Swim with Manatees & Different Encounters in Florida’s Crystal River

The pristine waters and unspoiled forests of Crystal River in Florida are one of the exceptional sights you possibly can see right here. Nonetheless, it isn’t simply the gorgeous environment that make individuals need to go to—it’s additionally the Crystal River manatees!

The river is house to one of many largest teams of manatees on the earth, which are available droves through the winter season for its heat waters. After all, this opens up the possibility to see and work together with them.

After all, this opens up the possibility for some epic bucket listing experiences, like kayaking and swimming with manatees.

What are Manatees?

Manatees are a sea creature that has as soon as been the stuff of legends, with even famed explorer Christopher Columbus mistaking them for mermaids, the lovable manatees are actually a sight to behold. Also referred to as ‘sea cows,’ these aquatic herbivores are identified for his or her stubby noses, giant bulk, and mild (and sometimes curious) nature.

They will develop as much as 4 meters (13 ft 1 in) in size and may weigh as a lot as 590 kg (1300 lbs). Though they could look much like seals or walruses, they’re, in actual fact, extra carefully associated to the elephant. They feed on freshwater and saltwater vegetation like water lettuce and sea grasses. Nonetheless, they do sometimes eat small fish and clams.

Sadly, attributable to habitat loss and hunters, the manatee inhabitants are at a state of decline. Happily, ongoing conservation efforts and strict guidelines and pointers are being applied to make sure that these lovely sea cows are protected and be seen by generations to come back.


The place to See Manatees in Florida

Many of the state parks and waterways round Florida are just about wildlife sanctuaries for manatees, particularly at Crystal River (which has additionally been dubbed the ‘House of the Manatee’). A number of the finest spots embrace Three Sisters Spring (at Crystal River), Blue Spring State Park, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Wildlife Refuge and the Manatee Observation and Education Center.

There are additionally rehabilitation facilities/parks like SeaWorld and Walt Disney World’s EPCOT, the place you possibly can see rescued manatees together with different fascinating ocean creatures.

You may also try an inventory of those state parks and facilities on the Florida FWC website.

The Finest Manatee Experiences in (or close to) Crystal River

Seeing Manatees from the Three Sisters Spring Boardwalk

The Three Sisters Springs is a 57-acre wildlife refuge in Crystal River, Florida. It obtained its identify from the three spring areas, which include vents and sand boils that feed the waters of Kings Bay and different close by canals.

The refuge has a scenic boardwalk that gives loads of alternatives to snap a photograph (or fifty) of manatees as they slowly cruise the waters, particularly throughout winter. You may also discover one of many nature trails and see the three springs in all their pure magnificence.

Three Sisters Springs

Whereas the manatees are the celebrities of the place, don’t miss out on seeing completely different native and migratory birds (and different wildlife) that paint the waters and treetops throughout your wildlife viewing.

P.S. Selfie sticks and drones will not be allowed within the space. Additionally observe ‘Go away No Hint Behind.’


Kayaking with Crystal River Manatees

Interactions with Florida manatees might sound restricted for some, however that doesn’t imply that water actions are completely out of the image. It simply needs to be secure for each you and the manatees, which is why boarding a kayak on a manatee tour is an ideal approach to take action.

Are you able to think about gliding on the water side-by-side with a manatee?

You’ll find loads of outfitters like Paddle Outdoor Rentals who present kayak excursions for guests.

​​See them (and many different animals) at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

There are many locations the place we will see manatees right here in Florida, and even some the place we will see extra than simply manatees! Only a few miles south of Crystal River in Homosassa, Florida, is a state park referred to as the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. The park is house to quite a lot of animals, together with manatees, alligators, black bears, many species of birds, a 62-year-old hippo named Lu, and lots of extra.

You possibly can take a ship or tram tour by way of the park to see the animals of their pure habitats, with a number of academic displays and exhibits that spotlight the park’s inhabitants. One other spotlight is the Fish Bowl Underwater Observatory, the place you possibly can see the aquatic animals up shut of their pure habitat. There’s additionally a number of trails within the park, just like the 0.75-mile Pepper Creek Birding Path, which takes you from the customer middle to the park’s west entrance whereas seeing natural world alongside the best way.


Annette at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park


Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal River

Now comes one of the thrilling methods you possibly can expertise the Crystal River ‘sea cows’: attending to swim with manatees! The river is definitely one of many few locations the place you possibly can legally do that, so it’s no marvel many individuals come right here from completely different locations only for this particular likelihood. 

I did my swim with Hunter Springs Kayaks & Tours, the place I used to be accompanied by an in-water information your complete time to make sure that the principles are noticed so that you simply (and the manatees) may have a good time.

