Swim With the Florida Manatee?

by R Long
December 22, 2016

Florida Manatee

It is getting cold so the only solution is to go south and swim with the Florida manatee. The water in the bay at Crystal River stays at 72 degrees year round. The manatee come in from the gulf during the winter months and enjoy the “balmy” water temperature.


King’s Bay

Kings Bay is located in Crystal River, Florida on the western coast of the state above Clearwater. The bay contains about 600 acres and over 70 springs. The multiple springs are the reason the water stays at a constant temperature.

If you have never been to Florida to swim with the manatee, there is no time like the present. The manatee know no age difference. The youngsters are as welcome as seniors. If you decide not to get in the water that is OK as well. It is exciting to see these “gentle giants” first hand. If you are lucky, one will come up to the boat and you can reach out and stroke its back. If you get in the water, for sure you will encounter a manatee.

Everyone is Welcome

If you do not have experience with boating, I recommend that you get on a head boat. An experienced captain will take you out into the bay. The water is usually calm as you are surrounded by by land, although there obviously are waterways from the gulf bay into King’s Bay.

You will need to be fitted for a wetsuit. Don’t forget your snorkel and mask. For the manatee the water is perfect but it is a bit cold for us. Prior to getting on the boat, you are required to watch a short video about the manatee and what you can or can not do. There are protected areas you should not enter during the “season.” You also can not or should not chase a manatee. However, if they tire of you, they can easily swim faster and further than you can.

Manatee may weigh up to 1200 pounds but they are indeed “gentle giants”. Have no fear, they are vegetarians and will not harm you. Their skin is tough and has some hair growing on it. It reminds me of what I think an elephant’s skin should feel like. Since manatee are mammals, they have to come to the top of the water to breathe. However, they sleep at the bottom so constantly have to float to the top of the water for air.

A great place to start is Discover Crystal River. There is a list of places to stay. You can  look into VRBO or AirBnB as well and have room for the whole family. There are guided tours as well as places to rent boats and wetsuits. You do not have to have your own masks and snorkels as that is also available.

You Do Not Have to Get Wet

If you prefer, just walk around the Three Sisters Springs which consists of protected springs. Boats can not get into that area but swimmers can. There is a walkway around the springs and you can see the manatee sleeping at the bottom of the springs. The water is so clear you may think the water is only knee deep but the spring is deeper than it appears. However, the average person can dive to the bottom where the manatee often congregate.

You can join the Three Sister’s Spring tour or you can hop aboard a head boat and go out into the bay. There you have your choice as to whether to get into the water or not. I recommend getting into the water. With a wet suit you can easily float. If you are proficient with boating, rent a pontoon boat and away you go. This is one experience you will not want to miss!

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