Receive discounts on GVI programs for life!

We are very excited to announce the launch of the GVI Membership! It will give you unprecedented access to discounted spots on a range of GVI programs, updated every single month, at up to 40% off! Sign in and know more about here!

GVI Marine Training kit

Please click here to access the online GVI Marine training kit

If you are coming for four weeks click
here to find the training tool that will help you learning your juvenile fish!

Study on the go! Click here for a Caribbean fish id guide application for iphones, ipads and ipods!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Swimming with Manatees - Diary extract, Sally Jones (Pez Maya, Oct-Dec 2008)

On the weekend about eight expedition members rode out past Tulum to one of the hotels along the beach on the way to Playa del Carmen and spent Saturday night camping in a palapa on the beach.  The hope was to swim with manatees on Sunday.  Our entrance was quite wet as there was yet another rainstorm early Saturday evening, but we made it to the palapa and had quite a festive evening pitching tents, eating dinner, and relaxing on the beach. 

Daylight Saving Time intervened to give us an additional hour of sleep and we awoke to sunshine and clearer conditions on Sunday morning.  A short walk from the beach was a fresh water lagoon home to several turtles, fish, and (we hoped) four manatees.  We swam several times in the lagoon, sandwiched around eggs and chorizo for breakfast, and a dip in the clear, blue Caribbean sea, but no manatees were spotted.  We prepared for a barbecue (steak, sausage, grilled pineapple, guacamole, and tortillas) in the afternoon, when two EMs returned from the lagoon reporting that two different manatees were spotted in the water.  They looked to be at least seven feet long, with two smaller flippers used somewhat like hands, and a powerful flat tail as the main source of propulsion.  During this first sighting, the manatees quickly turned and headed in the opposite direction from us.  We attempted to swim and follow, but both times they were much too fast.

We satisfied a craving for meat with the barbecue and planned one last swim in the lagoon.  Two staff members came down from Pez Maya that afternoon to see the manatees, and they headed down to swim.  Others headed down to the lagoon about an hour later.  During this last swim we hit the jackpot, as one of the manatees spent about an hour feeding in the lagoon.  Everyone got in the water with mask, snorkel, and fins and watched and photographed as the manatee continually used its vacuum like mouth to siphon up algae and seagrass from the bottom of the lagoon.  After each of these feeding sessions, the manatee swam up to the surface to breathe.  We were amazed that the manatee seemed not to notice the ten people circled around it, as it often swam toward one of us on the way to the surface.  We spent an hour marveling at this magnificent animal and getting a number of great pictures.  Finally, the manatee headed out of the lagoon.  We trailed it for a short distance and were soon left behind, but counted ourselves lucky to have swum for a short while with a manatee. 

Sally Jones, Pez Maya, Oct-Dec 2008