Whether the pigs in the Bahamas , the flamingos in Aruba or the alligators in the Everglades – somehow we get into animal adventures again and again on our travels . Well, of course it doesn’t happen by accident 😉 And so it wasn’t a coincidence that we planned a rather big dangling for one thing during our Florida road trip: We wanted to swim with the manatees . The big gray manatees are something of a symbol of Florida and, if you know where, can be found practically anywhere in Florida’s waters. Swimming with them is only officially allowed in one place in Florida , the Crystal River. Without anticipating too much – we can already tell you that swimming with manatees is one of the kind of experiences that you won’t forget in a hurry. Touching the gentle giants or having the fattest smooch of all time pressed right in the face by a manatee is impressive (and tickles!). Our bucket list, which we don’t actually have, definitely got a big, fat hook that day. Manatees in Florida There are only four species of manatees left in the world. Curiously, their respective areas of distribution are very far apart; the so-called manatees live in Florida and on the Gulf of Mexico. You can see the manatees all over Florida’s waters, they do well in both salt and fresh water. There is one simple reason why you will probably not run into manatees by chance in Florida: They like it warm. The funny manatees look a bit chubby to us and we automatically assume that they have a thick layer of fat that protects them from the cold, but that’s not the case. All pure muscles (and heavy bones 😉). And so, unfortunately, the manatees freeze pretty quickly, which forces them to stay in warm waters. Where in Florida do you find the manatees? Manatees can be found in Florida wherever the water is cozy and warm. This is particularly the case inland in northern Florida, where numerous river springs arise. Above all the Homosassa Springs and the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, where the water is constant all year round at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Especially in winter, when the water outside the springs and in the sea becomes cool, the manatees are drawn to the warm springs. From November to March is peak season Manatee and they abound throughout Florida by the hundreds around the hot spots in the water. Especially the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a real manatee paradise! Here you can watch the peaceful manatees in their natural environment all day long. A good overview of the places in Florida where you can watch manatees can be found here: Top manatee spots See wild manatees in Florida As great as it is to watch the manatees in their natural habitat, one thing is forbidden everywhere in Florida: Diving, snorkeling and swimming with the manatees. So you can’t just jump into the water with the animals if you feel like it. The manatees belong to the endangered species and enjoy special protection in Florida, be it through the swimming ban or specially separated protection zones into which the animals can retreat. Because although the manatees have hardly any natural enemies in Florida due to their size, there is one thing that really worries them: the human being with his motorboats. We saw many manatees with scars on their backs from cuts from the screws of the boats. Unfortunately, the animals are just too cozy and leisurely on the move, to be able to avoid the fast motor boats. Therefore, especially around Crystal River, near the warm springs, some protection zones have been set up, which are not allowed to be entered by boat, kayak or swimming. You should stick to this, disregarding such a protection zone or the swimming ban can result in severe penalties. Crystal River: Swim with the Manatees However, there is one place in Florida where swimming with the manatees is officially allowed : Kings Bay in Crystal River. Hundreds, if not thousands, of manatees cavort here in the winter months, as the Three Sisters Springs nearby feed the bay with warm water. The warmer the surrounding waters with rising outside temperatures in summer, the less the manatees will stay in the bay. The huge animals (whose closest relatives are whales and elephants) have to eat around 15% of their body weight every day – as herbivores that feed primarily on seaweed, this is of course no easy task. The manatees leave the hot springs as soon as possible each year and move on to other bodies of water where they can find better care. There are two ways to swim with the Manatees in Crystal River: Either you try it on your own or you join a guided tour. A snorkeling tour with the manatees In order to be able to experience the manatees, we decided on a guided tour. There are a number of companies in Citrus County and Crystal River that offer boat tours to the Manatees. We