Well, it finally happened. After over 30 years of never failing to see a Manatee, this was the year we missed out.
The Crystal River area is having the warmest February EVER recorded. While that made for great temperatures for us (low to mid 80s) it meant the Manatees were out and hunting for food. That is, the manatees that bothered coming in to the springs. The Gulf is so warm right now many are staying at sea. While the snorkeling in Three Sisters was good with very clear water, there were no manatees to be seen.
Evidence of the exceptionally warm February continued down Rainbow River. The grasses were much more prolific. It appeared they were 1 1/2 to 2 times longer and denser than last year. There was also a lot of an emerald green algae growth that looked like rope tendrils. But the fish life was still good, there were lots of birds, and we saw multiple turtles. With the water table being up the flow up Rainbow was quicker than usual so we got back to the park in plenty of time to enjoy the facilities and have a good place to dry off and change.
We did Ginnie Springs on Sunday. The main spring (Ginnie) was good as always. Clear and warm with not too many people. Over at Little Devils we found more evidence of both warm temperatures and high water levels. Much of the grass along the channel toward The Eye were gone. There was growth covering the bottom. The Eye was clear and good but they had the barricade up to keep the Suwanee out. The Suwanee was running strong and dark. At the Ear I descended to the log with almost no light in the entrance. So most of our diving was at the Ginnie Spring and the Little Devil's / Eye area.
So far, everyone has said they had a lot of fun and enjoyed the trip, even without the Manatees this year. Room reservations are already in for next year.