6 Essential Tips for Swimming with the Manatees

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Captain Mike’s Swimming with the manatees can be a breathtaking and exhilarating experience if you follow specific guidelines. The gorgeous, gentle water animals are very curious and will probably approach you for a hug, kiss or scratch on the back. But it will depend on your actions in the water. Any unsettling or hostile action from you will scare the manatees away, but a calm and friendly approach will lure them. Manatees are classified as an endangered species and swimming with them is only allowed under special arrangements guided by strict regulations.

6 Essential Tips for Swimming with the Manatees

Here are six essential tips for swimming with the manatees:

(1) Don’t swim alone if it is your first time
If you want to enjoy your first outing with the manatees, swim with a captain or guide who will lead you through the experience. An experienced captain will ensure a more manatee-friendly swim, keep you from accidentally violating any laws and help you avoid unnecessary fines. Choose a captain who will locate a manatee, anchor the boat and get in the water with you, not one who will leave you alone to find your way.

(2) Keep your cool
While the sight of a manatee may be overwhelming and very exciting, do not allow yourself to be thrown off guard. Manatees are more likely to come to you if you are calm and still in the water. In fact, if you appear motionless in water, the manatees will be very curious and will approach you for a hug or kiss. As a rule, try to make as little noise and commotion as possible. Since scuba equipment produces a disturbing sound to the manatees, it is better to to use snorkeling gear for manatee tours. Do not wear flippers when on a manatee tour and avoid excessive splashing or boisterous behavior around manatees.

(3) Let the manatees make the first move
To avoid the risk of disturbing or harassing the manatees, it is advisable to wait for the manatee to make the first move. Some manatees are genuinely curious and will approach you and roll over so you can scratch their bellies, offer them scratchy-whiskered kisses or give them flipper hugs. But others will not be interested in interacting with you at all. Generally, swim with and pet only those manatees that approach you first. Never try to pursue or lure manatees, especially those sleeping or resting on the river floor. The best move for you is to float gently and patiently on the water surface, waiting for a manatee to make the first approach.

(4) Keep your interactions nice

Not all manatees are the same; some are quite sociable while others are not. You should let them make the decision. When a manatee approaches you, be nice to it. You may touch it gently and give a delicate stroke with an open hand. However, do not try to capture, hold, ride, pinch, poke or harass the manatee. You also must allow a manatee to swim away from you without cornering, standing or chasing it. Remember, a manatee will only hang out with you if you are nice.

(5) Avoid designated areas
Manatees dwell in areas with plenty of vegetation because they are herbivores that almost exclusively eat sea grasses. They also have tranquil and safe spots where they sleep and interact with each other without being bothered by humans. To secure their food sources and protect their sanctuaries, the areas are clearly marked off and defined with ropes and buoys to keep out swimmers. Respect these manatee spaces and stay out of them when swimming.

(6) Avoid separating a manatee from the herd
Finally, you should never separate an individual manatee from the herd or a young one from its family. Manatee calves depend completely on their mothers until they are 2 years or older. The mothers teach them how to survive on their own and separation can lead to a calf being lost and eventually dying. Likewise, manatees dwell in areas with plenty of vegetation and food, so there is no reason to try to feed them.
For a great swimming experience with the manatees, just avoid any actions that can change a manatee’s natural behavior. For more tips and ideas on manatee tours, visit the site Swimming with the Manatees.


Swimming with the Manatees boasts the best water adventure in Crystal River, Florida with lots of things to do for you and your family. For more information, contact us online, or call us at (352) 571-1888.

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