have chosen River Ventures , the best-known provider . We really wanted to do a tour very early in the morning at 6 or 7 a.m. , because at this time the water is a bit cooler and the manatees cavort around the warm springs – so the probability of meeting manatees is greater. Unfortunately, apart from River Ventures, no other provider offers such an early tour. So once again we tortured ourselves out of bed at an inhumanly early hour and drove to the River Ventures visitor center very early in the morning. There, over hot coffee, there was a brief introduction to the manatees, some information about the tour and tips on how to handle the manatees correctly. The most important information: Those who move the least in the water will have the most fun! An information that should give us one of the best experiences later 😉 After the short lecture, we squeeze into our sexy wetsuits in no time and off we go by bus to Kings Bay. We take the boat out on the water, each of us is provided with a funny swimming noodle and a snorkel set. It takes a while before we discover the first typical “swirl” that a manatee makes when swimming. As a layman, a swirl like this can hardly be distinguished from a fish on the surface, but our guides have an eye for it, of course. Manatees only have to come up every few minutes to breathe and otherwise spend most of their time eating or sleeping at the bottom of the water. But since they are very curious by nature, they do not necessarily dive down again after taking a breath when they notice that it is,for example So we hurry to get into the water when we spot the first manatee, some of the group paddle afterwards and we are in the cold water for a while looking for manatees – without success. The game repeats itself a couple of times, we go back on board, drive to another spot in the bay where a manatee makes itself felt, go into the water – the manatee is long gone by the time we are in the water. In the end, our guides decide to simply stay at the current location for a while, where two or three manatees can be seen from the boat. The manatee kiss I remember what I learned during the introduction: whoever does the least action in the water is the most interesting for the manatees. So I bob around pretty motionless, because I have already learned that swimming behind is not successful. Suddenly, only 1-2 meters away from me, a large gray back is visible on the surface of the water and my pulse suddenly skyrockets. I force myself to stay calm, not to kick, and tell myself not to be frightened if the manatee suddenly appears in front of my face. Then I put my face halfway under the surface of the water so that I can just see what is happening above, but also have the underwater world in view. At this moment the time has come: A manatee appears right in front of my face, nuzzling my goggles with its bulging snout that is as big as my entire head. A manatee smooch! Gnihi. The moment is over so quickly that I have no time to frighten myself, so I just stroke the manatee for a moment as it swims by before it dips again. Nothing better could have happened to me. But be careful, you shouldn’t be too fooled about a manatee kiss: The animals just see pretty badly and just check who we are and whether you can eat our diving goggles. This has been going on in the Crystal River for decades. Learning effect on the side of the manatees = 0, let me tell you … A guided tour with River Ventures costs around $ 65 per person , as with all providers. The big advantage: River Ventures offers a tour early in the morning and runs with comparatively small groups. Hence a clear recommendation from us. On your own: by kayak to the manatees If you don’t want to do a guided tour, there is a cheaper alternative: You can rent kayaks for around $ 45 (per kayak) all around Kings Bay and Crystal River . If you already know your way around Kings Bay, that’s great. But since we had no clue and, for example, did not know where the springs are, we would have been pretty lost on our own and probably wouldn’t have seen a single manatee. That is why we, as a first-time offender, decided to take a guided tour. Rules of conduct for swimming with the manatees To make your adventure with the Manatees a complete success, there are a few things to consider. Be calm in the water. Don’t pedal wildly, just snorkel quietly. A swimming noodle is great, with it you can bob around relatively motionless in the water Don’t swim after the manatees if you spot one. In most cases, they’re faster anyway … just don’t do it. It stresses the animals Stay on the surface and certainly not dive after the manatees When the manatees are on the ground, they sleep or eat. In both cases: do not disturb! Should you see a manatee with a cub, that is great luck. Enjoys it! A manatee comes to you and nuzzles you – don’t panic. They