Manateeland - New Years, 2012

Jessica almost stepped on this playing manatee in Wakulla Springs as she swam. (above) Another at Apollo Beach catches a breath. (below)

Statistics:

Dates: 10 days, from Dec. 27, 2011, to Jan. 5, 2012

 

Areas Explored: the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Naples; Florida's Atlantic coast; the Keys.

Transportation: 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan

New Frontiers: We did some snorkeling and underwater exploration and photography. Camped in Everglades.

 

Cast: Scott, Jessica, & Andrew

 

Trip Notes: Day 1:  We missed the birds so  we drove through St. Louis, overnight into Mississippi. Day 2: Spent all day enjoying the French Quarter of New Orleans and Metairie and then headed east into Gulfport. Day 3: Explored the Biloxi coast, stopping for sandhill-hunting, and then camped at Ft. Pickens SP, FL. Day 4: Spent most of the day on Pensacola Beach and treked into the Panama City area in the evening, overnighting in Tallahassee. Day 5: Morning drive through Tallahassee's covered roads and then spent most of the day swimming in Wakulla Springs, before heading east toward Daytona for New Years' fireworks. Day 6: Zipped over to Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island for bird and gator watching and a swim. Raced through Miami to Homestead. Day 7: Explored the interior of the Everglades, all the way into Florida Bay, and then camped at Pine Island. Day 8: Spent a cold day exploring the Anhinga Trail and then the Keys, including a nice little snorkel on Key Largo. Day 9: Crossed the Tamiami, stopping at Shark Valley, and then west into Naples for sunset and ice cream. Day 10: Started in Bradenton, stopped at Apollo Beach, and then north to Macon. Day 11: Explored northeast Georgia and the Smokies in the daytime and spent the night driving across I-75 and I-65 back home.   

Come under the water with us...

A video showing lots of wildlife and underwater shots.
Warning: It was edited for drama and not accuracy.

See last year's 2011 New Years Florida Safari.

Our generally meandering route into and out of Florida. (right)

Rolls of Film: Click on image to see caption, full-size image, or slideshow.

