Florida Trip - Kayaking with Manatees on Christmas Day

Christmas Day was probably one of the most memorable Christmases ever.

We decided to limit the kids presents and budget this year by a lot. We made sure we "warned" the kids that Christmas might look different this year and that our trip was the big present. As always they got a gift from Santa, which this year was a snorkeling mask for each boy, something we are going to be using a lot in 2018. Finn really wanted a few books (Dog Man), a map of Vietnam, a Playmobil helicopter and I threw in some T-shirts. Jake got an underwater knife, a book about the Vietnam war, a camping chair, and also some T-shirts. A big present this year was them getting a Star Wars drone to share from their Opa. Scot surprised me with a new (very comfortable) sleeping pad that I will be using a lot in 2018 as well. Scot got some new kayaking worthy sandals and a very nice flannel shirt. And like every year we got a new Family Game. This year we got Bears vs Babies and we love it!

I was worried because Christmas did look different this year. Not in our home, less presents, only a tiny Christmas tree but as soon as the kids walked in the living room Christmas morning and announced: "That's a lot more presents than we expected!" I knew this day is going to be amazing.

We spent the majority of the morning, unwrapping gifts, playing with them and making the best Christmas breakfast! Scrambled eggs, with the leftover shrimp and crab legs from the night before, plus baked beans (the British in me) and toast! It was sooooo good!

After our late breakfast we slowly got ready for our next kayaking adventure trip... The Chassahowitzka River! Chassahowitzka is again pretty close to Weeki Wachee and when we arrived we were the only ones at the boat ramp!!! Yipeee!!!

As soon as we got in the water with our kayaks, we were greeted by 8 very curious manatees. They played for a very long time with us. Pushing and bumping into our kayaks. It was literally like in a dream. We had a hard time saying goodbye but we knew there was more to see.

Not far from the boat ramp we found these underwater caves/ swimming holes. The boys had a blast snorkeling in them and it was a great opportunity to try out their new masks! A few of these caves were connected and Jake really wanted to try to dive from one end to the other but signs around the area were warning of the danger and deaths that have occurred in these caves. So, no diving for Jake!

After playing for a long time we kept kayaking to explore the rest of the river. Chassahowitzka is seriously an amazing part of Florida and probably one of my favorites! The river is full of wild life and so crystal clear. We paddled for a few miles when I spotted a crab in the water…. ok let’s stop for a second and wind back!

For the past few trips we have made we have started creating Individual Bucket lists for each trip. For this trip it looked like this:

Finn really wanted to catch a medium size fish or a crab, Jake wanted to catch and cook a crab, Daddy wanted to see Little Havana and I wanted to eat an Empanada. Thank you, Kate, for this great tip.

So, I see a crab in the water and I barley spoke the words: A CRAB! Jake jumped into the water (mid paddle in the middle of the river) grabbed his net and scooped up the crab. A few minutes later he caught two more and stored them in the hatch of his kayak to enjoy later for dinner. He was one happy boy and BOOM! his Bucket list item for this trip was filled.

Once back at the boat ramp, Scot and I loaded the kayaks on the trailer while the kids snorkeled with the manatees for a little. What an unbelievable experience that was for the boys.


We got home, took showers and changed right back into out Christmas PJ’s. The kids watched some YouTube videos on how to best cook the crabs (I wanted nothing to do with this) and their dinner was served. I finished the smoked salmon dip from the night before and everyone was happy!

I can easily say it was one of the most memorable Christmases we ever had as a family!

Christmas Trip to Florida - Atlanta, Homosassa, Crystal River - Part I

We surprised the boys this year with a trip to Florida. It worked out perfectly. They had no idea. Scot teased them before Christmas with hinting that we will be going skiing in Wisconsin over Christmas break and they were not amused by that idea. Christmas morning came and the very last present under the tree was a box filled with their own swim trunks, goggles, a little kayaker, a US map and a note. Here is what happened:

TOMORROW? Yes! They were so excited! We packed the car up the evening of the 25th and left at about 6 am on the 26th! We stopped in Atlanta at the Martin Luther King memorial, visited the Ebenezer church where he preached and went on to The Varsity. The Varsity is a place we have hard about before and wanted to try it out. The ambience in there was really cool, but the food was less than mediocre.

On our way down to Florida we also stopped in a large Pecan store in Georgia, where we did not buy anything with Pecan's but Licorice. What can I say... I love me some Licorice. Scot also saved a turtle running across the highway.

Our first stop in Florida was in Homosassa. Our AirBnB was awesome! Really big, lots of room for us, very pretty up in the trees and pet alligators in the backyard!

The next morning we went kayaking with manatees on Crystal River. We booked with the Crystal River Kayak Company and I can only recommend them! Everything was perfect. We ended up actually swimming with two manatees at Three Sisters Spring. The water was ice cold in there but so worth it. Finn needed a little extra warming on top of the kayak afterwards. We booked two tandem kayaks for 4 hours and including swimming and kayaking out in the bay, it was perfect timing. Jake got this awesome video of a manatee next to his kayak with his go pro.

You probably notice Finn's blue gloved hand in the pictures below. Unforunaly he burned his hand before Christmas and it was bad enough that we needed to protect it a little more, so he could swim with his Manatees (his second favorite animal btw)

During our stay in Homosassa we went to the beach. As soon as we arrived on the beach a thick cloud of fog rolled in and stayed! This didn't keep Jake out of the water... not much ever keeps him out of the water including water snakes! Anyways, while Jake swam we watched this guy catching crabs! It was pretty facinating. He threw a string with a large piece of chicken tied around it out in the water, stood really still and waited for a crab to grab the chicken, then he would slowly pull the string in until he could grab the crab. More often than not the crab would let go before he could grab it and he had to start over again.

Part II will be up soon!