5 Tips so You Don’t miss a Crystal River Manatee Swim

crystal river manatee swim

Crystal River Manatee Swimming is one of the top experiences on Rockon

Manatees are beautiful to behold as they swim, resembling giant, soft, squishy gray pillows. These animals are so calm; they do not bite and aren’t known to harm anything.  Therefore, being around them poses no immediate danger.  When you see them, you almost want to jump into the water and swim with them right away! They spend most of their days lazing in the water or diving to eat marine vegetation, and they are always curious about anything that encroaches into their habitat. As a result, anyone will enjoy spending time having a crystal river swim with manatees and taking advantage of their calm and inquisitive nature.

If you have not had this unique experience before, do not worry, this article has got you covered. In this article, you will discover all you need to know about manatee swimming.

What are Manatees?

Manatees are large aquatic mammals that can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and measure up to 10 feet in length. They are usually docile, slow-moving swimmers that consume 10-15% of their body weight in aquatic plants daily. Manatees spend most of their time in shallow water and frequently come to the surface for air every 30 seconds when active and every 20 minutes when they are sleeping.

Considering their large size, manatees have no natural enemies. However, their interaction with speedy watercraft, along with constant habitat loss, poses a massive threat to their existence and survival as a species. As a result, manatees are endangered species in the United States.  Since 1966 when they joined the list, they have been closely monitored to ensure the sustenance of the species.

Even though manatees are large, they do not have what it takes to withstand the cold of the winter. Therefore, during the cold winter months, many of them migrate to avoid the freezing temperatures of the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these Manatees find a second home in the Crystal River that is usually around 72 degrees all through the year. As a result, Crystal River is home to the largest population of Manatees in the United States.

Crystal River Florida: The only place in America where manatee swimming is allowed

Considering the large population of Manatees in the Crystal River and the extinction status of these mammals, the Crystal River is the only place in America that allow swimming with Manatees legally. The Crystal River area is located on Florida’s west coast, about 90 minutes north of Tampa. The Crystal River’s headwaters are known as Kings Bay, and the water serves as a natural habitat for manatees.

You can go on a swim tour through the river after being briefed on the do’s and don’ts of interacting with the animals. Even though manatees are naturally curious and frequently initiate contact with humans, they are heavily protected by law. Learning the manatee encounter rules and tips ensures that you have the best and most rewarding experience possible while visiting them in their natural habitat.

Why you should consider Manatee Swimming in the Crystal River

As someone who has never had the experience, you likely want to know if it will be worth your time. The truth is, yes, Manatee swimming in the Crystal River of Florida is never a bad idea as long as you follow the rules. As you read on, you will find the rules that you need to follow in your trips. But first, the following are some reasons why you should swim with the manatees crystal river soon. 

Explore the beauty of Florida

Florida is a beautiful place to visit on its own. You will be thrilled to see its vibrant culture, its crazy drivers, and many more. More so, Manatees in Florida is one of the few places in the world where you can swim with these 1,500-pound elephant-related mammal!

Manatee tours

Manatee tour is one of the greatest family-friendly adventure. You get to see their beautiful families in their natural habitat from the boat. You can also jump in with the giants and swim for an impressive dose of the Florida adventure.

Avoid bugs

Florida has a lot of bugs, and the best way to avoid these bugs is to get into the water. Once you are in the water swimming with manatees, you can be sure there won’t be any flying or crawling bugs disturbing you in the water!

Get close to the manatees

Manatees eat a lot of grass daily, sometimes up to 150 pounds. As a result, their breath has a characteristic smell. If you swim with manatees in Florida, you might get close enough to smell that unique manatee breath.

Quality entertainment

There is a lot of sights to keep you entertained when you do a manatee swim in  Crystal River. If you are lucky enough, you could be entertained by a herd of unruly males trying to mate. You might also spot young manatee cubs nursing under their mothers’ flippers — Don’t worry; they won’t attack you as no human has ever been harmed (or groped) in the presence of a mating herd. You may also receive a hug unlike any other in your life, as manatees are great huggers. The mammals will give you complete hugs with their whiskers, flippers with toes, and their veggie breath.

Conservation education

When you visit Florida for a manatee swim at  Crystal River, the wildlife conservation officials will take some time to educate you on what they call Manatee manners. The idea is to help people appreciate these animals better and do their best wherever they go to protect them. So, by the time you are done with your Crystal River swim with manatees, you will be better at protecting your newfound aquatic friends.

Bragging rights

Finally, what’s the point of having a great adventure when you can’t post it online for your friends to see? While your friends up north shovel snow, you can show off your cool side by posting your experience on Facebook and Instagram.

When is the best time of the year for manatee swimming in the Crystal River, Florida?

