice, so we took advantage and made a day trip.

We have an annual Florida State Parks pass, so we drove up to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. It’s about 60 miles north from the Tampa area. We got in free, with our park pass, but I think they charge $13 per person.  It is more of a zoo, but with all native Florida species, except for Lucifer the hippo.

When the state took over the animal park a few years ago, they relocated all non native species of animals, except Lucifer.   There was a  public outcry when they tried to relocate Lucifer, which ended up with Lucifer being made a Florida citizen so that he could live out his life at the park.  He will be 55 years old in a few weeks and will be having a birthday party.  Poor lonely Lucifer.


We started our day on a boat ride. The captain points out any wildlife he sees along the way, and of course no trip on a Florida waterway would be complete without a gator.


Once we got off the boat, we walked around the grounds.

Lots of beautiful birds.

Red Shouldered Hawk


This was the first time we’ve seen Caracara there.  They appeared to be very small compared to the ones we saw at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park.



Snowy Egret


I think the Flamingos are the star of the place…or at least the most colorful.  We actually saw wild Flamingos here in Tampa one year.  Unfortunately, their habitat was destroyed to build houses, but we always remember seeing them in the wild.



There are foxes, Florida panthers and bobcats.  I think the bobcats are the most handsome.

The two red wolves were from a captive breeding program. There are only about 100 of them left in the wild.  This guy looked sad.  So was I.

Red Wolf




Florida panther


Love the white ears on this bobcat.


How about this face?   I think this is a horned owl.


The underground springs that supply the Homosassa River provide warm water temps of 72 degrees.  The warm water brings the manatee in from  the gulf seeking warmth.

We walked up on the viewing area by the spring and spotted quite a few manatee.  They were hard to see because the water wasn’t real clear there.


The boats couldn’t go past the ropes, but there are plenty of manatee all through the river.


We continued our walk along the trail to what is called “the fishbowl.”

It sits on top of the springs, which are where the water looks blue.


As you walk on the trail to the fishbowl you start to see a lot of fish, and usually a manatee or two.


You walk down under the water line to go into the fishbowl.

Here is what you see.  Those are all fish, from near to far.


These fish with the stripe are snook.


Each different type of fish swim with the same type and the same direction.

The fish in the picture below are jacks.  We had an interesting   encounter on a dive in the gulf one day. It started out with a school of jacks. They (and us) ended up being in the middle of a shark feeding frenzy.  We ended up being surrounded by at least a hundred sharks. It was one of those memories you don’t forget and every time I see a jack, I remember it.


We spoke to a lady in the fish bowl that had lived in Florida 25 years and has never seen a manatee.  We’ve been to the fishbowl many many times and have always seem manatee there…until yesterday.  She thought she was the jinx that kept the manatee away.

We told her exactly where to find the manatee that we had just seen and even pointed her in the right direction.

As soon as she left, and we started walking back along the trail we saw this lone manatee swimming towards the fishbowl.


We decided to back down into the fish bowl and get a better look at her underwater.

Isn’t she pretty?


Notice how the schools of fish thinned out?  Those fish are not captive fish.  They can come and go into the river and gulf of Mexico as they wish.  I guess they like the warm water too.

Look at the cute face.


She swam around the fishbowl a while then headed back to the river, doing a little flip on her way.  That is her belly you’re seeing.



Here are a few more things we saw on our walk around the park.


These are white pelicans.  They are a lot larger than  the brown pelicans.


Poinsettia growing in the park.  They will bloom every year and  can take some freezing temperature.


Whooping Crane


American Eagle


The animals here are mostly ones that have been injured and can no longer live on their own.  They do a lot of manatee rehabilitation there too, with the goal being to release them back into the wild.  The manatee you saw in these pictures were all wild and free to come and go.  There was one that was captive and held in a pen, so I assume was being nursed back to health.

It’s a fun place to go and see all the native Florida critters.  It’s nicer on a bright sunny day. We had a lot of clouds the day we went, but at least it was warm.

This wasn’t the end to our day.   Come back in a day or so and I’ll show you a LOT more Manatees in some crystal clear blue water!


If you want to visit Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, It’s just off highway 19 in Homosassa, Florida.

Map picture