Mermaids and Manatees

Day 3 dawned with overcast sky’s and light rain showers. It was tempting to just crawl back into bed and sleep-in but my time in Florida is limited so that would be a waste.  I was here and opportunity only knocks once (or so “they” say). Joe was at Disney, working, so I was on my own today. I don’t mind that. In fact I told Joe before I came down that I  would visit him while I was here. I wanted him to understand that he didn’t have to play host to me the whole week. I had exploring to do and I like doing a lot of that on my own at my own pace.

The concierge at my timeshare said that the cold snap they had the previous week had driven the manatees into the springs for warmth. He suggested I take a drive up to Weeki Wachee State Park. He thought there were some in that spring. Seeing a live manatee in the wild would be an awesome experience.

Weeki Wachee State Park is about an hour north of Orlando. I had my GPS and the roads were good. I drove in and out of bands of rain. It was a scenic ride once I was off the highway. I think most of the drive was on RT 50. There were orange groves both well-tended and abandoned. The well-tended groves were loaded with fruit. As many times as I have been to Florida, I had never seen orange groves so this was really neat.

 The weather report said it was supposed to clear so I was hoping the sun would be out by the time I arrived.

I remember hearing about the Weeki Wachee Springs when I was much younger. They had mermaid shows and I thought that would be an awesome job to have when I grew up. I was surprised to find out that they still have those shows at the park. I thought they were a thing of the past like so many other  things from the 50’s.

 There are a couple of different shows. One show, Fish Tails, gives the history of the mermaids  before a pageant style  show is presented and the other is based on the Little Mermaid. There is also a reptile show and a boat ride  with a conservationist. But I am jumping ahead. Let me walk you through my visit.

Arriving at the entrance to the Park you have a large paved parking area. The entrance is attractive with flags and sculptures of mermaids.

The ticket price includes all the “attractions”, the shows and boat ride I mentioned. Unfortunately the ranger at the window said the manatees were gone now, back out to sea, but she highly recommended the mermaid show.

I was here so I paid my admission and set about exploring.

Inside the park there were paved paths and benches and peacocks…loads of peacocks.

They were pretty but kind of dirty. They liked to sit on the benches too but they left  quite large piles of calling cards if you get my drift. If you go, look before you sit.

I took the boat ride first and was surprised to be the only passenger. I guess the threat of rain had put a damper on visitors.

There was a captain and the conservationist and me. The ride is not long but we saw  Ibis,

 an eagle nest,

 Great Blue Heron,

 and a Little Blue Heron

, even a domestic Muscovy duck.

Looking into the clear water of the spring fed river I could see fish darting about through the water. They even jumped and splashed occasionally. No wonder the wading birds were hanging out.

The guide said there was an alligator that made it’s home in the spring but that it didn’t come out too much before dusk. On the previous trip down the river they saw white tail deer but they were gone when we got there. Both the captain and the guide recommended that I take a kayak down the river if I had time. Unfortunately I had missed the last trip with a pick up so I would have to come back another day to do that. (I suspect it will have to wait for another trip)

Back on shore I wanted to get some lunch but I would miss the mermaid show if I did that so I headed to the Mermaids instead.

You enter down a flight of stairs and then turn into the theatre itself. The benches are stadium style and surround a curtained wall. While waiting the history of the facility and the mermaids is shown on TV screens above the curtain. And then it was showtime.

The curtains go up and you are looking through a wall of glass like an aquarium but it’s not an aquarium. It’s really a window into the spring and there are the mermaids, young women in mermaid tails, performing synchronized swimming.

Each has a breathing tube which allows them to perform their stunts without surfacing for air. This was a traditional show like they have been doing for years here. Near the end of the show one of the “mermaids” returns from a costume change without her tail but wearing ballet shows. She hands her breathing tube to her  spotter and dives to the bottom of the spring at 117 ft holding her breath.  It ends with a water ballet sans tails dedicated to patriotism and the American Flag.

It certainly is different and quite enjoyable.

I skipped the reptile show in order to grab a quick lunch at the snack bar, Typical park food…hot dogs, hamburgers, fries. I was the only one there although I did see a few people wandering the grounds while I ate.

After lunch I checked out the stage where the reptile show took place and sure enough, I had missed it. The herpetologist was packing up his stage props and animals but he was willing to let me pet his alligator.

There was another mermaid show but it was getting late. I didn’t want to get stuck in Orlando Rush Hour on my return so I skipped the 2nd show and just wandered the grounds a bit more admiring the peacocks.

As 4 pm approached I headed back to the car for the drive back to the condo.

 So no manatees but I bet you didn’t really expect me to find mermaids! 🙂

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