The Beautiful Manatee Of Florida USA…..

The start of a brand new year and what better way to welcome it in than by doing a road trip.  And as is the way of road trips, they tend to take you somewhere wonderful and my road trip led me to the Gulf of Mexico and to the manatee of Florida.


How could I best describe these West Indian manatees other than to say they are incredibly charismatic and sweetly natured. Although large and cumbersome looking, the manatee are actually very agile and quite delicate.  They weigh up to 550 kg, can grow up to almost 4 meters in length (13 feet) and they are dependent on warm waters for survival.


Being near or in or under the water is where I know I belong and it is where I feel most at home and there was nothing more enchanting than to be under the water with these beautiful and very gentle one tonne creatures. Immersed in this wonderland, I saw beautiful mothers with calves who are the perfect duplicate of their parents yet so endearing. Being inquisitive creatures, the manatee will approach you. Sometimes they will be alone, sometimes in the company of other manatee or with a calf but you cannot help but let your heart tumble with love for these incredible creatures.



I was so fortunate to be in the company of Joe, a fellow conservationist, whose work is about the protection and preservation of these lovely creatures. We were on the water at dawn, the most beautiful part of the day, and long before any of the ‘big tourist’ boats were out. The tourist boats can carry up to 50 people at any one time and that sort of trip in those conditions is definitely not for me!   We were also not in the clear ‘springs’ but in the open water of the river systems where the water was, at times murky, but again it was away from the tourists. I really could not have wished for anything more wonderful than to have spent hours in the water observing and enjoying these lovely sea cows.


Mid November to March 1st is the best time to see the manatee but you need to wait until the coldest of temperatures arrive. I was constantly reading and charting weather maps in anticipation of the coldest time in Florida and very fortunately, I managed to hit the coldest day. My patience and planning was well rewarded with the company of approximately 32 manatees on the day.


The Manatee are air breathing and slow moving as their swim is serene and unhurried. Given this, they spend a lot of their time on the surface of the water, and as a result, many of the manatee very sadly show the scars of propeller encounter. I have always thought, as with any healing wound, the scar suggest the hurt is finally over and recovery has perhaps begun.




Life is short and at times fragile and our world, although beautiful, can be a tragic and harsh place however we are so lucky to have the experience of this life so don’t ever waste a moment of it especially on maliciousness and spite. I do so believe with all of my heart, that every one of us has the power to make positive changes and a difference in this world. We should all strive to care for each other and to protect all living creatures through respect, compassion and love. Always measure your worth by what you do and by your humanity and your kindness because we as humans are the only ones who can do that. The potential for acknowledging that our careful acts of empathy and gentleness truly does have the greatest of impact.



The manatee’s plight is still very much in crisis. They are endangered and don’t let anyone tell you they are not. It was such an incredible privilege and experience to swim alongside the manatee and to do something like this will make you weep with immense gratitude. I was able to dive and swim and glide and gracefully somersault in the water with these gentle and beautifully natured creatures and given this, I acknowledge that all animals are depend on our compassion, our quiet and passive observation, our respect and our great love in order to survive.

And just in case I ever momentarily forget how truly fortunate I am……. swimming with the manatee will always remind me of how wonderful life really is xx

Last Road Trip In America. Florida Part I……

In the last week before heading back to Australia, I completed my final road trip in America.  Whilst driving in the big sky country that is the US, I was feeling a little sad and somewhat sentimental however I realized the great fortune I had been blessed with in all of the wonderful experiences and opportunities I have had.

On this my final road trip, I was headed to Florida.   The main purpose for my road trip was to swim with the Manatee (next blog post) however as I left Warner Robins behind in the rear view mirror, I thought about the beauty of infinite possibilities which lay ahead.

The rural road stretched out in front of me taking me past freshly cut cotton fields and long abandoned pecan orchards.  It was a trip of old barns, deserted gas stations, bridges, the Suwannee River, swamps, river basins, the panhandle, the ocean and of sunshine.


As I was travelling alone, I did wonder when I first came back to America, if my travel would evoke the same warmth and wonderment of the trips I have done previously.  And the answer to that……well, it was a resounding YES!  I don’t think any of us should ever be afraid to go it alone and where ever your journey takes you, you should truly go with all of your heart.  I think too that solo travel can, to a certain extent, make you a little more courageous and the best gift you can always offer yourself is bravery in the wonderment of adventure.


My journey this time ended at the Gulf of Mexico.  I watched the sea birds, marveled at the expanse of sea stretched out in front of me, swam and dived then I sat on the sand to dry myself in the pale winter sun of Florida.  I drew sailing boats, hearts and sea horses and I wrote messages on the shoreline.  Nostalgia is free so with the fragile sand of the gulf threatening to be difficult I built a ‘sandcastle’…….just because I could.  I shaped an alligator simply because it was different and I always believe there is absolutely nothing wrong in ever being your unusual and unique self.






What a wonderful gift it is to travel and for me, there is nothing more wondrous than to find a road that ends at the ocean.   I guess we all have our oceans to swim, but it will be our ability to find our beauty of courage which will enable us to do so.  Running up against the sharp edges of life and the painful events, although heartbreaking at times, are worthwhile in end and to take on that big ocean and swimming the hell out of it will sustain and sooth those with gentle souls always….. xx


 The Gulf of Mexico…..

Panama City Beach, Florida

Panoramic coastal drives, beautiful sunsets, white sands, a clear aquamarine ocean and sunny days?  You must be in Florida!

They call Panama City Beach ‘The Redneck Riviera’ however there is no better way to restore the soul than to spend four days swimming in the wonderful warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Generally this ocean is calm, flat and serene.  Interestingly, the best and only time to surf it is throughout the hurricane season as this tranquil sea can produce waves up to 12 feet high during that time.

The waters off the coast line are crystal clear.  So clear in fact, you can see sand dollars and shells underfoot, dolphins, fish and majestic rays gliding silently past.  I was truly blessed early one morning to find myself swimming within a school of Lesser Devil Rays (also referred to as smaller Manta Rays).   My early morning walk/swim became one of the most amazingly beautiful days of my life.  These little rays are incredibly inquisitive and playful and swimming alongside them will be an experience I will never forget.



034   043


 Sea bird life is abundant……


School of Lesser Devil Rays………

Eating at Panama City Beach:  If you ever happen to find yourself down Panama City Beach way then I can very happily recommend a couple of places.  Both have a great selection of fresh seafood available and both dining experiences are as different as day is to night.

*  The Saltwater Grill – lovely with great food, great service and a very good wine selection. The highlight of the restaurant is the 7 feet high 25,000 gallon saltwater tropical aquarium which is visible from most seating areas in the restaurant.  The food here was really good and although it is a little more expensive than your usual ‘chain’ it was certainly worth it.


The dessert ‘taster’ at the Saltwater Grill

*  Dusty’s Oyster Bar – ‘the home of warm beer, lousy food and ugly waitresses’!  That’s their catchy little slogan but don’t believe a word of it because this little place is a hoot.  Great food, great service, great atmosphere and great beer.  If you want to hang out with the locals, who by the way are very friendly, welcoming and interesting then this is the place to be.  Dusty’s is also where the locals eat which in my book is a pretty good recommendation so grab a seat and try some of the best oysters, freshly shucked at the bar, along with crab and shrimp….prawns to Aussies.

158    169

173   182

176   179


More random photos from Panama City Beach Florida:

002    024

 057    068 080

102 106 154

084    088


Panama City Beach is lovely.  With 27 miles of stunning sugar-white sand beaches, warm gulf waters and a beautiful ocean how could you not but enjoy the journey xx