We left in the late afternoon and reached St. Louis as night fell.We left in the late afternoon and reached St. Louis as night fell. St. Louis was decked out for the Christmas season.St. Louis was decked out for the Christmas season. I-55 in the middle of the night somewhere in Arkansas.I-55 in the middle of the night somewhere in Arkansas. Grabbing a bite to eat for lunch at Raising Cane's in Metairie, LA.Grabbing a bite to eat for lunch at Raising Cane's in Metairie, LA. The afternoon light in Nola was refreshing after the long drive.The afternoon light in Nola was refreshing after the long drive. We explored the winter views of our favorite spot along Bayou Coquille.We explored the winter views of our favorite spot along Bayou Coquille. The bridge at Bayou Coquille.The bridge at Bayou Coquille. In the summer, this canal is usually choking with duck weed.In the summer, this canal is usually choking with duck weed. Day 3 near Pensacola Beach, FL.Day 3 near Pensacola Beach, FL. Dinner at our favorite shrimp place: Cafe Maspero on Decatur Street.Dinner at our favorite shrimp place: Cafe Maspero on Decatur Street. Time for some post-dinner beach fun!Time for some post-dinner beach fun! After a Peg Leg Pete's feast, Andrew used his food bucket to play in sand.After a Peg Leg Pete's feast, Andrew used his food bucket to play in sand. We camped that night in a very comfortable spot on Pensacola Beach.We camped that night in a very comfortable spot on Pensacola Beach. Waiting for nightfall on the white sand beach of Fort Pickens.Waiting for nightfall on the white sand beach of Fort Pickens. Lunch at Peg Leg Pete's (where we had dinner the night before.)Lunch at Peg Leg Pete's (where we had dinner the night before.) The wild, jelly fish infested, tar-ball filled Grayton Beach.The wild, jelly fish infested, tar-ball filled Grayton Beach. Near Fort Pickens is the entrance to the Intracoastal.Near Fort Pickens is the entrance to the Intracoastal. A scene on Pensacola Beach.A scene on Pensacola Beach. Sunset at Grayton Beach, Florida.Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico. Andrew seems to have fallen into the sand at Grayton Beach.Andrew seems to have fallen into the sand at Grayton Beach. After night fell, we ate in Panama City Beach.After night fell, we ate in Panama City Beach. We drove a couple of Tallahassee's famous canopy roads.We drove a couple of Tallahassee's famous canopy roads. It is time for a safari at Wakulla Springs SP!It is time for a safari at Wakulla Springs SP! One of dozens of big gators we saw along the Wakulla River.One of dozens of big gators we saw along the Wakulla River. A variety of Wakulla wildlife, prominently featuring a wintering hooded merganser.A variety of Wakulla wildlife, prominently featuring a wintering hooded merganser. Wakulla is home to a big moorhen population.Wakulla is home to a big moorhen population. Just in case one is not enough. This guy in back was a giant!Just in case one is not enough. This guy in back was a giant! An anhinga sunning himself on a boscoyo.An anhinga sunning himself on a boscoyo. Some people call the anhinga the Some people call the anhinga the "snake bird" because of its neck. Another classic scene along a bayou of the Wakulla River.Another classic scene along a bayou of the Wakulla River. A heron fishing along the Wakulla River bank.A heron fishing along the Wakulla River bank. A gator resting under an old bald cypress tree.A gator resting under an old bald cypress tree. Catching some December sun.Catching some December sun. Vultures in the trees above the Wakulla River.Vultures in the trees above the Wakulla River. A big one sunning himself in a classic Wakulla scene.A big one sunning himself in a classic Wakulla scene. Ibises resting in the cypress stands along the river.Ibises resting in the cypress stands along the river. Gators weren't the only reptiles sunning themselves in Wakulla SP.Gators weren't the only reptiles sunning themselves in Wakulla SP. This bird was dragging something slimy and green to his nest.This bird was dragging something slimy and green to his nest. "Hey! Be quiet! I'm trying to fish here!" One of the manatees we spotted via our tour boat in the river.One of the manatees we spotted via our tour boat in the river. Egret hunting in the brush.Egret hunting in the brush. A moorhen striking a pose at Wakulla.A moorhen striking a pose at Wakulla. Looking down the Wakulla River from above the spring.Looking down the Wakulla River from above the spring. A couple of manatees were making a lot of splashes playing off the swimming dock.A couple of manatees were making a lot of splashes playing off the swimming dock. We bought some snorkeling gear in Tallahassee the night before.We bought some snorkeling gear in Tallahassee the night before. It was time to dive in and get a closer look at what's under the springs.It was time to dive in and get a closer look at what's under the springs. Mostly we saw the common striped mullet underwater.Mostly we saw the common striped mullet underwater. People stayed out of the water because it was December, but we were from the North.People stayed out of the water because it was December, but we were from the North. When Jessica took the dive into the spring, she swam to the dock.When Jessica took the dive into the spring, she swam to the dock. She was surpsied when she bumped into this manatee as he was swimming by.She was surprised when she bumped into this manatee as he was swimming by. Jessica and a couple European tourists enjoyed watching the manatees play nearby.Jessica and a couple European tourists enjoyed watching the manatees play nearby. Here is what Jessica shot when she blind shot into the water beneath her feet.Here is what Jessica shot when she blind shot into the water beneath her feet. I would say this is a face only a manatee would love.I would say this is a face only a manatee would love. A younger manatee