From December to March, groups of manatees seek refuge in the warm waters of the Crystal River of Florida. As a result, the best time to swim with manatees in Florida used to be during the winter season, as the water temperature remains constant at 72 degrees Fahrenheit all year.

best months to view manatees in florida

Unlike in the past, you will find manatees in the Crystal River almost all year round. The area’s abundant plant life makes it an ideal playground for these manatees. Every year, hundreds of them arrive in search of warmth, food, and, just maybe, a chance to visit us, the curious humans. Some find the water comfortable and cozy at the end of these visits and decide to stay behind, while others migrate back.  The Crystal water provides a safety zone for these endangered mammals, away from dangerous water drafts and environmental hazards.

What is the best time to swim with manatee at crystal river?

The best time to visit Florida and swim with the manatees of Crystal River is early in the morning. Manatees are most active in the morning. Typically, they wake up very early in the morning to look for their food, locate all the other manatees, and do whatever else manatees do to start the day. Once they are done with their morning routine, the manatees sleep for the majority of the afternoon.

best times of day to see manatees in florida

If you decide to visit manatees in the afternoon, there is still a big chance that you will see them.  You’ll probably only see them during their naps when they come up for air every few minutes. But then, what’s the point of traveling, paying, and getting into the water only to check manatees while they sleep? Furthermore, the water in Kings Bay can get really warm as the sun rises in the afternoon. 

Is it safe to swim with the manatee at Crystal River?

Manatees are strict herbivores. That means, even as large and scary as they may seem, they will not bite you or show any signs of aggression. Since they have no natural predators, they do not possess any defense mechanisms in them. Therefore, you can consider manatee swimming relatively safe. The only issue you might have is if you get in between a mother and her calf. In such situations, the natural mother’s instinct might kick in.

Aside from that, the Crystal River is free of crocodiles. Therefore, you can be sure that manatees and other relatively safe creatures are what you will see as you explore the Crystal River. So as long as you follow instructions, you should have an itch-free manatee swim in the crystal river.   

Rules  of Crystal River Manatee Swim

To keep manatees safe, there are a few rules that you must observe during your visit. The conservation officials will give you a quick brief of these rules to guide you at the Crystal River. But then, it’s good to have the regulations with you already before you go on the trip.

Do’s of Crystal River Manatee Swim

  1. Observe the manatees passively, especially when they are resting. That is, while you can look at a resting manatee, do not attempt to approach or touch it.
  2. Try not to make noise or splash water while you are swimming in or viewing the Crystal River. Doing so might startle those gentle beauties in the water. While you are swimming, try your best to avoid building bubbles under you.   
  3. Ensure that you always wear your wetsuit and snorkel gear if you plan to swim with the manatees. With a good wetsuit, you will be able to stay afloat and away from the resting place of manatees at the bottom of the river.
  4. When you are about to enter the water, first send a dive flag within a 100-feet radius of where you would be swimming.
  5. If you ever come across a manatee in the water, they naturally have a right of passage, and you must not deny them.
  6. Look around for speed zones and obey them to avoid injuring manatees with your boat. If you notice any large circle on the surface of the water, it is likely a sign that there is a manatee close. When you find those, try to slow down. Also, manatees can stay around shallow water grasses to feed. Therefore, be careful around such areas, especially if you are boating.
  7. Teach as many people as you can how to appreciate these animals and protect their habitats.

Don’ts of Crystal River Manatee Swim:

  1. Do not chase, corner, or disturb a manatee. Instead, stay calm and watch them. As the curious animals that they are, they will likely come to you with no stress.
  2. Do not climb a manatee for a ride or put your kids on them for a ride.
  3. Do not attempt to separate a manatee from its group or a mother from her cub.
  4. Do not give a manatee anything to drink or eat.
  5. Do not enter manatee sanctuaries. Manatee sanctuaries are unique places for manatees to relax and get away from humans. As a result, this area is off-limits for boaters and swimmers like you.
  6. Do not touch a manatee If you notice it has a tag or some fancy equipment on it. You might be disturbing an experiment without knowing.
  7. Finally, do not step on a manatee or stand on them.


Manatees are cute, docile, and adorable creatures, and swimming with them is likely to be a unique wildlife encounter for you. As soon as you enter the water, one of the many curious manatees will likely rise to the surface and start moving around you with their massive, paddle-shaped tail.

As the manatee approaches you, you’ll possibly feel an adrenaline rush and, perhaps, embark on a breathtaking interaction with the animal on her terms. However, while you enjoy every minute of your interaction with these animals, remember that they are an endangered species protected by state and federal laws. As a result, you must avoid actions that disrespect the animals and may result in a fine or imprisonment.

Crystal River Manatees

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