Our story starts off in an unorthodox way…this was not about business, tourists, or dreams of grandeur. Our Swim with Manatee adventures truly started out as a ‘Love Story’.Picture if you can, a warm spring day on the picturesque waters here in Crystal River. A family, not unlike yours, spending a memorable Holiday enjoying the sunshine and sparkling waters the Nature Coast offers to all. The daughter, a young, bright nature lover enters the springs to cool herself after hours in the sun. Soon, her mother is drawn to the water as well. It just happens to be Mother’s Day, and unbeknownst to either daughter or mother, a special gift was on the way. First to spot the light colored shadow headed directly in their direction was the father, still onboard the boat. A dolphin? A shark? His mind reeled, but suddenly, reassuringly he knows. Of course, Crystal River is known for one thing and that is where the story gets interesting. “Stay calm, stay calm” is what the father repeats as the figure comes closer in the water. By the time the women turn around, a gentle giant was only a few feet away and looked almost like a mermaid from the surface of the water. “Manatee” the mother, squealed in delight as the daughter reached over for the comfort of her mother’s touch. For the next few minutes, they were quiet and still, more from amazement than anything and the animal circled them both. The father reached over to offer them their snorkel gear and with one shared look they both retrieved the gear and slipped on their masks. Now imagine a world unlike our own, all blue, sodden and sprinkled with tiny fish that dart between the light and the shadows. Disappear into this place, relax and let go of any worries. Open your eyes... open your heart... and envision this experience. A Mother’s Day surprise straight from Mother Nature herself!As the women floated there, they were truly awestruck by the majestic beast that approached slowly from their right side. With words unspoken, heads unlifted and hands clasped together at their sides, the mother and daughter shared a moment that was unlike anything they shared before. The manatee approached and clearly made eye contact with them both, then came closer to the young lady. She giggled into her snorkel and smiled with her eyes as the manatee’s fin ever so softly touched her shoulder. Their eyes locked, the daughter holding back her tears of amazement and at that moment, she fell in love with the cuddly beast. As they watched the animal swim away, they were amazed at the childlike wonder that had overcome them both in the moment. How can we bottle this feeling? How can we share this experience? With some creativity, education and perseverance we can help to ensure the future of these animals forever! Driven by sleepless nights hearing her grandmother’s voice encourage her to follow her dreams, and remembering promises from long gone generations to make efforts to save the endangered manatee, the daughter shares her plan with her family and then the world. River Ventures was born from this spirit and we are still enchanted with our manatee friends daily. Family, love, awareness, the soft call that Mother Nature whispers in our ear… binds us all to something that is bigger than we know. Here in Citrus County we have a privilege that is exclusively ours, and we want to share that delight with the world. Love of these animals is at the heart of all that we share and when you love what you do, it shows!