Swim with Manatees!

(the other magical experience in Central Florida)

We all know Florida is home to Walt Disney World but there is another magical place not far from Orlando known as the “Home of the Manatee”; Crystal River, FL . A short drive from Orlando, Crystal River is located on the “Nature Coast” in Central Florida. Here, natural springs provide warm water year round, which comes in handy because here you can swim with manatees in their natural habitat!

Swim with the Manatees

Manatees, also known as Sea Cows (but isn’t the word Manatee so much more fun!?), spend the winter months in the springs since the water is warmer.

I had the amazing opportunity to swim with the Manatees a few years ago in the month of January. We booked a tour that only took up to 6 people out at a time. This was great because a lot of the companies take 15+ people out at a time. This many people can be loud and frighten the manatees away. A smaller group that can stay quiet and spread out is much more likely to have a positive and magical encounter with these gentle giants.

Private tour

We lucked out and booked the first tour in the morning on a VERY cold day. The other few people that booked for our same time decided not to come so my husband and I had our own private tour! We changed into wetsuits provided by the tour company and watched a short video about the manatees. Since they are an endangered species they are protected by laws. Florida has laws about how you treat the manatees and interact with them so we learned about that first. The boat ride out to the springs was about 10 minutes and it was FREEZING! I could not imagine getting in the water. Remember though that the water is a steady 72 degrees so it felt MUCH better IN the water than out!

Manatee

Our guide was so wonderful. She grew up in the area and knew exactly where to go to find the manatees. She stayed in the boat and would point them out to us. You could float on a noodle and just stay still and they would come right up to you. We even saw a mom and her calf.

Mom and Calf

I cannot describe in words how amazing this experience was. It is so quiet and peaceful just under the surface of the water and these amazing creatures are known as being smart and friendly. I felt like I had experienced an encounter with another world. It was breathtaking.

Next time you are in Florida in the winter months and have some spare time I encourage you to visit Crystal Springs and swim with the manatees. It is simply amazing. And it will make you smile- just like this Smiling Manatee!

Smiling Manatee

~Aleshia, Travel with the Magic

aleshia@travelwiththemagic.com

Discovery Cove

Are you looking for a tropical island paradise that is located just a few miles from your hotel?  Look no further than Discovery Cove, located in Orlando, Florida.  Discovery Cove offers an interactive adventure that will thrill both young and old with lush scenery, beautiful beaches, and one-of-a-kind interactions with tropical wildlife.

 tammy1

            Discovery Cove is an all inclusive experience.  For the cost of $199-$319 per person, visitors will receive unlimited snorkeling with tropical fish, swimming with stingrays, and the ultimate experience of a thirty minute swim with the dolphins.  Also included in the cost are locker rental, wetsuits, towels, swim mask, sunscreen, beach chairs, parking, and food, drinks, and snacks for your entire visit.  As an additional bonus, the Discovery Cove ticket also gives you unlimited admission to Sea World for up to fourteen days!  Visitors receive an incredible array of experiences and amenities with the single cost of admission to Discovery Cove.

 tammy11

            What can you expect during this exciting experience?  Visitors can anticipate a truly immersive experience that feels like a private tropical island.  Sand, palm trees, exotic birds, and beautiful ocean creatures will surround you.  Resverations are not required, but are recommended to help maximize experience.  Guest should plan to arrive early, as reservations for swim times are assigned on a first come, first serve basis.  Arrival at 8:00 a.m. will insure a good choice of possible swim times.  Swims are done in groups of eight, so if your party is larger than this, it may be necessary to divide into two groups.  While resting and relaxing between tropical adventures, visitors can enjoy a wonderful selection of food and beverages.  Breakfast offerings include eggs, bacon, sausage, french toast, potatoes, biscuits, cereal, croissants, juice, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.  The lunch menu features spaghetti, fresh fish, jambalaya, burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, french fries, and corn on the cob.  Snacks are available throughout the day and include chips, hot pretzels, cookies, icees, fresh fruit, soda, and beer.  All of these amazing food choices are included in your ticket cost.

            There are a few options available for an additional charge to enhance your experience.  Private cabanas are available for approximately $229 for the day.  Included in your cabana rental is an underwater camera, t-shirt, stuffed toy, themed buoy handed to you by a dolphin, and a discount on the photo package.  There are only thirteen cabanas available, so booking in advance is wise.  Cabanas can be booked three weeks prior to your scheduled visit.  Photo packages are also available for an additional charge.  Packages range from $69-$219, and can help capture your memories so that you can enjoy them for years to come.

tammy3

            Is Discovery Cove worth it?  Speaking from experience, I can say that Discovery Cove was an amazing experience.  Swimming with the tropical fish and stingrays was incredible, and the encounter with the dolphins was more rewarding than I ever thought it could be.  The dolphins have so much personality and character, it was truly amazing to interact with them.  The park itself was breathtakingly beautiful, and the food was delicious.  I would have to say that our day at Discovery Cove was one of our best family memories, and one that we would definitely enjoy experiencing again.  Discovery Cove is a truly unique experience and one that everyone should consider when vacationing in Orlando.

Contact me Tammy Cain at TammyC@Travelwiththemagic.com or you can call me at 1- 800-670-4312 ext 137 for your next magical vacation.