Our first kayaking after Bruce refinished the kayaks in January was at Ocala, Florida in Silver Springs State Park in late February. We paddled 5 miles down river from the park to Ray Wayside. For $10, we got a shuttle ride from Ray Wayside where we left the car back to Silver Springs Park canoe launch where we had unloaded the boats to begin this scenic adventure.
Not only did we see the typical waterbirds like Anhinga, Heron, Ibis and plenty of turtles and gators, but there were manatees – and even monkeys!
I loved this unbelievable adventure which is so far, my favorite kayak paddle! Check out my video below to take this virtual adventure with us. And read on for more details and a video of an alligator bellowing.
It’s still Winter and the manatees are known for being in the springs where the water temperatures are a consistent 72 degrees and there are plenty of grasses for them to graze on. I keep finding that we are just a little too early or too late or too far away from the most populated springs to see them in large numbers. Being determined to drive Bruce crazy going on about it, he already had this location and adventure planned and just treated it like an average paddle.
While there were only two manatees spotted on this trip, it was plenty exciting for me especially when one swam right under my boat! You can hear the excitement in my voice on that clip – check it out!
Surprisingly there were Rhesus Monkeys playing in the trees and actually jumping off into the water with a great belly-flop splash. The monkeys would race back up the tree, still soaking wet, and jump off the trees over and over.
Monkeys are actually invasive here and were originally released in 1938 to enhance a jungle boat tour. They have been happily living here ever since. I heard they didn’t think the monkeys could swim and would stay put on the little island in the river. How hilarious to find them creating games out of swimming!
Last year, I was afraid to be in the water with the scary looking alligators. My experience is that they mostly avoid contact and just swim away or ignore people. However, we had been warned to avoid peak mating season around May when the males get really aggressive. I was comfortable taking short video clips of these wonderful creatures on this trip until…….
I was filming a big daddy resting in the weeds right in front of me. Our kayaks are not as maneuverable as the shorter ones as they are designed to move forward. A combination of the swift current and the design of the boats kept pushing me closer to this big boy. With both hands on my iPhone filming I had no hands on the paddle to stop forward momentum. That guy reared up his head and let out the loudest roar I ever heard, it’s guttural sound that I felt throughout my body. Unlike an elephant rumble, the alligator bellow instinctively raised alarm bells to get the heck out of there. I scrambled to reverse and took off at full speed which these kayaks are really good at!
The bellow comes with a raised head, air captured under the chin almost like a bullfrog. Followed by sinking down a bit and letting loose a bellow which causes water to dance on his back. This display is similar to a mating display but this was no amorous gator. He warned me and everyone around to steer clear of his part of the river. I heard his bellows echoing down the river with a ferociousness as I furiously paddled away.
For obvious reasons, I couldn’t capture the whole experience (but I’m still alive). This clip from bawk7798 on YouTube gives you an idea. Now imagine being a few feet away from this guy and be the source of his IRE!