Most people have questions before they embark on the very popular adventure where people swim with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida. In thus short article, we will review some of those common questions and answers.
Think about the last time you spent in the water. The gentle pressure of a current around your legs, swirling vegetation down by the rocks, the slightest crisp of the cool waters pressing on your skin, and all around you, walls of blue sparkle and sway as far as the eye can see.
Throughout history, mankind has imagined what lives down here. Giant serpents, lost treasure, maybe even the occasional mermaid. There’s something about floating down here that leads the mind to wonder. Some of it is scary–there’s something disorienting about floating midstream, completely vulnerable in a world where we don’t usually belong–but in typical human fashion, it can also make a heart race with exhilaration.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a shadow emerges, as long as you and twice as wide. It glides towards you, dark blue eyes locked onto yours. Your skin prickles, your heartbeat quickens, but even as this monster approaches, you don’t want to move.
Of course you do. It’s a manatee.
Manatees have a special place in our hearts., especially once you lay eyes on their puffy cheeks, whiskered lips, and big doughy bodies; they are a rare friendly face in the hardcore Florida wilderness.
In a weird twist of fate, manatees actually used to be mistaken for mermaids by sailors who saw the strange-looking creatures sunbathing out on the rocks. Now, we know, manatees are lovable sea cows that have charmed us all anyway, but they are a far cry from sweet-singing mermaids.
But, have you ever actually seen a manatee in person? If you haven’t, you’re not alone; much like most sailors back in the day, most people have likely loved manatees from afar.
The good news is that if you would love to actually meet a manatee in person, these beloved sea cows are actually closer than you think!
Your manatee-bonding moment is just around the corner in Florida, where there is a secret place that you too can Swim with Manatees Crystal River. Manatees migrate north into the Crystal River during the winter months for onlookers to view in all their sea-cow glory from the boardwalks and kayaks. But why Crystal River, of all places, you ask?
Crystal River has one more thing to brag about–it is truly the best place to swim with the manatees.
If the thought of swimming with the manatees seems far-fetched–or possibly intimidating, don’t discount it just yet!
There are many ways to see these magnificent beasts in their natural habitat. It has become a worldwide spectacle to come and visit these gentle giants when they migrate north into Crystal River; some people prefer to kayak alongside them, and some prefer to watch them from the boardwalk. Perhaps the most unique way to see these majestic animals–and the most adventurous, memorable way–is to actually get in the water and swim with them!
There’s something special about being in the water, something intimate, yet primitive, a striking reminder of how small we are against large sea-life. At the same time, there’s no better way to indulge that part of us that wants to connect to nature in a special way. After years of seeing that wildlife through our screens, what would happen if it was within our reach, looking into our eyes?
With their big whiskery heads, large bulbous bodies, and propensity to glide effortlessly through the water; they may look intimidating at first, but manatees are gentle giants in the water. These “sea cows” are actually more related to elephants, and similarly to whales, they interact with humans (perhaps we look as strange to them as they do to us!)
They will often swim up to you to investigate, but these “sea cows” are mainly just curious. As long as you treat them with respect, you can connect with these majestic animals and interact personally with members of this threatened species in a memorable and peaceful fashion.
When the winter months hit, you may be thinking of ways to travel south to warm up. Manatees, however, do the opposite! Manatees seek warmer waters further up the bay (and easier to see) when the temperatures drop, congregating towards the steamy waters of the natural springs further inland. Therefore, the best time to SEE the manatees in Crystal River is actually during the cooler winter months. The peak migratory season tends to be November through April, with the largest population SIGHTINGS between December and February specifically.
So if you’ve decided to explore nature in an intimate and even emotional way and go swim with the manatees in the beautiful, pristine springs of Crystal River than you may be thinking of your next conundrum: when should you actually start packing the car?
As much as you may want to have a midnight rendezvous with the manatees, the ideal time to party with these adorable sea cows constantly changes, based on their own personalities. If you want an even more exclusive experience, aim to go during a weekday to beat the crowds and get some more one-one-one interactions with these beautiful animals. (Manatees tend to be more playful earlier on in the day!)
You may be tempted to just jump into the water at the sight of our roly-poly manatee friends. While that urge is understandable, you will need to temper it now, both for the sake of the manatees, and for your own enjoyment’s sake! If you want to have an unforgettable adventure, you will want to plan ahead to make sure you are prepared, both in the gear you wear and the attitude you bring to the experience.
First thing’s first: where in the Crystal River are you going? If you are not a regular in the area, it would be greatly in your favor to find a swim with manatees tour guide. The local tour guides have been swimming with the manatees for years. They know where to go, when to go, and the best route to get there. This greatly increases your chances of actually seeing the manatees, all while staying safe. (Make no mistake: you can stay safe, but only if you respect the Floridian wildlife, both manatee and non-manatee alike).
Tour guides also have one other huge benefit: they know what to bring! They have the maps, the boats, and the know-how to keep you secure and well-stocked for the entire trip.
One thing that you may not think to pack in your carry-on? Scuba gear! Even in Florida, spending a long amount of time in the water can get chilly quickly, and you want to walk away from this experience with happy memories, not hypothermia! Local guides can set you up with the right gear to keep you warm yet agile in the water, so you can stay in the water longer. Just make sure to also practice your swimming technique–being a strong swimmer is a must!
So you are in the water, led to the right spot by your tour guide, decked out in your cozy scuba gear, in the right place and at the right time. Through the morning haze, just downstream in the chilly current, you look up to see something huge glide lazily through the water. Just ahead, you see it: your first manatee!
It’s important to remember that manatees are friendly, but they are still wild animals. Let them instigate the interaction. Don’t panic, they’re naturally curious, so you shouldn’t need to do much to win them over.
If your manatee friend gets close enough, you can connect with them spiritually! Just make sure to abide by passive observation. Remember, you are in their home, living with them in their habitat. Don’t spook them, and they won’t spook you! Try to avoid splashing and shouting, and focus on slow, gentle movements.
Above all–don’t be afraid to take that leap!
When you go to swim with the manatees in Crystal River, it can be an unforgettable experience, one that not a lot of people can say they’ve done. If you’re looking for a unique adventure, consider taking a trip to a piece of paradise, and saunter along with the sea cows, whiskers and all.
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