have bad eyesight and look for something to eat. Don’t worry, they can’t hurt you Whoever is the calmest will have the most fun! Tips for the Manatee snorkeling tour The best season for spotting manatees is winter , between November and March . Then the waters in Florida are quite cold and the manatees are drawn to the warm springs. It is advisable to book a tour early in the morning as the chances of seeing manatees are much greater in the morning. It is therefore advisable to spend the night in Crystal River on site, then you will not have such a stress in the morning. The Plantation on Crystal River * is said to be very beautiful . During our excursion the following was provided: Coffee and cocoa Snorkeling equipment Swimming noodles Wetsuits Anti-fog spray for diving goggles Indispensable, so bring your own: Towels (1 per person) Water and maybe something to eat (the tour takes about 3 hours) A GoPro Hero * or other underwater action cam * Waterproof case for your smartphone * or waterproof case for your camera * Swimming with the Manatees in Florida was an unforgettable experience. We hesitated beforehand whether we should really take such a long detour to the north, as our time in Florida was very limited. But it was absolutely worth it! We can only recommend each of you to get to know this part of Florida and with it the cute manatees!
The chances that you’ve never heard of Exuma before are relatively high. Exuma … where is that please? And what is that? And why should you care? I’ll tell you: Exuma should be on your bucket list immediately (!) If you are looking for incredible underwater worlds , the clearest turquoise sea and the most incredible dream beaches in the world. The Exuma Cays are a chain of islands in the Bahamas, still relatively unknown as a travel destination in Germany and they have so far been completely spared from cruise tourism in the Caribbean . And the most important thing: they are hard to beat in terms of beauty. The main island is Great Exuma with the capital George Town, which has just about 1400 inhabitants. It is incredibly difficult to find good information about Exuma, which is why we ended up sitting completely unprepared on our plane to George Town. Ultimately, we asked the locals on site on Great Exuma what you can do here and what you should definitely see. The result is a lot of great tips, including a few real insider tips that are guaranteed not to be found in any travel guide. So if you are planning a Bahamas vacation in the near future and also want to visit Exuma, then you should definitely read on now. I’ll show you 10 highlights and sights on Exuma that you shouldn’t miss. Here we go! I have to pack my equipment for the Bahamas My camera: Sony Alpha 6500 * Two lenses: an all-round lens from Sigma * (perfect for traveling and affordable, it is connected to the Sony 6 series together with an adapter * ) and a 30mm fixed focal length from Sigma * GoPro underwater camera * and a matching dome for half-half recordings * Waterproof sunscreen without microplastics with a mineral filter * (for the sake of the environment and the sea) DJI Spark drone * Nobite mosquito spray * (the best!) Exuma: home of the swimming pigs The reason why Exuma has come into the focus of most people in the first place couldn’t be cuter: The swimming pigs of the Bahamas . The bristle beasts have become the main attraction of the Bahamas in recent years. Fortunately, it really has to be said, the island on which the pigs live is so remote that the day cruise tourists who land in Nassau hardly have the opportunity to integrate a trip to the pigs into their limited stay . If that were different, the pigs would probably already be completely overrun by tourists and dead. There is no way around the Exumas to see the swimming pigs. You can find out everything about how to get here and the tours offered here . Snorkeling in the Thunderball Grotto The Thunderball Grotto is located near Staniel Cay and is so named because scenes from the famous James Bond film ‘Thunderball’ were first filmed here in 1965. In the grotto there is an insane underwater world with tons of colorful fish to discover. To get there, you either have to rent a boat or take a guided tour of the Exuma Cays . In general, an Exuma Ocean Safari as offered from Great Exuma is a very good opportunity to get to know the most beautiful part of Exuma: the sea. In such a tour, in most cases not only the swimming pigs and the Thunderbal Grotto, but also the next two highlights are integrated: Swim with sharks at Compass Cay Swim with sharks? Yes, you read that right! A group of Nurse Sharks lives on Compass Cay. Nurse sharks are completely harmless to humans (even if it is very difficult to believe). The sharks at Compass Cay are so used to the visitors that they voluntarily allow themselves to be petted and at high tide even swim on the jetty built into the water to dust off food. You can snorkel with the sharks and pet them without fear at Compass Cay. We would have loved to have packed one and taken one with us, they were so friendly 😉 Pet iguanas on Iguana Island I don’t know whether the small iguana island in the Exumas is actually called Iguana Island. I suspect that it has no name at all, because not all of the approx. 