What Not To Do When Swimming With The Manatees?

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Manatees are amazingly cute, docile and adorable animals. And swimming with them is an experience like no other wildlife encounter. During a swim-with-manatee tour, you slip quietly into the crystal-clear blue water and immediately find yourself surrounded by these slumbering giants. Soon one of the many curious manatees will rise to the surface from the sandy bottom and begin to move around you with a gentle undulation of her huge, paddle-shaped tail.

As the manatee comes straight at you, raising her head and spreading her massive whisked muzzle, you’ll experience an adrenaline rush and perhaps with wide eyes and a deep breath, embark on a thrilling and breathtaking interaction with a wild animal on her own terms. But as you enjoy every second of your interaction with these animals, you must remember they are an endangered species protected by both state and federal laws. So you have to avoid actions that not only disrespect or harass the animals but also may lead to a hefty fine or land you in jail.

Here are things not to do when swimming with manatees

1. Don’t get into manatee lawns

In the springs, you will find that some areas have been roped off as devoted manatee sanctuaries. It is in these areas where the animals sleep and socialize without being bothered by humans. And because buoys and ropes have been used to clearly define these spots, you won’t get away with telling wildlife officials that you drifted into the sanctuaries accidentally. So as you swim with the animals, respect manatee sanctuaries. Remember, undisturbed access to manatee sanctuaries is vital for their survival.

2. Don’t approach or touch a manatee

While Citrus County, Florida, is the only area in North America where you can get into the natural habitat of manatees and legally swim with them, you are required to practice passive observation. What does passive observation mean? It means that you can physically interact with the animals in a controlled and reserved manner, specifically with one open hand. You only interact with a manatee that approaches you first, only swimming with the animals provided they are the ones that make the first move.

Essentially you are to float patiently and as quietly as possible on the water waiting for the animals to approach you. You don’t try to reach out to touch manatees because that can be really disruptive to them. Actually it can train manatees to get used to humans, eventually altering their natural fear of both people and boats, resulting in manatee deaths.

3. Don’t lure manatees toward you

As you float patiently on the water, you must avoid the temptation to lure manatees toward you. For instance, diving down below the surface to the animals swimming or resting on the river floor is illegal. Don’t surround, poke, pinch, corner, chase, stand on or ride manatees. Also avoid separating a calf from her mother or an individual from a group. Give the animals the space to move.

Don’t feed or give water to the animals — it can change their behavior toward humans and boats and make them more vulnerable to collisions with boats. Likewise, don’t scratch the belly of manatees because that can tame the animals and make them prone to boat-related accidents. You also shouldn’t interact with manatees having tail tags since such animals with floating GPS location transmitters fixed to their tails are already getting too much human attention. So just leave them alone.

4. Don’t get into the water without a wetsuit

While the water in the springs is 72 degrees, floating on the surface will take away heat from your body pretty quickly and since you’ll not be generating much heat as you float, the water can get really cold and uncomfortable for you. So you will need a wetsuit to be comfortable for the 1-2 hours of swimming with manatees. The wetsuit also will enhance your buoyancy, allowing you to float calmly and quietly without disruptive kicking and flailing.

Besides the wetsuit, you need a mask, snorkel and fins. The mask will enable you to keep your eyes down in the water and observe the animals graze, swim or rest in the water. The snorkel will enable you to remain calm and quiet on the water. But remember that flippers and scuba gear aren’t recommended because it’s illegal to dive into the water and the flippers will cause excessive splashing and stirring up of the sand at the bottom, reducing visibility in the water. Also, the bubbles produced by scuba gear are disruptive to manatees. So if you don’t have snorkeling gear, you can rent some for your tour.

5. Don’t pet manatees

While swimming with manatees is legal in Crystal River and Homosassa River, among other springs, these places aren’t petting zoos. Petting manatees is unlawful because it can set a bad precedent and encourage everyone else to pet the animals. It also can change the natural behavior of manatees.

You must balance your love for the animals and desire to touch or have a very close encounter with utmost respect for the animals. And to achieve this balance, it’s prudent to just avoid approaching them. You should simply float on the surface and observe them. And even if a manatee is so curious and playful to the point of coming to you and rubbing up against you, resist the temptation to pet.

Would you like to go on a manatee tour? Consider going on a guided manatee tour with one of the premier companies based around manatee sites, such as Captain Mike’s. On a guided tour, you will not only get all the specialized gear and instructions you need for a wonderful excursion, but also will go out with guides who know exactly where to find the manatees, all the do’s and don’ts during a manatee tour and how to achieve a perfect manatee encounter. Manatee tour providers give radio updates to one another so they know exactly where manatee action is happening every hour. For more information, 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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