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Manatee Memories

01 Mar Posted by in Kim Powell | 1 comment
Manatee Memories

I have had the incredible honor to swim along side manatees for over 40 years. It began in the summer of 1969 when I saw my first manatee while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico near Clearwater, Florida. My father and I stood waist deep in water when something dark and large emerged next to us. My dad was a big guy with a personality to match. I started towards the shore as my father’s eyes widened and he belted out a gasp that was quite unfamiliar to my 11 year old Buckeye turned Cracker ears. Later that day, when I found a large slimy sea hare oozing purple dye, I realized there was no turning back. Florida had won my heart. I would no longer pine away for the night crawlers, crawdads and painted turtles I loved to hunt in the suburbs of Cleveland, where we had moved from that summer. Marine mammals and invertebrates were my new fascination and the beaches of Florida became one great scavenger hunt.

Every February, my company, Blue Water Ventures, takes a small group of special women on a journey to the sparkling clear springs of Florida. Ponce de Leon once searched for a fountain of youth bubbling forth from Florida’s limestone plateau, but we will be in search of manatees. For centuries, sailors thought that these 2000 lb. herbivores were part woman and part fish, seductive fair maidens of the sea. Early sailors were known for their vivid imagination, and we too have certainly grown to appreciate the provocative nature of our mammalian encounters. Manatees belong to the order of Sirenian, which is rooted in the Latin word Siren meaning Mermaid.

Our recent 2011 trip will be remembered as the ‘Year of the Baby Manatees’ who chose to interact with us daily. As always, we had an amazing group of respectful, adventurous and curious women. With hearts pounding, we would patiently wait for the manatees to initiate contact. As the video reveals, the baby would nuzzle its resting mother and then turn to approach our group, making its way to each of us. Suspended in the 72 degree water and drifting effortlessly we became lost in the moment—spellbound.

After 40 years, I remain in awe of these gentle marine mammals and feel so grateful to interact with manatees in the wild. The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus) is an endangered species that needs our support. To learn more about manatees and how to adopt a manatee through a $25 donation, please visit:

Will you be one of 10 women to join us next February in search of the Manatees of Florida? For details please visit:

Kim Powell is owner, operator and head naturalist at Blue Water Ventures in Santa Cruz, CA. Offering naturalist-led field trips for students and adventurous vacations designed to be relaxing with an educational component for women. Kim has been organizing single and multiple day excursions to extraordinarily beautiful places since 1985. Find out more at

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One comment

  • Maureen says:

    Kim is a personable and engaging leader who is a very knowledgeable naturalist. I’ve been on two of her kayaking trips and have been an assistant naturalist on at least three of her tide pooling trips. Go on one of her trips – you’ll learn plenty, have a good time and meet others with similar interests.