What is the best time of year to see manatees in Florida?

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In the summer, manatees roam throughout the United States as far as Texas, Virginia and Massachusetts. But in the winter, they congregate in Florida in massive numbers to take advantage of the warmer waters gushing out of the springs and in power station discharges. Manatees move to warm water springs because they get stressed by the cold as soon as water temperature drops to 55-65 degrees in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the animals look like they are well-equipped for the cold temperatures, their bodies do not have enough fat to insulate them. They need to move to the springs where the temperature remains at a constant 72 degrees throughout the year.

What is the best time to swim with manatees?

The winter manatee aggregation in Kings Bay is the largest and Crystal River — a little town north of Tampa and west of Orlando — hosts the biggest concentration of Florida manatees in the world. Manatees migrate to Crystal River and surrounding springs in mid-November and remain there until around mid-March. Of course, this isn’t guaranteed as sometimes the animals may disperse a little earlier — in 2018 they had left the springs by mid-February due to the unusually high day temperatures. Usually the peak season for manatees is December to March, with December, January and February being the best months to visit because manatees are present in huge numbers in Kings Bay.

Manatee encounter depends on the weather

As you plan your trip, keep your eye on the weather. For instance, when there is a cold snap in the Gulf of Mexico, you can be certain that manatees will be taking refuge in the springs. So you can tour the Florida springs being sure that you’ll find manatees there. However, when the ocean waters start warming up, the manatees will disperse back throughout the East Coast and the Gulf.

Guided manatee tours are offered by several companies from November to the end of March because this is the period when a lot of manatees come to the springs. When you visit during the peak manatee season, remember that the animals are in the springs for warmth and survival. You have to give them their space by controlled, reserved floating on the water, using a kayak, viewing from a boardwalk or observing from a bridge.

What is the best time of the day to swim with manatees?

Resting ManateeManatees are usually very crowded in the springs in the morning. That’s why tour boats arrive as early as 7 a.m. to arrive in time for maximum water clarity and huge manatee numbers. As more and more people arrive, the bottom sediments get stirred up reducing clarity of water. So if you aren’t among the first on the scene you may have to reschedule your visit to the next good lull, which is at lunch time, around noon.

The springs are usually packed all morning but suddenly everyone leaves and all is quiet and peaceful at noon. Try to be among the first to arrive at noon so you don’t get caught up in the second rush in the early afternoon, although the springs will again be deserted by 3 p.m. For the best experiences, it is advisable to have a mid-week visit to the springs (from Tuesday through Thursday) in early morning — manatees are active and playful in the morning and the springs are less crowded almost every day in the middle of the week.

Avoiding the crowds of people in the springs

If you can, avoid going on a manatee tour during holiday weekends. For instance, weekends before, between and after holidays such as Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Presidents Day are among the busiest times for manatee tour operators. As a result, this presents logistical challenges for trips and booking rooms and increases the chances that you’ll have trouble getting the best tour guides. And while tour operators make every effort to satisfy all customers and to minimize egregious behavior, the huge crowds, noise and commotion around the springs result in reduced possibility of having a satisfactory interaction with manatees.

What is the best time for manatee photography?

If one of your goals is photography, you should plan your trip during high tide. Manatees move to Three Sisters Springs and only enter the springs via a narrow channel during high tide in Crystal River. There is also great visibility in the springs during high tide and the manatee numbers are as high as 400-500, which is good for photography. So check out the tide schedule from a local dive shop or search for the schedule online to plan your manatee photography tour at the right time. Of course, you can still see plenty of manatees during low tide as they would be gathered around the mouths of the springs.

Are you interested in a thrilling and memorable manatee trip? Working with Captain Mike’s, a premier manatee tour provider based in Crystal River, can ensure you go on an excursion of a lifetime. At Captain Mike’s, we have specialized snorkeling gear, comfortable kayaks, experienced tour guides and all the equipment and supplies you need for a superb outing on the water. For more information on exceptional manatee tours and amazing tour rates, visit the “Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees” site.

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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