John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

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The morning started with a lot of butterflies and excitement.The previous day, we were supposed to go out on an afternoon excursion but the water was a little rough for the kids. The lady working the counter gave us the information and invited us back the next morning. So it was time to get up and get going. We headed out to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Once we were parked, we headed inside to get our tickets and our snorkels. We had to leave a deposit for the gear but when we returned they gave it all back in full.

We headed outside over by the docks and picked up the rest of our gear. We receive flippers and masks to add to our snorkels and our equipment list was complete. We did realize quickly that we hadn’t planned ahead for our trip. We noticed more experienced snorkelers had bags or backpacks that held all of their phones, keys, wallets, etc. We left all of our phones and cameras in the car for fear of damage. Oh well, next time we will know.

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Once we had our equipment and waited on the rest of the guests to arrive, we were ready to board ENCOUNTER. This is a handicap accessible boat and had a crew that was the best of the best. We had Rick(from Tennessee) as our captain, Dean(from Indiana) as our first mate, and Morgan(from Kentucky but we will claim her as Tennessean as well) as our instructor. What a great group of individuals. They made the experience what it was.

The boat left dock and we set out on our voyage to the Coral Reef. once we got there, the more experienced people headed into the water. The rest of us sat through an instructional session with Morgan. The session lasted maybe 5 or 10 minutes and was very informative. I felt like we were ready for anything. Rick and Dean did warn us about the Moon Jellyfish that we could encounter this time of year. I was a little nervous about the jellyfish I’m not going to lie. I have seen Finding Nemo. Dory and Marlin didn’t have great luck with them. Isabella was a little nervous. She is so scared of sharks and turns out very scared of jellyfish as well. Gabe came on down the ladder and he and I went out for the first time. Once in the water, I WAS OVERWHELMED!! There must have been thousands of jellyfish in the water. It was intimidating to say the least. I took Gabe by the hand and we went out and tested the water and the navigation of the jellyfish maze. A few minutes later, Gabe was a pro and I was ready to talk Bella into the water.

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Gabe and I got back to the boat. I worked on Bella while Gabe took Kas out into the reef. Kas looked in the water and looked back out at me. She obviously saw the stack of Jellyfish as well. I’m telling you it was AMAZING!! Dean, Morgan, and I worked on Bella several more minutes. While I was working on her, I was paying attention to my surroundings and was stung on the leg. It wasn’t bad at all but I came out of the water for a second trying not to let Bella know what had happened. Morgan sprayed Vinegar on it and I headed down the ladder with a ready to go Isabella. We got in the water and at first she was overwhelmed. I just held her close and went out a little ways until she was comfortable. It took minutes and she was ready to go.

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Several laps around the area lead us to great beauty and wildlife beyond imagination. I wish that we could have stayed out there all day. We even saw a Barracuda. Gabe and I were able to experience The Christ of The Abyss statue in the water. It was simply amazing. I didn’t have a camera with me so I used two photos that showed exactly what we experienced.(I linked back). It is the only way that you will get the full effect of what we experienced.

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