It is a surreal expertise, the place manatees can be swimming proper by you. Although you’re not supposed to the touch them, one got here proper subsequent to me and wrapped his flipper round my waist! One other was inquisitive about my GoPro digital camera which gave me an epic closeup video of his cute face. 

Swimming with Manatees

Finest Ideas for Swimming with Crystal River Manatees

Wait! Earlier than you leap proper in, you’ll first must be taught a set of ‘manatee manners’ which ought to be adopted always. Whether or not it’s kayaking, paddleboarding, or swimming, there are a few ‘manatee manners‘ that everybody ought to be taught and observe. Whereas it might appear overwhelming at first, when you get to know them by coronary heart, you’re in your method to getting essentially the most out of this glorious expertise.

A number of the finest suggestions when swimming with manatees embrace:

  • Hold your distance and by no means contact or provoke contact except the manatees come to you first (which these curious creatures usually do, particularly in case you’re floating gently). In the event that they achieve this, you could gently contact them with one hand on the again or abdomen. Some may even ask for stomach rubs!
  • Pay attention to your environment – keep away from getting near off-limit areas (marked with floating warning indicators) or from resting/feeding manatees.
  • Hold calm – don’t make any loud noises or massive/sudden actions, as it would scare the manatees away.
  • Put on acceptable swimwear (e.g. a wetsuit and snorkel)


What’s the The Finest Time to See Manatees at Crystal River

Whereas there’s all the time the possibility to see a manatee or two any day of the yr, one of the best time to fulfill them can be between November fifteenth to March thirty first.

Throughout this era, giant manatee teams come collectively at Crystal River and Kings Bay to heat themselves up for the winter season as a result of their water temperature stays at a continuing heat 72 levels.

After all, this annual migration additionally attracts in heaps of people that need to see these creatures of their pure habitat, so count on there to be fairly a crowd throughout these occasions.

The place to Keep in Crystal River

Assembly manatees is actually a one-of-a-kind expertise, and I can’t blame you in case you really feel like spending simply at some point with them is just not sufficient (which is often the case!). Good factor is that there are many lodging obtainable within the space like the place you possibly can relaxation for the day and even take pleasure in a few of their facilities.

One such lodging is at The Plantation on Crystal River. With over 196 traditional rooms (which incorporates 11 Junior Suites and a dozen Golf Villas), an 18-hole golf course, bar & grill eating places, and a magnificence and wellness spa, you’re certain to be left entertained, pampered, and energized to your subsequent assembly with the manatees.

. . .

Whether or not you select kayaking, swimming with Crystal River manatees or recognizing them from a boardwalk, it could be the most effective wildlife experiences to verify off your bucket listing. 

Whichever approach you select to work together with these mild ‘sea cows,’ let the second depart you much more curious and excited for future wildlife encounters.

Finest Ideas for Visiting Crystal River Florida

Getting There: Tampa Worldwide Airport is a serious hub and most airways will fly into it. You possibly can simply verify for one of the best fare offers at Skyscanner, which additionally has the choice to decide on ‘most cost-effective month’ because the departure to seek out the bottom priced dates to fly to your vacation spot. From the airport to town middle, you possibly can take shuttle service, bus service, taxi and ride-hailing providers or lease a automotive.

The place to Keep in Crystal River Florida: It’s finest to remain close to town middle, public transportation or the world that you’ll be spending essentially the most time in. Apart from the The Plantation on Crystal River talked about above there are many different choices for lodges. Holiday Inn Express Crystal River is a superb selection within the Crystal River. For one thing on the inexpensive facet, strive Nature Coast Inn & Cottages positioned in Inglis. For a lodge with somewhat extra extravagance, e-book a room on the Hampton Inn Crystal River. Or search some nice offers on lodges of your selection at Booking.com. If you happen to’re searching for extra of a house ambiance (or are touring with a bunch of individuals), head over to Airbnb that has homes, residences and even only a room for lease in each value vary. 

Getting Round: Driving in a brand new vacation spot generally is a little bit of a problem, however in case you select to lease a automotive, RentalCars.com has nice offers. If you’re not renting a automotive, there are many different choices. Taxis, Lyft and Uber can be found all around the metropolis. For a extra funds pleasant possibility, you possibly can take the service bus.

Finest Excursions in Crystal River Florida: You’ll find among the prime excursions at Get Your Guide or Viator, and listed below are among the prime ones. excursions:

Insurance coverage: It’s all the time a good suggestion to journey totally insured so you’re protected in case of journey cancellations or medical emergencies. You possibly can try pricing at Travelex Insurance

This publish could include affiliate hyperlinks. If you happen to make a purchase order by way of my hyperlinks, I earn a fee that helps to maintain this weblog operating—at no further value to you. For extra info learn my full disclosure.

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