A few years ago now, my friend and I decided to do something a little different and we booked to swim with manatees.
Governed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service you are able to swim with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida.
We used Sunshine River Tours – it was 8 years ago though so I couldn’t recommend them now as it is so long ago.
It was February so the morning was cool. We had to get up very early to arrive there for approx 6.30am and we were a 1.5 hour drive away. The tour started at 7am, but they suggested to allow 30 minutes to get your wetsuit on etc. The road trip was lovely – we saw the mist rising, a deer and had really clear roads so no trouble getting there.
The tour price included wetsuit, mask and snorkel hire. Our tour began with an informative video regarding the ‘rules and regulations’ for swimming with the manatees – the key thing to remember is that you should lie still in the water and let the manatees come to you. Manatees are the most beautiful, gentle and inquisitive creatures – they are also very BIG! I had quite a shock when one rose from the depths and appeared underneath me.
We were the first tour out so we got some quality time before other tours arrived, it did become quite crowded in the water towards the end of our session, so we got back in the boat and enjoyed a hot beverage.
I, personally, wouldn’t do it again. I appreciate that I have done it so it is easy to say, however, I would and have many times been and observed the manatees at Blue Springs State Park and I enjoyed that much more – I didn’t have to get up so early and it didn’t cost as much either. All that said, it is a once in a lifetime experience that you can’t do many places in the world.