When I picked up the brochure on swimming with the manatees I knew that I just had to add this to my bucket list for this trip. I had no idea of what was to come.
We pulled up in the parking lot and met Kelly, the other lady who would be part of our small excursion. We were all pumped and ready to go...until they handed us what looked to be some sort of garb for S & M and directed us to put them on.
Left Brain and I had swim suits on as per instructed, but for Kelly this was a last minute thing and she needed to use the one bathroom to slip into something much less comfortable.
Filming the donning of wet suits really would have been very funny, but since I didn't want to be the butt of the joke...get it, butt? you'll never see that kind of footage.
It felt like birthing in reverse, trying to squeeze a plump, well, okay...fat...body into a small enclosure. Left Brain and I were able to assist each other but poor Kelly was all alone.
Being the only other woman, I knocked on the door and asked if she needed any help. The door cracked open and I was greeted with a sweaty redheaded woman both laughing and in distress. In I went to assist in tugging the suit up over her rump and shove shoulders and arms into the sleeves. Keep in mind...we had just met in the parking lot a few minutes earlier and had no idea how intimate we would become.
Once we were suited up we watched a video on safety and I couldn't help but wonder why we couldn't have watched this when we weren't zipped up like an Oscar Mayer sausage. Did I mention this was at 11:00 and it was already in the 80's?
But soon we were on the water and heading out to find us some manatees to swim with. Our guide was the poster child for ADHD and there was never a quiet moment or shortage of movement. He would either be describing something, whistling, doing sound impressions, tapping on the steering wheel or conversing with himself.
We arrived at our destination and were ready to enter the water. I had worried before about being too cold, but now I couldn't wait to get into the water to cool off. This was where I asked the guide how to apply the mask and use the snorkel. Yup, I was a newbie.
I've swam all my live and enjoyed swimming underwater the most, so the idea of being able to watch what's going on down there was thrilling to me. Problem is, due to the CPAP machine I have been trained to be a nose breather and now I had to switch to mouth breathing. I know, it doesn't sound hard....but for me it was.
The wet suit provided some buoyancy and we had pool noodles to assist in floating. Floating wasn't my problem - sticking my face in the water, opening my eyes and breathing was the problem.
Every fiber in my body screamed at me not to draw in a breathe while under water, but I did and it was wonderful. What a magical feeling to breathe under water! That's apparently when I smiled and took in my first of many samples of the river water.
Try as I might, I couldn't keep my mouth shut (a normal problem) and had to splash my way to the surface many times to clear my breathing tube. This activity is frowned upon by the others in the area as they want as little disturbance as possible, but I couldn't shake the feeling of drowning. And several of them were looking like they'd like to help me drown right about then.
But as the day went on it got a little better and I was able to enjoy the sights of the manatees and fish all around me. I had the pleasure of one of these huge creatures swimming directly underneath me. We made eye contact. It was pure magic. I said "WOW"...under water. Big mistake. Back to the surface again. Geesh! Will I never get the hang of this!
I mean, how hard is it? You float and breathe...I can do this. And I really thought it was going well and I was excited at how special this was. It was such a magical moment that I felt a strong urge to...well, throw up.
Great. Now I look like an overweight eel hanging over a bucket on the boat and losing the lovely breakfast we had on the way over. How special to have an audience for such a moment. Sure hope our guide didn't need that bucket for any other use at the moment.. I wanted to curl up and die...for several reasons.
We made one more stop and after hurling I felt better so I gave it one more try. Same reaction. I heard from others that this is not an uncommon phenomenon, something about the middle ear and the body tilting at odd angles. I guess any career as an astronaut is out of the question.
It's funny when you think of it. I'm dying to lose some weight and yet weightlessness makes me nauseous. Maybe gravity really is my friend after all.
We purchased the video he shot during our trip (sans the vomiting episode) but I am still struggling to figure how to edit video and share this with you. I'd love to put the DVD he gave us on You Tube, but have no idea how to do such a thing. So in the mean time I have inserted a video from Birds Underwater, the tour group we used.
The next day I was all stuffed up and fully into a nasty head cold. Perhaps this was already in the works and was part of the nausea...who knows. All I know is I'm sick of coughing and sleeping.
Long Live the Queen of the Manatees