Snorkeling with Florida Manatees at Crystal River

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It’s 6 am on a Saturday morning, and two of my freshman floormates and I are getting ready to make a two-hour drive.  It’s mid-January and even in Florida the temperature is a crisp 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Despite the chilly weather, we are driving to Cyststal River to swim in Three Sisters Spring.  The weather isn’t conducive to swimming in a spring.  Even if said spring is a perfect 72 degrees Fahrenheit year around.

Snorkeling with Florida Manatees at Crystal River

The colder the weather outside the better for this adventure.  Every winter, Crystal River and the springs on it become home to hundreds of West Indian Manatees or Sea Cows.  The springs provide a warm shelter from the cold oceans. These slow moving peaceful creatures are endangered because of humans. Motor boats regularly hit, injure, and kill these slow moving animals.  Then you have the loss of habitat, but thanks to the recent conservation efforts, manatees are making their return.

Snorkeling with Florida Manatees at Crystal River

We arrived at the boat dock and picked up our rental gear.  A quick change and briefing on swimming with manatees.  Due to the endangered status there are several rules that are designed to protect the manatees.  We jump out of the boat and make the short swim to the entrance to the spring.  As we approach the water entrance we get to see our first manatee.  This massive animal is slowly swimming towards the  sanctuary.  There are several of these sanctuaries set-up along the river.  They are posted with signs and marked with buoys.  These zones are protected areas for the manatees that don’t want to be around humans.

Snorkeling with Florida Manatees at Crystal River

Just past the sanctuary, it’s the official entrance to Three Sisters Spring.  We swim up the entrance following a manatee.  He leads us into the Sisters.  We are greeted by one of his many friends.  Many of the manatees enjoy being petted.  There are also a couple like this guy who don’t seem to understand that the no harassing rule should go both ways.  He likes to be petted and if you stop, he will bother you until you start petting him again.  After a couple of minutes, we successfully pawn him off on someone else from our tour group.

Snorkeling with Florida Manatees at Crystal River

We start exploring the spring and meeting the various manatees in the area.  We keep our distance from the ones sleeping at the bottom of the springs.  Towards the back of one of the springs, we come across a mom and her calf.  We stop and watch her swim by with the calf.

Snorkeling with Florida Manatees at Crystal River

We are standing in one of the shallow areas, when one of the manatees decides he wants to swim through our group.  One of my friends backs up to make space, not realized that this manatee has a friend swimming behind here.  She trips over this manatee.  We all share a laugh as one of the volunteers glare at us.  “Don’t ride the manatees”  She yells at us.  We stop laughing and tell her that it was an accident and she fell over it.

Snorkeling with Florida Manatees at Crystal River

After about three hours, we are starting to get cold.  When we are approached by one of our group member who tells us its time to leave. As we swim back with him, we learn that everyone else has been back at the boat for an hour.  The guide seems a little miffed that someone had to come get ups.  We had asked for a return time.  It was our first experience with manatees and we were going to make the most of it.  Who knows when our next free weekend would be?

Snorkeling with Florida Manatees at Crystal River

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored article.  I did my research and pick this tour because of reputation, price, and tour availability.

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Snorkeling with Florida Manatees at Crystal River

29 Replies to “Snorkeling with Florida Manatees at Crystal River”

  1. Pingback: 18 North American Outdoor Adventures for Travelers in 2018

  2. Neil

    Nice photos Jennifer. This looked and sounded like a unique and marvelous experience. We love snorkeling and are traveling the world to find great snorkeling locations (we are in Playa del Carmen, Mexico right now, for just that). They have whale sharks here! We may try to check into seeing the manatees when we stop over in Florida. Thanks for the post.
    Neil’s current road . . . Top Four Tropical Travel EssentialsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      I hated seeing them in canals because it put them at risk of getting hit by a boat. Almost all the manatees had boat scars.

      Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      It’s great. You should go before someone gets Florida to ban the practice. I agree with protecting them but if no one can see them. It makes it harder to get people to want to protect them.

      Reply

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