Manatees. Sea cows. Water pugs. I feel as though no trip to Florida is complete without an experience with the Florida manatee, and since these beautiful creatures populate the rivers around central Florida, when I was in Orlando with Clare & Scott, we couldn’t resist driving across to the Kings Bay area to see some up close up!
Different to experiences like swimming with Dolphins at water parks, swimming with Manatees at Crystal River is completely undisruptive. Whether you see them or not is completely by chance, and since they only visit the river during certain seasonal periods, sometimes your chances can be slimmer than others.
Manatees regularly populate Kings Bay during the winter months, following the cooler springs through the year. You can imagine that when we visited, which was during the middle of June, the chances of seeing a family of Manatees was a lot slimmer than you could expect!
The experience lasted around 3 hours in total, we donned wetsuits and snorkels and were taken out on a boat to see if we could find anything hanging out in the water! Our captain was incredibly cautious to make sure he didn’t disturb any of the marine life around, so we found ourselves going across the water at a pretty steady pace, and sure enough, we found a few Manatees hanging around!
Clare and I had the most incredible time with a mama Manatee, who actually hung around with us for 5-10 minutes! I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but when you’re actually in the water and a Manatee is letting you rub its belly and following you around, then 5-10 minutes was ample!
(See the photo above – which was taken on one of those underwater disposable cameras that we practically completely forgot to take in the water with us because the moment a manatee appeared we all got extreme tunnel vision – ha ha! The mama is obviously the grey being under Clare & me, and the reason we’re floating on the water like that? You’re advised when swimming with or near manatees not to splash around or make any sudden movements because you don’t want to scare them! So you just lie in the water and let yourself float with the current. It’s so relaxing but also pretty scary to just let go! Ha ha!)
The experience as a whole is something that I’m going to remember forever. When I was little, my parents took me to the Manatee Rescue Center near Orlando, and I remember looking down at the incredible animals gliding through the water near where we were stood. It was since then that I had always appreciated and loved them as a species. And since finally being taken off the endangered animals list (huge celebration for that!) I was so excited to be able to swim with them in a manner that is safe and stress-less for them.
If you’re interested in manatees, or the protection of them as a species, I can’t recommend enough that you do some research on them and read about how to help their safety. It’s so important, now more than ever, that we keep them from re-entering the endangered animals list.
If you’re looking to swim with manatees in a similar fashion, I can’t recommend the company on Crystal River enough, they were extremely helpful and their attitude to protecting the manatees comes first and foremost, which is a great thing to see.
I hope you’ve had a lovely day,