Stalked by a Manatee

Posted on Jul 19th 2012 by Kate Warnock

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I bet if I asked you to name your top five favorite songs, you could tick off the titles. Movies and books? Got those favorites listed too, right? What if I asked you to name your top place to exercise - or simply enjoy being healthy - outside? I could do that in an instant:  riding a stand-up paddle (SUP) board in Sarasota Bay, just off St. Armands Circle on Lido Key. How's that for specific? Why that particular piece of real estate? I submit photographic evidence #1.

Does the beauty of the place instantly drop you into a zen-like state? Well, if I could add the sound effects of the water gently lapping at the board (mind you, I paddle in a strictly-enforced no wake zone for a reason), the sound of the ospreys and pelicans splashing into the water, and the exhale of the dolphins that swim through, it would completely set the scene. Are you ready to go rent a SUP board? Let me tell you, I am all about being healthy and fit, but I'm not exactly into extreme sports. My motivation to exercise has always had to include one of two criteria: a social factor, and/or a chance to see pretty scenery. A run with girlfriends in old Atlantic Beach was so my thing a few years back, because I got both. Playing on an intramural volleyball team was an awesome social opportunity. But what I discovered with the SUP board is that I could take in this magnificent scenery (including zillion-dollar homes along the bay), think about maintaining good form so I'd actually get a decent core and shoulder workout, and enjoy time with my own thoughts. You'd think I'd own a SUP board given the above, but let me clarify. I am also an absolute chicken when it comes to being out on murky water that has waves and scary sharks just waiting to buck me off the board. Paddle board on the Atlantic? Did you see the photo of the guy kayaking in New England with the great white trailing him? Enough said. But the smooth, crystalline waters of Sarasota Bay are my haven. Most places are clear enough for me to see at least several feet down. Sharks aren't quite as likely to be there. And I have the chance to see those most Floridian of mammals, manatees! 

Florida Manatee enjoying nature

Which is why my most recent vacation to Sarasota Bay will likely be one of my most memorable. I had paddled down one of the many canals where homes border the water on both sides, and looked towards the bottom of one of the private docks to see a boulder-like shape hovering about ten feet down. "Manatee?" I wondered.


He must have thought, "human?" because he decided to take a closer look. He drifted towards the surface, took a turn and suddenly appeared about an inch off the back of my board. "Herbivore!" I screamed in my mind over and over, as I saw this granddaddy of all manatees blink his tiny eyes at me, and ponder whether he was going to swallow the leash that was trailing off my board. Since the other end of said leash was attached to my ankle, my sweet nature encounter morphed into a panicked attempt to row - furiously - beyond the reach of the monster's gaping maw. Herbivore, shmerbivore.


That sucker was enormous. I burned a few extra calories that ride. Barely escaping with my life, I realized that I will always enjoy the shopping, beaches and amazing restaurants in Sarasota, but what really makes me excited for our annual visit is knowing I'll be gliding along the turquoise waters on a SUP board. It truly is one of my all-time favorite things to do.


So - let's hear it! Where is your all-time favorite place to have a healthy outing? Tell us about it in our comments below. Have photos of your favorite space and active on Pinterest? Send us an email with a link to your image to and we'll repin it to our Healthy in Florida board. A note on the author: Kate Warnock is a member of the Florida Blue social media team. She has a healthy respect for animals of all sizes. Find her on Twitter @mkatewarnock.


Filed under: Mind/Body/Soul  

Kate Warnock

Kate Warnock is a member of the Florida Blue social media team and has loved being at the forefront of the social wave @FLBlue. A marketer with ten years’ experience, Kate is also a wife and mom to two children. When not at work, you’ll find Kate listening to NPR, reading The New Yorker and Cooking Light, and arriving two minutes late to yoga class.

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I love to visit my parents in Titusville and go kayaking in the Merritt island wildlife preserve. Last year we kayaked to a few islands and got to feed the manatees. We also waded in the water as a dolphin made circles around us and tried to splash us. This past week while on vacation from NC we came down and did a night kayak tour and after an hour of paddling were surrounded by biolumessent creatures making the water glow.

What an incredible experience, James! Bioluminescent creatures? Florida truly does have it all. Thanks so much for sharing your story, and glad to hear you had a great time on your vacation in Titusville!

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