But there they were last week, paddling around Sarasota Bay during mating season. Cruisin'.
Even if I'd had a camera out, it would have been tough to get photos. They don't surface much. Only a bit of their heads rise out of the water when they come up for air.
But there's plenty more to see out there.
Sarasota Bay didn't look all that exciting at first glance. Calm water and tree-lined land in the near distance.
But once we started paddling, and our guide Shane began pulling things out of the water, it became a regular zoo at sea. (Yes, "aquarium" might be the better term, but then where do the birds fit in?)
Birds and fish and sea snails
Early on, the Double-crested Cormorants appeared. The green-eyed black birds would pop out of the water on one side of our kayaks or the other, startling us at first. It was highly amusing. Cartoonish, almost.
Shane explained that over the past six or so years, they'd adapted to the kayaks in the bay and knew that our paddling brought fish to the surface. It's a little like kids running after the ice cream truck.
When they'd get a fish, they'd quickly swallow it whole. One chose the back of my bright yellow kayak to spread its wings and dry off. Soon others were doing the same in the water. Make themselves big and puffy. These birds' feathers get waterlogged, unlike ducks' feathers, so they have to dry them out.
Next our enthusiastic guide pulled something from the sea grass in the shallow water. A maroon sea urchin. Then a large whelk, or sea snail, that looked like a conch shell with a black slug inside. Another one, empty of its original resident, had become home to the largest hermit crab I'd ever seen. Bright red, popping out of the shell and snapping back down.
Shane handled it carefully, saying it could snap his fingers right off!
Next we held sea cucumbers and watched an osprey fly to a nest high in the Australian pines. And then the first of the manatees. It's not easy to spot them from low in the water especially when you don't know what you're looking for.
First you look for a calm patch of water and then a dark spot. Shane could see them because he was standing up in his more stable kayak. He'd point to a spot and tell us to watch and soon enough, we saw three manatees surface to breathe.
Mainly I saw big old nostrils and a little bit of face before they'd submerge again. Five of them in all.
Kayaking in the mangrove tunnels
I had no idea how much of a treat the final part of the kayaking expedition would be. I was told we'd be kayaking in mangrove tunnels but I didn't really know what that meant.
From the open water, we headed into one of the six mangrove tunnels available to kayakers, negotiating our way through a tangle of roots. We'd get our paddles caught and have to negotiate them out of the grip of those roots.
"I feel like I'm in the Amazon or something," was how one fellow kayaker put it, aptly.The trees closed over us above and created a narrow, winding passage.
It was cool in more ways than one. Certainly a relief from the heat, in addition to the surreal sight of the trees.
And as a solo traveler, you'll always have the company of at least the guide for two hours, if not a whole group of engaging fellow kayakers, awed by the same sights.
And, once you're done kayaking there are always the beautiful beaches of Sarasota, as I wrote about before.
Ellen Perlman - kayaking