Manatees are incredible and gentle creatures that are often referred to as "sea cows". Large and clumsy looking, they have the body of a walrus and a flattened tail that resembles that of a whale. Their faces are similar to a very plump sea lion, complete with the whiskers. Slow moving and shy, they are often seen basking in the shallows in the mangroves, feeding on vegetation that grows and floats in the water.
They are an extremely vulnerable creature because they swim near the surface, requiring air to breath. They cannot move quickly enough to get out of the way of boats, and many bear the scars of propellers and collisions with the hulls of ships. Many do not survive these strikes and their populations are dwindling.
Manatee can very occasionally be found cruising over the reef as they make their way from one feeding ground to another, or as they look for breeding grounds. This lucky swimmer in Belize chanced upon a large manatee coming straight toward him. Nito, known in the scuba diving world as "Big Sexy" is a world renowned scuba dive master and tour guide who works at Chuck & Robbie's Scuba Instruction on San Pedro Island, Belize. Between dives or after a full day of exploring the depths, Big Sexy takes his guests for a snorkel tour, looking for sharks, stingrays, and other creatures of the ocean. He is famous for his way with animals as well, and unusual encounters are not so unusual when you are one of his swims. It's no surprise that if anyone was going to have a manatee swim straight up to them, it would be Big Sexy.
The gentle giant was slow to notice the human in front of him and he casually looked around as he swam almost face to face with Big Sexy. At the last second, he rolled gracefully and turned around to put some distance between them.
Very few people have ever seen a manatee in the water, and even fewer have met one so close up. An experience like this one is something that will not be forgotten.