far below Jessica at the spring's bottom.A younger manatee far below Jessica at the spring's bottom. They obviously were very careful swimmers to come this close without much noise.They obviously were very careful swimmers to come this close without much noise. Andrew found a great sand castle on Daytona Beach.Andrew found a great sand castle on Daytona Beach. We saw the fireworks amidt a very happy crowd on Daytona Beach.We saw the fireworks as part of a very happy crowd on Daytona Beach. We spent New Years' Day exploring our favorite: Merritt Island NWR.We spent New Years' Day exploring our favorite: Merritt Island NWR. The best place to spot wildlife, in my opinion, is along rocky Biolab Road.The best place to spot wildlife, in my opinion, is along rocky Biolab Road. Something you don't see very often at home. This is Biolab Road.Something you don't see very often at home. This is Biolab Road. Some cormorants resting along the Intracoastal Canal on Merritt Island.Some cormorants resting along the Intracoastal Canal on Merritt Island. A couple of wading birds flying by on Merritt Island in the marshes.A couple of wading birds flying by on Merritt Island in the marshes. An alligator in Merritt Island's Clark Slough.An alligator in Merritt Island's Clark Slough. A couple bald eagles guarding the ponds and lagoons near the Kennedy Space Center.A couple bald eagles guarding the ponds and lagoons near the Kennedy Space Center. A brown pelican in Mosquito Lagoon.A brown pelican in Mosquito Lagoon. We headed to Canaveral National Seashore for some fun in the sun.We headed to Canaveral National Seashore for some fun in the sun. Andrew had fun watching our beach neighbors reel in big fish all afternoon.Andrew had fun watching our beach neighbors reel in big fish all afternoon. A begging shorebird on Canaveral Beach.A begging shorebird on Canaveral Beach. Here we are on Cape Canaveral, one of my favorite beaches.Here we are on Cape Canaveral, one of my favorite beaches. This time he really got buried deep.This time he really got buried deep. One of the grackles furiously begging for our KFC leftovers near Titusville.One of the grackles furiously begging for our KFC leftovers near Titusville. A small gator in the creek along Max Brewer Road.A small gator in the creek along Max Brewer Road. A wintering blue-winged teal in one of the Blackpoint Drive lagoons.A wintering blue-winged teal in one of the Blackpoint Drive lagoons. Blackpoint Drive is home to a big variety of birds.Blackpoint Drive is home to a big variety of birds. Like these roseate spoonbills.Like these roseate spoonbills. A spoonbill doing what spoonbills do...A spoonbill doing what spoonbills do... A proud egret in the marsh grass.A proud egret in the marsh grass. One of Merritt's lagoons nearing sunset.One of Merritt's lagoons nearing sunset. This is where ducks fly south to in the fall.This is where ducks fly south to in the fall. Ducks and geese await evening on Merritt Island.Ducks and geese await evening on Merritt Island. Sunset on Merritt Island; we spent the evening flying across the Miami area into the Glades.Sunset on Merritt Island; we spent the evening flying across the Miami area into the Glades. After a good sleep in Homestead, we decided to hike the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades.After a good sleep in Homestead, we decided to hike the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades. The Anhinga Trail is a wildlife and touriste magnet in the winter.The Anhinga Trail is a wildlife and tourist magnet in the winter. An anhinga profile. The sharp beak is for stabbing fish.An anhinga profile. The sharp beak is for stabbing fish. A sharp heron working the shallow marsh in the borrow pit.A sharp heron working the shallow marsh in the borrow pit. A big turtle looking for sun in the Everglades.A big turtle looking for sun in the Everglades. Warning signs abound about the ferociousness of Everglades vultures.Warning signs abound about the ferociousness of Everglades vultures. Blue heron is focused on his task.Blue heron is focused on his task. An ibis cleaning himself up in the trees.An ibis cleaning himself up in the trees. Andrew found an alligator that is just his size in the borrow pit.Andrew found an alligator that is just his size in the borrow pit. Everglades insect life abounds, but is hard to photograph usually.Everglades insect life abounds, but is hard to photograph usually. A nice-sized alligator gar in the grass.A nice-sized alligator gar in the grass. I wish I knew... but it is beautiful.I wish I knew... but it is beautiful. Face-off in the borrow pit at the Anhinga Trail!Face-off in the borrow pit at the Anhinga Trail! A very focused bittern. The water was very clear.A very focused bittern. The water was very clear. Boom! Got him!Boom! Got him! A couple of big gators in the section of the trail I call A couple of big gators in the section of the trail I call "Gator Heaven." A moorhen stalking the marsh grasses along the Anhinga Trail.A moorhen stalking the marsh grasses along the Anhinga Trail. "I am three years old!" Here is what the Anhinga Trail is named for, one of the great anhingas.Here is what the Anhinga Trail is named for, one of the great anhingas. An Everglades toad in the elbow of a tree.An Everglades toad in the elbow of a tree. A beautiful heron in the waters of the Everglades.A beautiful heron in the waters of the Everglades. Birds abounded on Ninemile Pond along the park road.Birds abounded on Ninemile Pond along the park road. A whole bunch of roseate spoonbills in the mangroves above Ninemile Pond.A whole bunch of roseate spoonbills in the mangroves above Ninemile Pond. Usually I have seen white pelicans in the Plains, but here was one in the Glades.Usually I have seen white pelicans in the Plains, but here was one in the Glades. The edge of the mangrove swamps around Snake Bight in the Everglades.The edge of the mangrove