Day 2: The Best of Central Florida {Underwater}

Day 2: The Best of Central Florida {Underwater}

A long time ago, when the Earth was green, I swam with the manatees in Florida’s Crystal River, where hundreds of manatees flock to in the winter months when the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are not as warm. It was time to see the manatees again, though the unusually warm temperatures would we see any? We made it to the dive site at the crack of dawn to find out.IMG_7826

The bay around Crystal River is a safe zone for manatee. RIMG0116

After a slow start acclimating to the snorkel gear and my underwater camera, I managed to get a few great shots of the few manatees we saw, as well as some other beauteous things at Three Sisters Spring, a remarkable crystal clear spring. RIMG0068


Getting some yummy bites.RIMG0080

Posing for a profile shot.RIMG0096

Just swimming by.RIMG0098

Schools of fish at the Three Sisters Spring.RIMG0151

This ethereal spring is a snorkeler’s paradise.RIMG0189


These posts coming from the springs ground are what remains from when Three Sisters was first used from manatee rehabilitation. The fence that it was part of was placed in order to rehabilitate a manatee who had been stuck in a sewer in Miami. The man spearheading the rehabilitation: Jacques Cousteau. RIMG0196

A huge turtle I followed.RIMG0135

Though the snorkel was beautiful, our wildlife viewing was not over as we headed back to land. We saw a dolphin feeding! It was similar to the bubble-net feeding I saw the whales do in Alaska. But this appeared to be only one dolphin, though a opportunistic pelican was always near to feast on the fish the dolphin worked out of the water. It was wonderful to witness a dolphin in its natural habitat, doing its natural thing. Especially in Central Florida, where that sickening SeaWorld calls home. Blackfish is one of most upsetting documentaries I have ever seen. I am delighted that the public has responded by not supporting their terrible form of entertainment, putting them in jeopardy of bankruptcy. However, they are behind a new exploitative venture called Discovery Cove that offers you a chance to swim with their captive Bottlenose dolphins. PicMonkey Collage4

After swimming with the manatees, we wanted to check out Weeki Wachee. It is home to a very unique attraction–an underwater dance performance from the city’s live mermaids. The kitschy show has been going since the late 40’s when a man named Newton Perry decided he wanted to see mermaids in real life. It only take a man and a dream, I suppose.IMG_7834

The beautiful resident mermaids are voluntarily captive. They train for over a year to be able to perform. They are very talented. I’m grateful to have joined the likes of Elvis Preseley, who also visited the tiny city to see the mermaids. The small city has an inspiring history and I was so glad we learned of it through word of mouth. Now, this is my word of mouth–check out Weeki Wachee.IMG_7895

A mermaid chugs a Coke while surrounded by turtles.IMG_7854

The mermaids use a breathing apparatus that is like a hookah, except it’s oxygen and they’re underwater.IMG_7858

Lovely live mermaidsIMG_7877

After getting up at the crack of dawn to snorkel on the gulf-side, we hadn’t eaten the whole day. We made a b-line to Market on South, a plant-based shared market with the some highly anticipated vegan food offerings. It is home to Dixie Dharma and an outpost to Valhalla Bakery, an all-vegan bakery in the neighborhood. Ah, a chalkboard full of delicious choices. PicMonkey Collage1

Sammies ordered. I got the Pulled Carolina BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich with delectable jackfruit in a scrumptiously sweet barbecue sauce with fried onions, pickles, and a ton of fresh arugula. It had these amazing preserved lemon pieces that popped the sweet and the briney.  It was heavenly, with a side of potato salad. In the background, a fried green tomato sandwich which was apparently equally impressive.DSC_0008

Little details rile, like the swirl on the bread. Or just the bread–damn good.IMG_7905

I got a s’mores bar from Valhalla Bakery that was a brick of blondie layered with marshmallow and chocolate. My ideal dessert–marshmallow, some chocolate and vanilla. These are a few of my favorite things.PicMonkey Collage2

The rest of the case.IMG_7912

After some rest, we skipped the Bernie-fest at Market on South and headed to the equally progressive Dandelion Comminitea Cafe, a more hippy-veg eatery house in a pretty green house that didn’t photograph well in the evening. We started with their Nachoes Libre, organic blue chips topped with their chili and their cheese. IMG_7923

I had to continue on the marshmallow theme and get their vegan Fluffer Nutter–almond butter, banana and Ricemellow Fluff, topped with a chocolate drizzle. I wanted to order it and take a picture of it more than I wanted to eat all of it, especially with my local-made strawberry kombucha and my choice in side, a salad. It all kind of clashed together but was yummy separately.IMG_7943

Lastly, we checked out Artichoke Red… because it’s an all-vegan store. Nice to see those things around.PicMonkey Collage5