360 cays of the Exumas have a name at all, as most of them are actually uninhabited. Not so Iguana Island – hundreds of iguanas live here! If you are afraid of lizards, this highlight on Exuma is sure to be pure horror. The iguanas come out of the bushes as soon as a boat approaches the beach. As soon as you have solid ground under your feet, you will immediately get on your skin. Those who have salad with them are well advised 😉 You can read more about visiting Iguana Island and our ocean safari through the Exuma Cays here . Swim with sea turtles at Hoopers Bay Attention, now comes a real insider tip that you will probably not find in any travel guide in the world: The best place on Exuma (and maybe even in the whole of the Bahamas) to meet sea turtles is Hoopers Bay. Hoopers Bay is located on the main island of the Exumas, Great Exuma. You will probably have your hotel on this island anyway, just like we did (we stayed at the Two Turtles Inn *), so a visit to Hoopers Bay is an absolute must! With a length of approx. 60 km, Great Exuma is much larger than you initially think and so when we arrived we were actually quite overwhelmed at first what we should do here. Since we really wanted to see sea turtles or even swim with them, we asked the locals if there was a beach on Great Exuma where the Sea Turtles frolic more often than elsewhere. The answer: Hoopers Bay. And the kicker is: you can even feed them! Get some frozen fish at the supermarket in George Town and you’ll have the time of your life! 🙂 (but watch out for your fingers, the turtles are sometimes a bit clumsy). Stocking Island: starfish and stingrays Just a few hundred meters from Great Exuma is Stocking Island, a small island at the height of George Town. You can reach Stocking Island by ferry, once an hour Elvis’ Water Taxi will bring you there and back for about $ 15 per person . The crossing takes less than 15 minutes (depending on how many friends of the driver want to be dropped off somewhere in between). On Stocking Island you will find wonderful beaches, absolute tranquility and with Chat ‘N’ Chill a beach bar like from a Caribbean picture book. The prices in Chat ‘N Chill are not cheap, as is typical of the Bahamas, but the cocktails were surprisingly really, really tasty! 9 $ for it …. free. YOLO 😉 The Chat ‘N Chill has a few special pets, by the way: Tame stingrays. There are always several rays romping about on the beach, they swim bravely to the shore and even let themselves be petted. The reason is, of course, the food again: The Chat ‘N Chill piles up the empty bowls of the conch (conches …?) In the water and so there is always a small snack to get for the rays. If you should find fishy scraps somewhere, you can carefully place them on the palm of your hand and feed the rays with them. You will also encounter the rays while swimming and snorkeling in the water – but here I would recommend keeping a respectful distance. They are still stingrays and even if they look peaceful, an accidental sting of their sting can kill a human. There are also giant red starfish on Stocking Island, and there is even an entire starfish beach. We found one of the fine specimens washed up on the beach and quickly took a few snapshots before we brought it back into the deep water. Even when snorkeling you will see starfish lying in the seagrass on the bottom again and again. Do us a favor: Even if it is unclear how much it really damages the stars if they are touched or even taken out of the water – please don’t do it. Dive briefly down and touch the star is probably not a problem, but it is better not to take it out of the water. We did get the information from locals that the starfish can survive on land for up to 24 hours and that touching them is not a problem either, but I don’t know if that’s really true. Tropic of Cancer Beach on Little Exuma If you still have time and rent a car, a detour to Little Exuma is a must. Little Exuma is the little sister island of Great Exuma and is connected to it by a bridge. The Tropic of Cancer Beach is one of the most beautiful and at the same time lonely beaches in the world. The sand is so bright that your eyes will water and it is very likely that you are completely alone on the beach. The approach to the beach is quite bumpy and complicated as it is unfortunately not signposted. If you feel like watching a video (unfortunately not mine) and can live with the