Photo credit: Marina Kuperman Villatoro / Gringa TravelingMom

Photo credit: Marina Kuperman Villatoro / Gringa TravelingMom

There are things that you should know before you decide to swim with manatee. These might be social and docile animals but you need to learn how to swim with them to avoid hurting or scaring them. Most importantly, you have to make sure that they get the respect and love they need.

Let’s Learn about Manatee in Crystal River and Homosassa Springs

    • Around 700 West Indian Manatees visit in Crystal River and Homosassa’s springs waters.
    • The territory of the West Indian manatee ranges from Florida to Brazil.
    • Baby Manatees make a sound under the water that can also be heard by humans while under water. They normally make them when they get scared, or interacting with another manatee and with their babies.

DisclosureTMOM

  • Crystal River and Homosassa Springs are one of the only places in Citrus County it is legal to interact and swim with the manatees.
  • The reproductive rate for the manatee is extremely slow. Gestation period can take up to 13 months.
  • Manatees breed year round in Florida, however most of the calf’s are born in the spring and summer months.
  • Only few weeks after being born the infant starts to nibble on plants. But this doesn’t make it independent. It will stay with mother for up to two years before going out on its own.
  • It is believed that Manatees can live around 60 years.
  • The main season for catching these guys in Crystal Rives is winter, from December till April. They love the warm waters of the area.
  • These huge magnificent creatures, once called sea cows, are believed (somehow) responsible for the stories once told by sailors of mermaids.
  • They can stay up to 15 minutes without breathing.
  • Manatees push food toward their mouths with whiskers on their upper lips.
Photo credit: Marina Kuperman Villatoro / Gringa TravelingMom

Photo credit: Marina Kuperman Villatoro / Gringa TravelingMom

How To Pick the Right Company for Your Swim With Manatee

Crystal River is flooded with companies offering snorkeling tours of swimming with Manatee. This made really hard for me to pick the one that would be the best, plus they all have great reviews. But one operator stood out the most– Snorkel with the Manatees.

Why? There are always a few elements that come into play when organizing a tour that involve little people (my kids).

1. The operator needs to show me they have good service – This is very important for me, and Captain Gene, the owner, responded quickly. He was more than happy to answer all of my questions and had a great sense of humor.

2. Size of group – As parents we all know that our kids rock. But let’s face it, the truth is that they only rock to us (mainly). I also know that they can be quite annoying to other people, so it as important for me to go on a small group or even private. I was told by Captain Gene that his boats can only hold six people plus the captain. There are four of us. We ended up having a private tour and it was fantastic.

3. Time of tour – All of the operators that I found offered three tours during the day – 6 or 7 am, 10 or 11 am and 1 pm. Also, all of them pushed for the 7am one. Apparently it is when the most amount of manatees are found. This got me thinking that the manatee swimming area will be full of people and wouldn’t be fun.

Captain Gene was the only one that said that an 11 am tour is better because of that same reason. Less people, yet plenty of manatee! To this day, I still can’t understand why the other operators are so keen on pushing the early morning tours. Maybe it is because they want the afternoon off for themselves. Plus with young kids 7 am isn’t even an option. So the 11 am tour was just what I needed.

And the Captain was right, there were only a few people and plenty of Manatee fun.

4. Instructions for kids – If you are a parent you know that telling a kid not to do something is like putting up a big sign demanding that they hop on it and do it. Luckily when we got the instructions they were careful enough to teach them and to inspire them to love the animal. This is something you can’t discuss in an email or even talk on the phone about. I noticed how good they were with kids when I walked into the office and saw thank you letters plastered all over the walls from kids my kid’s ages. I knew that they could handle them.

Photo credit: Marina Kuperman Villatoro / Gringa TravelingMom

Photo credit: Marina Kuperman Villatoro / Gringa TravelingMom

The first thing we were taught was where it was allowed to touch the manatee if one came close to us. They love to be rubbed above their head and if they flip over (they do that a lot) between their flippers.

The second thing was how to swim. If you swim like it is normally done you will scare them away. You need to hold on to a foam string in the water and move really slowly so you don’t stir up too much dirt and also not to frighten the animal.

5. Equipment and gear for all ages – This is another big concern for me whenever we go on a tour. My youngest boy is three. Not every operator works with kids his age. And even if they say they do, they don’t always have the right equipment. But this company did.

Stay tuned for the actual Swim with Manatee!

Information for Snorkel With Manatee Tour

Captain Gene is the owner and offers several different tours.

The regular tour was $35 per person plus $20 for the gear which was $55 per person. It was one of the best prices in the area, most of the other companies charge around $35 for the gear alone and $40 – $50 for a tour per person.

We decided to take the private tour. It is $95 per person including the equipment. And it comes with a lot of perks as well.

We also rented an underwater camera for another $20. Well worth it if you don’t have one. It is hard to see, but you do capture some amazing moments.