Snorkeling with Manatees in Crystal River, Florida

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If you have never experienced it, then snorkeling with manatees is something you should try. After all, who would not enjoy floating quietly in warm crystal clear water with huge lumbering creatures swimming around and under them? And who would not relish a moment with a very large, harmless creature that comes to you for a hug and sticks around to spend some time with you?

Crystal River: The manatee hub

That’s exactly what you experience during a snorkeling excursion in Crystal River, a tiny city at the inlet of the Gulf of Mexico and the only place in Florida where it’s lawful to snorkel with manatees. Boasting of gorgeous freshwater springs, natural lush vegetation, hundreds of manatees and crystal-clear waters, Crystal River offers a remarkable opportunity to snorkel with manatees and create some amazing under-the-water photos and videos of you and these wonderful sea cows. With a visibility of up to 100-150 feet, the manatee hub is the place to go if you want a memorable vacation.

So why go snorkeling?

Whether you want to encounter and interact with manatees in the wild, take pictures with them or just have a wonderful in-water experience, snorkeling in Florida’s Crystal River is the best and often the only way to interact with manatees. In the springs of Crystal River, manatees are usually found in only a few feet of water.

Because manatees are so sensitive to sound and often flee the disruptive noises of scuba, snorkeling is the ideal way for people of all ages to get close to these marine mammals and enjoy time with them. At Crystal River, you have the chance to snorkel with a large population of manatees that migrate into its warm springs. In the winter months, Crystal River hosts the biggest manatee population in Florida, making it the ideal destination for snorkelers and adventurers of all kinds.

What does a typical snorkeling trip entail

A trip begins at the crack of dawn with suiting up in appropriate gear. After getting into gear, you board a pontoon boat that’s specially equipped for snorkeling and head into Crystal River, with your tour guide and captain explaining to you what to do and not do throughout the trip. Because the snorkeling trip occurs when it’s still quite cold, you should bring warm clothes to wear once you are out of the water. Typically you won’t feel cold when in the water as you’ll be wearing a wetsuit and the water will remain warm at a constant 72-74 degrees. But once you leave the water, you’ll need protection from cold.

Before you set out for the trip find out what equipment is included in your tour so you will know what you might need to rent or bring. Often a wetsuit, snorkel and mask are necessary, but fins aren’t necessary because you only need to float on water when snorkeling, not move around. You should bring a thermos of your own if the tour does not include warm drinks.

What of the day before your snorkeling venture?

It’s advisable to spend the night in Crystal River before your snorkeling tour and around the area where you will be snorkeling. Since manatees are very active in the early morning, most tours begin around dawn, so you should expect to show up for the tour as early as 6:30 a.m. There are also various activities scheduled for the morning before you depart, such as climbing into your 5 mm wetsuit and watching a safety video with your mates. That’s why you have to book a tour provider based in Crystal River, such as Captain Mike’s. Make sure also to check and confirm the details of your tour the day before the actual excursion.

Which areas will your tour cover?

Your tour provider will take you to an ideal snorkeling spot, where you will get into the water from the boat and snorkel with manatees. The areas of Crystal River that you may explore include the springs and their surroundings — typically areas where the water depth is constantly at 1.5-4 meters (5-12 feet). But there are also off-limit areas roped off to act as manatee sanctuaries and you aren’t allowed to move into these areas.

So what do you do once you are in the water?

When your boat has reached a snorkeling spot, your tour guide will get into the water first to assess whether or not the manatees in that spot will stick around. Then the guide will motion you into the water. You must get in the water gently without making loud noises or splashing. Once you glide into the water, just float along and relax, without making sudden movements or splashing that will discourage manatees from coming to you. The calmer you are in the water, the more likely manatees will swim over to you.

At Captain Mike’s, we offer some of the most memorable manatee tours. Our friendly and welcoming captains and in-water guides help tourists find and snorkel with manatees. We truly care about manatees, so we have designed our snorkeling trips to be as respectful as possible to them and their habitats. If you want to make the most of your vacation, then having Captain Mike’s plan and lead your snorkeling tour in the manatee hub will give you some of the sweetest memories of your life. 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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