fact that your eyes are about to get wet, shiny eyes – please be very: Since we have seen it with our own eyes: nothing has been edited on this video. The water throughout the Exumas glows just as blue as in this video. To be honest, it looks even more intense in real life … believe me, the Bahamas, and Exuma in particular, is completely crazy. Jolly Hall Beach Jolly Hall Beach is admittedly nothing special. It’s basically just another brilliant white stand with turquoise blue water on Exuma’s main island, Great Exuma. Why I still count it among the best spots in Great Exuma is for the simple reason that it is George Town’s “house beach”. If you live in George Town, for example like we did at the Two Turtles Inn *, Jolly Hall Beach is the closest beach that you can reach without a rental car. Don’t worry, Jolly Hall Beach isn’t ugly, it’s just a perfectly normal, super beautiful white Caribbean beach without special features such as sea turtles, dolphins, tame rays or starfish (which doesn’t mean you won’t run into them there!). National dish Conch: eat like a local If there’s one thing in the Bahamas, and Exuma in particular, that you absolutely shouldn’t miss, it’s Conch (read: Konk ). The conch looks like a clam, but it is quite a large marine snail. The conch seems to be something like the national dish of the Bahamas, because it is available in all possible preparation forms and felt on every corner: conch salad, conch fritters, conch burger, conch with conch … We tried conch salad and conch burger and both was extremely tasty! By the way, you don’t have to go to a real restaurant for this, you won’t find that on Exuma anyway. Just order a dish with conch at any hut you come across on the way. Street food, like everywhere else in the world, is the better choice in the Bahamas anyway 🙂 Incidentally, the lobster at Santanna’s Bar & Grill on Little Exuma should also be divine . The Conch Burger and Pig Roast (… .no, not the pigs from Big Major Cay ) every Sunday in Chat ‘N’ Chill on Stocking Island are legendary! Cocoplum Beach Cocoplum Beach is located in the very north of Great Exuma and is particularly known for one thing: As the sea level falls at low tide, more and more sandbars become visible. Not only does it look beautiful, it is also great for finding sand dollars. Sand Dollars … what’s that again? Short answer: Sand dollars are a type of sea urchin. They are very flat and you can touch them safely. If you want to take a sand dollar home with you as a souvenir, look out for the bright, almost white, skeletal dollars. These are the dead sand dollars, they are often difficult to spot in the white sand. The dark, gray sand dollars are alive and should of course not be collected and taken away. You see, there is an incredible amount to discover on the Exuma Cays. If you’ve thought that there’s not much more you can do in the Bahamas than lying around on the beach, then hopefully I’ve taught you better. One thing is clear: the real sights and highlights of Exuma are not on land, but in the water. For me, the Exumas are not just a few individual islands or a chain of islands, but somehow Exuma is everything – the islands, the bright blue crystal-clear sea, the underwater world, the sandbanks, the animals, the people, the tranquility, the seclusion, the Satisfaction and the deep connection to their homeland that every single native lives and exudes. The Exuma Cays as part of the Bahamas are something very special and, for me personally, one of the most incredible places in the world.
The Danish capital Copenhagen, with almost 600,000 inhabitants, is one of the smaller cities in Europe, but is one of the most important metropolitan areas in the Scandinavian region. For those who have never been to Scandinavia before, Copenhagen is the perfect start. Although the city is geographically not that far from northern Germany, you will still find a completely different architecture and a completely different cityscape. You are wondering how much time do you need for a city trip to Copenhagen? Two to three days are completely sufficient to visit the most important sights and highlights on your first visit – but if necessary, you can also do it in one day . In this article, we’ll tell you how to do it and what you shouldn’t miss. Sightseeing in Copenhagen First things first: Copenhagen’s main attractions are all in the city center and can be reached on foot. You don’t need a ticket for public transport! (However, as with all city trips, comfortable shoes are mandatory) We have marked the most important spots for you on the map. If you want to save the money for the ticket, make sure that your hotel or accommodation is within this range. The round tower (round camo) The best way to start your day in Copenhagen is on a round camo. The Rundetarn is an almost 35m high observation tower