Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal River, Fl

Swimming with the Manatees for Relaxation

I don’t create a lot of travel posts on Ria Lives Well because, well, I don’t do a lot of travelling these days. But travel is in my bones! When I studied at Oregon State University, I went on not one, but two study abroad programs in order to soak up culture and get out of the United States. But let’s be real: the good old U.S. has many wonderful attractions worth noting. Travel is all about exploring something new, and my trip to Crystal River, Florida to swim with manatees in November was definitely something new.

Manatees Crystal River 024.JPG

I’m writing this post because I love to travel and see and try new things. I want to connect with people who yearn for exploration and new adventures in the same spirit as mine, so I hope you’ll enjoy this little post about my time swimming with the manatees. If this is on your bucket list, I’ll provide information for when you get to cross it off your list.

When is the best time of year to swim with manatees in Crystal River? 

The best time to go is November-April. When I went with my sister and her fiance in November, we saw a good amount of manatee action both underwater and at the surface. Manatees are curious creatures, so quite a few swam close enough for us to touch. My best experience with one of the manatees came unexpected. While I was messing with my snorkels, a little guy bumped into me and slowly swam past me as if tempting me to give his back a rub. I didn’t. I was too shocked to do more than watch him glide past me. But if this happens to you, definitely reach out and glide your hand along his back! If he likes the touch, he’ll stick around.

How should I prepare for swimming with the manatees? 

Preparation may depend on what tour you choose. We went with Birds Underwater, and they supplied us with a snorkel, a wet suit and noodle so we wouldn’t have to swim the whole time.

I suggest you bring a water proof camera, or purchase a waterproof case for your cell phone so you can get some good pictures. Your tour guides will most likely have a store where you can buy all of these things, but at a higher price.

Manatees Crystal River 085

What should I expect at Crystal River? 

The water is pretty freakin’ cold. They said the waters stay at about 70 degrees, and when I read this, I thought to myself: Not bad. Pretty warm. But no, it’s actually pretty chilly. I was able to withstand it because my body grew accustomed to the chill, but both my sister and her fiance went back to the boat to “warm up.”

The water is absolutely clear. This gives you a great opportunity to float over a sleeping manatee and simply enjoy its presence. If that doesn’t fit your fancy, then just follow the tour guide who goes in the water with you and your group, and you’ll be able to see some action. (In my opinion, the manatees seem to do what they want. My best encounter with a manatee was when I was drifting all alone.)

The best thing for you to do is relax and explore the water by yourself for a little while. You will see manatees in their environment, and that alone is exciting.

What Manatee Tour should I choose in Crystal River? 

This answer depends on your preferences. Some tour guides have activities like paddle boarding and kayaking to the manatees rather than opting for the boat ride. If that’s your style, do some research and find the best one for you. Below are some links to tour guides in Crystal River that I browsed through before I picked Birds Underwater. Check them out!

Manatees Crystal River 012

Helpful Manatee Tour Guide Links:

  1. River Ventures
  2. Florida Manatee Adventures
  3. Florida Kayak Company
  4. Snorkel with Manatees

I hope you go someday, and when you do, you will definitely enjoy this wonderful experience! I plan on doing it again.

~Live Well!




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