Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chilling out with the slow-mo manatees of Florida... who like nothing better than a good tickle


Left a bit: A snorkeller tickles a young manatee near Crystal River, Florida, where the mammals gather in the winter to escape colder water

For the unaware snorkeller, coming face to face with one of these enormous underwater mammals might cause a bit of panic.

But these rotund creatures want nothing more than their bellies scratched as they float around the warmer waters near Crystal River, Florida.

Several freshwater springs attract the gentle manatees when their usual ocean habitat becomes too cold in the winter.

Life in the slow lane: Scores of the hulking animals rest on the river bed

Underwater photographer Alex Mustard travelled to the west coast of Florida to capture the animals as they congregate together to escape the cold.

He said: 'Manatees live life at a slow pace, so when you swim with them you are forced to chill down to their speed.

'They're just floating about in a sort of zen state. Then, when they come up to you and want you to scratch them, it is so exciting - you get a real connection.'
The 36-year-old said photographing manatees was an easy task because of their laid-back nature.

Can I help you? This manatee appears to strike a pose as one snorkeller attempts to capture the perfect picture

He said: 'Manatees are big and, if you don't stress them, very friendly, so they are easy to get close to the camera.

'If you give one a good scratch, it will remember and 30 minutes later you will feel a nudge in your side - and there is the same individual wanting another tickle!

'The babies are the most playful, and I think the adults are happy to have snorkellers entertain their energetic youngsters while they get some sleep.'

'Sea cows': This adult manatee yawns as he shelters underneath a floating pontoon

source :dailymail

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