Swim & Snorkel With Manatees

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snorkeling with manateesIf you’ve wanted to get close to nature and interact with wild animals in their natural habitat, then a swim with manatee tour is a perfect outing for you.

Manatees are wild but harmless animals that grow as big as 13 feet long and weigh up to 3,500 pounds. The large adorable creatures occupy the brackish waters of the sunny areas in the Southern United States and Central America. They roam the waters of Florida from April to October, but when the weather turns chilly they congregate in the freshwater springs where the temperature remains constant throughout the year. Swimming with manatees is an amazing and delightful experience. Remember, they are curious and gentle creatures that will readily approach and interact with you as long as they are not unsettled or scared by your presence.

Where should you have your manatee tour?

If you want to swim with manatees and get a taste of Old Florida, you can go to the waters of Crystal River — one of the best places to see and interact with Florida manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee. Crystal River is located in Citrus County, the only place in North America where you can legally swim and snorkel with manatees. Crystal River is home to Kings Bay, the best-known manatee swimming area, where as many as 10 percent of the state’s manatee population gathers. It is also in Crystal River where Three Sisters Springs is located, a natural spring where manatees like to go during the coldest months.

When should you go swimming with the manatees?

Swimming and snorkeling with manatees is mainly a wintertime activity, best done in late fall (November and December) and winter (January through March). It is in the winter when large groups of manatees migrate into the warm water springs of Crystal River. While there are a few manatees residing in the springs throughout the year, the large numbers there in winter makes it the ideal time for a quality experience. The best time to get into the water is early in the morning when the manatees are at their most interactive. If you go snorkeling during the day, you are likely to find them mostly resting and not ready for interaction. Weekends tend to be crowded, so making the trip during weekdays is more opportune.

Why is snorkeling the best way to swim with manatees?

The manatee tour experience is best done by snorkeling while wearing wetsuits. Snorkeling makes the interaction as silent as possible, encouraging manatees to approach and get close to you. Manatees are sensitive to movement and sound, so you should not dive into the water because the bubbles will scare them away. You also can’t get underneath these surface dwellers as that will frighten them. Be as calm and relaxed as possible. Glide into the water and float on the surface.

Although the sheer size of these animals is overwhelming, you don’t need to panic — they won’t bite you. They will continue to slowly graze in the shallow waters, swim up and down or just snooze in the silt even in your presence. And as long as you don’t disturb them while they eat or touch them under their flippers, they will remain calm and approachable, friendly and curious. So relax. Stay on the surface and enjoy your time. The calmer you are, the more likely a manatee will swim over to you.

What equipment do you need?

For your manatee tour, a snorkel, mask and wetsuit are necessary, but fins are not. In the water, you’ll only need to float and never to swim. In fact, if you are unfamiliar with using fins, they can stir up the water and frighten the manatees. Your tour plan with Captain Mike’s will include all the necessary equipment, such as new suits, snorkel gear and full-service facilities for changing. But make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes. While the water is a constant 72 degrees, which isn’t bad when wearing a wetsuit and immersed, you’ll probably feel chilled when you come out.

What rules and guidelines should you follow?

Swimming with manatees is permitted, but you are cautioned to be respectful and protective of the animals. According to Florida law it is illegal to annoy, harass, disturb or molest any of these mammals. So there is no diving down, no feeding, no chasing and no riding manatees. You can only touch manatees with one hand at a time to make sure they never think you will try to ride or hold them. Also you should not get into their sanctuaries.

Guides at Captain Mike’s are staunch conservationists who take the welfare of the endangered animals seriously. Your guide will ensure that you understand and follow the rules. You will go through a pre-tour education on passive observation, face-to-face interaction and how to get the best experience during the tour. During the tour, your guide will ensure all your interaction with manatees has to be on their terms. The guide will show you how to float in the water to avoid kicking the bottom as that will muck up the dirt.

Why should you take the tour with Captain Mike?

At Captain Mike’s, we give you the opportunity to swim and snorkel with manatees in the warm, spring-fed waters of Crystal River. We also take you to explore Three Sisters Springs, where you can discover the world’s biggest population of endangered manatees in the winter. After checking in at our tour center, you watch a short video about manatees, learn about the animals in a classroom-type setting, and go through the rules of swimming and interacting with the animals in a manner that is fun for both you and the sea cows. You’ll learn about passive interaction, which ensures that the animals enjoy the experience just as much as you do.

We fit you with a wetsuit for the snorkeling adventure and take you to the best locations for swimming with these slow-moving, friendly and curious giants. Of course, you’ll make the journey to the estuary in a covered pontoon boat with a Coast Guard captain aboard, so you can marvel at the wildlife around you and enjoy the trip while looking for a spot to get you as close as possible to the sea cows.

The captains are insured and certified professionals trained in first aid, rescue and CPR. They are also eco-tour certified by the Manatee Eco-Tourism Association (META), which helps them stay up-to-date on current manatee rules, research and the hydrology of Kings Bay. We care about your safety and that of the animals, so we will educate you, guide you and ensure you get a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For more information on manatee tours, visit the Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees website.

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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