Where are the manatees? I don’t see them.

I like animals and so when I travel I jump at the opportunity to visit animals indigenous to the area. However for some reason I never get to see them.

For example, while in Florida recently I heard there were manatees, those giant sea cows, worth watching. Further research revealed that the best place to see them was in a “Manatee Park”, in Fort Myers. Sounded good.

We trekked to Manatee Park, paid the required entry fee and with enthusiasm, we scrambled over to the river bank expecting to see manatees.

I thought they would be jumping around like dolphins, or at least basking in the sun along the shore like seals. Uh uh. They were all submerged. All we saw were some rotund looking shadows drifting around slowly in the murky water. A ranger said to us, ‘They’re all down there. See, there’s one.”

I wasn’t satisfied. They could have been some Disney type mechanical blimps. Fake manatees. Disappointing.

I had a similar experience in Newfoundland with whales. We took a bus tour out along Cape Spear where we were assured we’d see these noble mammals. As we drove along the Cape, the guide announced, “Look left, whales.”

What whales? I saw only the Atlantic, kilometers of it, and a community of seagulls milling about. I could see a similar gaggle of gulls in my nearby mall parking lot competing for the remains of a tossed away Big Mac.

I commented, “Where? Where? Point?”

The guide said ,”Look towards 2:00 o’clock. About 500 meters out. You’ll see the spray from his blowhole.”

Right. And if I go to the Air Canada Centre, I’ll see the Stanley Cup.

On the same trip I was told I could see puffins. The tourist office assured me that a place called Ellison about 4 hours out of St. John’s was the puffin capital of the world. As the lady put it, “Get your camera ready. You’ll see thousands of those fluttering birds.”

I fell for that one too. We got to Ellison in the late afternoon, parked the car and walked about a mile to the edge of a cliff. From there we could see a small island about 300 meters away. We could also see a handful of what, from that distance, looked like butterflies.

That evening I asked our hotel hostess where all those puffins were. I figured maybe those whales ate them?

She told me that the puffins generally congregate at dawn. She looked at me like I came from another planet given my obvious ignorance of the gathering habits of puffins.

It seems the existence of non-existing animals is universal. When we were in Australia we visited a zoo. The zoo’s prize guest was their Tasmanian devil. As soon as we got there, my wife and I raced over to the Tas’s habitat as one would do when you get to the Louvre and you make a B-line to the Mona Lisa.

You guessed it. From the fence we saw a cave but no devil. A large sign read, “Tasmanian devils are shy creatures. The sight of people makes them bashful and can cause them to stay in their cave.”

That explained it to my total satisfaction. Why wasn’t I surprised! Served me right. In retrospect I should have made myself familiar with Tasmanian devil’s privacy policy.

And so where are the manatees? And the whales, puffins and Tasmanian devils?

Am I gullible or what?

I’ve never been to Scotland but I just know that if I do go I’ll foolishly make my way to Loch Ness.