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