swamps around Snake Bight in the Everglades. We continued to the port near Flamingo in the Everglades where we saw this osprey.We continued to the port near Flamingo in the Everglades where we saw this osprey. Flamingo's docks also seemed to interest this young manatee.Flamingo's docks also seemed to interest this young manatee. Near the docks were also a few rare crocodiles.Near the docks were also a few rare crocodiles. We took a boat ride into Florida Bay, but it was ill-fated thanks to weather. (A kingfisher.)We took a boat ride into Florida Bay, but it was ill-fated thanks to weather. (A kingfisher.) The storm moved in fast and brought with it record-setting cold.The storm moved in fast and brought with it record-setting cold. This is our campsite in the Everglades. We saw a huge snake not too far from here.This is our campsite in the Everglades. We saw a huge snake not too far from here. We stopped by the Anhinga Trail on our way out to say BYE to the gators.We stopped by the Anhinga Trail on our way out to say BYE to the gators. Pushing a rock?Pushing a rock? Underneath the river of grass that is the Everglades.Underneath the river of grass that is the Everglades. Anhingas did not seem bothered by the cold and continued to fish.Anhingas did not seem bothered by the cold and continued to fish. Wow! What a beautiful heron.Wow! What a beautiful heron. An alligator gar under a bridge on the Anhinga Trail.An alligator gar under a bridge on the Anhinga Trail. A nice palm on the way out and into the Keys.A nice palm on the way out and into the Keys. Stopped for a snorkel at Pennekamp SP. It was so cold, I was the only one.Stopped for a snorkel at Pennekamp SP. It was so cold, I was the only one. One of the few Keys fish I was able to capture on film.One of the few Keys fish I was able to capture on film. The scene below the Atlantic at Pennekamp SP.The scene below the Atlantic at Pennekamp SP. US-1, racing through the Florida Keys.US-1, racing through the Florida Keys. Sunset on a nice beach on a very small key, with only enough room for a rest stop.Sunset on a nice beach on a very small key, with only enough room for a rest stop. Sunset near Missouri Key.Sunset near Missouri Key. A Key Deer spotted on Big Pine Key off Coupon Bight.A Key Deer spotted on Big Pine Key off Coupon Bight. Day 9! We stop at Shark Valley for our first hike here.Day 9! We stop at Shark Valley for our first hike here. Shark Valley had an amazing variety of alligators like this baby.Shark Valley had an amazing variety of alligators like this baby. Potholes in the forests near Shark Valley.Potholes in the forests near Shark Valley. Huge alligators lined the trail into the woods.Huge alligators lined the trail into the woods. A baby gator shows his size on this lilypad.A baby gator shows his size on this lilypad. This one must be This one must be "Mama Gator!" A pile of baby alligators in Shark Valley's borrow pit.A pile of baby alligators in Shark Valley's borrow pit. Catching sun on a cold day in the Everglades.Catching sun on a cold day in the Everglades. An alert Shark Valley allgator.An alert Shark Valley allgator. Along the Tamiami in Big Cypress is this nice boardwalk above the Tamiami borrow pit.Along the Tamiami in Big Cypress is this nice boardwalk above the Tamiami borrow pit. A gator in the pit along the Tamiami Trail.A gator in the pit along the Tamiami Trail. A bunch of alligators resting in the river bank, home to huge fish.A bunch of alligators resting in the river bank, home to huge fish. Some alligator gar living in the Big Cypress borrow pit.Some alligator gar living in the Big Cypress borrow pit. We watched the sun set on Naples Beach; one of our favorite spots.We watched the sun set on Naples Beach; one of our favorite spots. The TECO power plant at Apollo Beach is home to a manatee viewing center.The TECO power plant at Apollo Beach is home to a manatee viewing center. There is a bit of hoopla about manatees in Tampa during the winter.There is a bit of hoopla about manatees in Tampa during the winter. Manatees bask in the warm water being spit out of the plant.Manatees bask in the warm water being spit out of the plant. Manatee baby and mommy enjoying the warmth of Apollo Beach.Manatee baby and mommy enjoying the warmth of Apollo Beach. Shorebirds along Apollo Beach under the mangroves.Shorebirds along Apollo Beach under the mangroves. Andrew is trying to smell manatee breath. (For real. It was scratch & sniff.)Andrew is trying to smell manatee breath. (For real. It was scratch & sniff.) Getting ready to fall into Manatee Springs in Chiefland, FL.Getting ready to fall into Manatee Springs in Chiefland, FL. This place was creepy udnerwater and the sun was going down.This place was creepy underwater and the sun was going down. Dried Spanish moss hanging over the pathways of Manatee Springs SP. Dried Spanish moss hanging over the pathways of Manatee Springs SP. A deer in the boscoyos at Manatee Springs.A deer in the boscoyos at Manatee Springs. Looking north along the Suwanee River where vultures roost.Looking north along the Suwanee River where vultures roost. Southward along the Suwanee we heard jumping mullet and maybe spotted a last manatee.Southward along the Suwanee we heard jumping mullet and maybe spotted a last manatee. Waffle House in By God, Georgia!Waffle House in By God, Georgia! North Carolina's Smoky National Park.North Carolina's Smoky National Park. Up in the mountains we saw a few big turkeys.Up in the mountains we saw a few big turkeys. Winter in Great Smokies NP on the Tennessee side.Winter in Great Smokies NP on the Tennessee side. Another great Appalachian scene from the Smokies.Another great Appalachian scene from the Smokies. Back to the winter. Ice and snow in Tennessee's mountains.Back to the winter. Ice and snow in Tennessee's mountains.

Photos copyright 2012 by S. Plencner or J. Bezold All other content copyright 2012 by S. Plencner