in downtown Copenhagen – doesn’t sound high and not very exciting? Hm … a definite yes and no. The height is actually sufficient for a beautiful view of Copenhagen, because you will not find significantly higher buildings anywhere in the city. Therefore, the tower is recommended as a starting point, you get a good overview and an idea of where which sights are and how the distances are. In addition, the tower is so centrally located that you are practically in the middle of Copenhagen’s shopping street – by the way, one of the longest pedestrian zones in Europe with a length of over a kilometer. So if you prefer to focus on shopping in Copenhagen, this is the place for you. Amalienborg Palace Amalienborg Palace is one of the few European castles that is still owned and inhabited by the royal family. It is located in the middle of Copenhagen and can be easily reached on foot, right next door is the marble church, which is also worth seeing and has one of the largest accessible domes in Scandinavia. If the queen is in the house, the changing of the guard takes place every noon at noon. Costs: The castle can be visited for around 10-13 € (depending on which areas you want to see) . Nyhavn Copenhagen The Nyhavn, in German new harbor, is probably the image that everyone associates with Copenhagen first. Basically, it is just a small canal that emanates from Copenhagen harbor, but is built with pretty, colorful gabled houses on both sides. Most of the houses were built in the 18th and 19th centuries and have survived the numerous fires that raged in Copenhagen in the last few centuries unscathed, so that they are still very well preserved today. In the past, as is so common in harbor districts, the red light district of Copenhagen was located here. Today you can find a lot of pubs and restaurants here, where tourists can of course pay tourist prices. If you want to avoid that, just sit on the bank for free – the view is the same. The relatively cheap harbor tours start from here (approx. € 12 per person, duration approx. 1 hour). If you still have enough time or if you are there for more than a day anyway, we definitely recommend a harbor tour! You can book in advance here, unfortunately not – you want to make sure that you can really make on your desired date and a tour, then you can with another provider, whose tour at the Gammel beach (yes, that really his name!) Starts here Buy tickets in advance * . The little mermaid In addition to the pretty gabled houses on Nyhavn, there is a second image that each of us associates with Copenhagen: The Little Mermaid. What about the only approx. 1.25 m small statue that is placed on the promenade in Copenhagen? Well … actually nothing. Its construction was commissioned in the early 20th century and it has been there ever since. Sometimes with, sometimes without a head. Why exactly it became the city’s landmark – no idea! Probably because she has survived so many vandalism attacks that it has become a running gag. In other words: the statue itself is moderately spectacular. If you still want to see it, you have to walk for a while because it is not in the immediate city center. Or you book a harbor tour * , then you can at least see it from a distance. Tivoli Copenhagen Tivoli is certainly not on every to-do list for Copenhagen, but we would like to recommend it to you. The Tivoli is a leisure and recreation park with a mixture of rides and parks in the middle of Copenhagen’s city center. The special thing about it: the park was opened in the middle of the 19th century and is therefore one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. It can certainly not be compared with today’s amusement parks; despite the modern attractions and rides, you feel more like traveling back in time. When it gets dark, the park is beautifully lit and you feel a little like at a fair of times long past. Cost: The Tivoli pricing system is somewhat opaque. Basically, you can get pure entry to the park for around 15 € (110 DKK), and for around 30 € additional (220 DKK) there is a ticket that allows you unlimited use of the rides. In other words: the total price for admission to the park + use of the attractions is around 45 € (330 DKK). For about 50 € (350-400 DKK, there are sometimes offers here) you can also get a small meal in the park. So there they are, the dreaded Copenhagen prices! We recommend visiting the park in the evening. Save yourself the rides, the large amusement parks in Germany offer much more for similarly high admission prices. In addition, the ticket including the rides is simply not worth it if you only have 2-3 hours anyway. You can buy the ticket online in advance either directly at Tivoli or you can buy, for example, a combined ticket with a harbor tour * , which saves a little money!
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