Florida's friendly manatees photographed by Alexander Mustard
Snorkellers approach an adult manatee at Three Sisters Spring, Crystal River, Florida. You might imagine that coming face to face with one of these enormous underwater mammals would cause some concern. However, the likelihood is that the rotund creature just wants you to scratch its belly while it floats around happily, as world-renowned underwater photographer Alex Mustard discovered.
"Manatees live life at a slow pace, so when you swim with them you are forced to chill down to their speed," explained the 36-year-old from Hampshire. "They're just floating about in a sort of zen state. Then, when they come up to you and want you to scratch them, it is so exciting you get a real connection."
Alex travelled to the west coast of Florida, close to Crystal River city, in February, where the animals congregate in the winter. Here, several freshwater springs attract the manatees when their normal ocean habitat becomes too cold.