On *not* swimming with manatees

Manatee and her calf swim near kayaker holding a camera underwater (photo Steve Sapienza)

Manatee and her calf swim near kayaker holding a camera underwater (photo Steve Sapienza)

My piece on *not* swimming with manatees, but instead going on a kayak trip near their sanctuaries, ran on the front of the Boston Globe’s travel section today. Coincidentally, it came out a week after a New York Times’ Escapes-section story on swimming with manatees that did not even mention the controversy around intruding into the natural life of a wild creature, much less an endangered one. That breaks my heart.

With the Times’ reach, it would have been so meaningful to impart even a little bit of that information. Also, to my eye, the photo the Times ran makes it look like the guide is holding the manatee in place (strictly forbidden) so the snorkelers have time to photograph and pet it. Very sad, if not illegal. 

Manatee swims near kayaker holding a camera underwater (photo Steve Sapienza)

Manatee swims near kayaker holding a camera underwater (photo Steve Sapienza)

As I wrote here last month, the highlight of our Crystal River, Fla., manatee-themed trip was the “Do Not Disturb” kayak tour sponsored by Save the Manatee Club and led by guide Matt Clemons, owner of Aardvark’s Florida Kayak Co.

It just so happened that Steve Sapienza, the Florida sales rep for Washington-state kayak maker Eddyline, landed in town that week for the winter. He came on the kayak tour to help out his pal Matt. Steve has a water-resistant camera, and whenever manatees would come near us, he’d simply place his hand underwater and shoot. I was amazed to see the outcome! Steve was thrilled that the Globe ended up putting his mother/calf photo on the Travel section front, and he’s letting us use his photos here as well.

Manatee almost touches Wessel`s kayak

Manatee almost touches Wessel`s kayak

This made us think that we must get Wessel a water resistant camera! Nonetheless, Wessel did an outstanding job of photographing the gentle giants from above.

I heard from Globe reader Jason Viola, who said he was happy to see a story that focused on not swimming with the manatees. Jason draws “Herman the Manatee,” a manatee comic strip, of all things, and sent me this one that reflects his similarly conflicted feelings about getting in the water with the creatures he so loves.

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2 Responses to “On *not* swimming with manatees”

  1. Sheila Says:

    Any chance we could get permission to use your photo (the up close shot) by Steve – for some tshirts?

    (The captions would be “don’t ride the manattes”). We’d give you a free shirt!

    Just love the photo!!

    Thanks!

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