The pristine waters and unspoiled forests of Crystal River in Florida are some of the outstanding sights you’ll be able to see right here. Nonetheless, it’s not simply the attractive environment that make folks wish to go to—it’s additionally the Crystal River manatees!
The river is dwelling to one of many largest teams of manatees on the earth, which are available droves through the winter season for its heat waters. After all, this opens up the possibility to see and work together with them.
After all, this opens up the possibility for some epic bucket record experiences, like kayaking and swimming with manatees.
What are Manatees?
Manatees are a sea creature that has as soon as been the stuff of legends, with even famed explorer Christopher Columbus mistaking them for mermaids, the lovable manatees are really a sight to behold. Also referred to as ‘sea cows,’ these aquatic herbivores are recognized for his or her stubby noses, giant bulk, and mild (and sometimes curious) nature.
They’ll develop as much as 4 meters (13 ft 1 in) in size and might weigh as a lot as 590 kg (1300 lbs). Though they could look much like seals or walruses, they’re, actually, extra intently associated to the elephant. They feed on freshwater and saltwater crops like water lettuce and sea grasses. Nonetheless, they do sometimes eat small fish and clams.
Sadly, on account of habitat loss and hunters, the manatee inhabitants are at a state of decline. Happily, ongoing conservation efforts and strict guidelines and tips are being applied to make sure that these stunning sea cows are protected and be seen by generations to come back.
The place to See Manatees in Florida
A lot of the state parks and waterways round Florida are just about wildlife sanctuaries for manatees, particularly at Crystal River (which has additionally been dubbed the ‘House of the Manatee’). Among the greatest spots embrace Three Sisters Spring (at Crystal River), Blue Spring State Park, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Wildlife Refuge and the Manatee Observation and Education Center.
There are additionally rehabilitation facilities/parks like SeaWorld and Walt Disney World’s EPCOT, the place you’ll be able to see rescued manatees together with different fascinating ocean creatures.
You may as well try an inventory of those state parks and facilities on the Florida FWC website.
The Finest Manatee Experiences in (or close to) Crystal River
Seeing Manatees from the Three Sisters Spring Boardwalk
The Three Sisters Springs is a 57-acre wildlife refuge in Crystal River, Florida. It obtained its title from the three spring areas, which include vents and sand boils that feed the waters of Kings Bay and different close by canals.
The refuge has a scenic boardwalk that gives loads of alternatives to snap a photograph (or fifty) of manatees as they slowly cruise the waters, particularly throughout winter. You may as well discover one of many nature trails and see the three springs in all their pure magnificence.
Whereas the manatees are the celebs of the place, don’t miss out on seeing totally different native and migratory birds (and different wildlife) that paint the waters and treetops throughout your wildlife viewing.
P.S. Selfie sticks and drones will not be allowed within the space. Additionally observe ‘Go away No Hint Behind.’
Kayaking with Crystal River Manatees
Interactions with Florida manatees might sound restricted for some, however that doesn’t imply that water actions are completely out of the image. It simply must be protected for each you and the manatees, which is why boarding a kayak on a manatee tour is an ideal means to take action.
Are you able to think about gliding on the water side-by-side with a manatee?
You could find loads of outfitters like Paddle Outdoor Rentals who present kayak excursions for guests.
See them (and plenty of different animals) at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
There are many locations the place we will see manatees right here in Florida, and even some the place we will see extra than simply manatees! Just some miles south of Crystal River in Homosassa, Florida, is a state park known as the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. The park is dwelling to quite a lot of animals, together with manatees, alligators, black bears, many species of birds, a 62-year-old hippo named Lu, and plenty of extra.
You may take a ship or tram tour via the park to see the animals of their pure habitats, with a number of academic displays and exhibits that spotlight the park’s inhabitants. One other spotlight is the Fish Bowl Underwater Observatory, the place you’ll be able to see the aquatic animals up shut of their pure habitat. There’s additionally a couple of trails within the park, just like the 0.75-mile Pepper Creek Birding Path, which takes you from the customer heart to the park’s west entrance whereas seeing wildlife alongside the way in which.
Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal River
Now comes some of the thrilling methods you’ll be able to expertise the Crystal River ‘sea cows’: attending to swim with manatees! The river is definitely one of many few locations the place you’ll be able to legally do that, so it’s no marvel many individuals come right here from totally different locations only for this particular likelihood.
I did my swim with Hunter Springs Kayaks & Tours, the place I used to be accompanied by an in-water information all the time to make sure that the principles are noticed so that you just (and the manatees) could have a good time.
This can be a surreal expertise, the place manatees will probably be swimming proper by you. Although you’re not supposed to the touch them, one got here proper subsequent to me and wrapped his flipper round my waist! One other was interested by my GoPro digicam which gave me an epic closeup video of his cute face.
Finest Ideas for Swimming with Crystal River Manatees
Wait! Earlier than you soar proper in, you’ll first must study a set of ‘manatee manners’ which must be adopted always. Whether or not it’s kayaking, paddleboarding, or swimming, there are a few ‘manatee manners‘ that everybody ought to study and observe. Whereas it could appear overwhelming at first, when you get to know them by coronary heart, you’re in your technique to getting essentially the most out of this glorious expertise.
Among the greatest ideas when swimming with manatees embrace:
- Preserve your distance and by no means contact or provoke contact until the manatees come to you first (which these curious creatures typically do, particularly for those who’re floating gently). In the event that they achieve this, you could gently contact them with one hand on the again or abdomen. Some may even ask for stomach rubs!
- Pay attention to your environment – keep away from getting near off-limit areas (marked with floating warning indicators) or from resting/feeding manatees.
- Preserve calm – don’t make any loud noises or massive/sudden actions, as it should scare the manatees away.
- Put on acceptable swimwear (e.g. a wetsuit and snorkel)
What’s the The Finest Time to See Manatees at Crystal River
Whereas there’s at all times the possibility to see a manatee or two any day of the yr, the very best time to satisfy them can be between November fifteenth to March thirty first.
Throughout this era, giant manatee teams come collectively at Crystal River and Kings Bay to heat themselves up for the winter season as a result of their water temperature stays at a relentless heat 72 levels.
After all, this annual migration additionally attracts in tons of people that wish to see these creatures of their pure habitat, so anticipate there to be fairly a crowd throughout these instances.
The place to Keep in Crystal River
Assembly manatees is actually a one-of-a-kind expertise, and I can’t blame you for those who really feel like spending simply in the future with them is just not sufficient (which is normally the case!). Good factor is that there are many lodging out there within the space like the place you’ll be able to relaxation for the day and even get pleasure from a few of their facilities.
One such lodging is at The Plantation on Crystal River. With over 196 basic rooms (which incorporates 11 Junior Suites and a dozen Golf Villas), an 18-hole golf course, bar & grill eating places, and a magnificence and wellness spa, you’re certain to be left entertained, pampered, and energized in your subsequent assembly with the manatees.
. . .
Whether or not you select kayaking, swimming with Crystal River manatees or recognizing them from a boardwalk, it could be among the best wildlife experiences to verify off your bucket record.
Whichever means you select to work together with these mild ‘sea cows,’ let the second depart you much more curious and excited for future wildlife encounters.
Finest Ideas for Visiting Crystal River Florida
Getting There: Tampa Worldwide Airport is a serious hub and most airways will fly into it. You may simply verify for the very best fare offers at Skyscanner, which additionally has the choice to decide on ‘least expensive month’ because the departure to seek out the bottom priced dates to fly to your vacation spot. From the airport to the town heart, you’ll be able to take shuttle service, bus service, taxi and ride-hailing companies or hire a automobile.
The place to Keep in Crystal River Florida: It’s greatest to remain close to the town heart, public transportation or the realm that you can be spending essentially the most time in. Apart from the The Plantation on Crystal River talked about above there are many different choices for resorts. Holiday Inn Express Crystal River is a good selection within the Crystal River. For one thing on the cheaper facet, attempt Nature Coast Inn & Cottages positioned in Inglis. For a lodge with a bit extra extravagance, ebook a room on the Hampton Inn Crystal River. Or search some nice offers on resorts of your selection at Booking.com. Should you’re on the lookout for extra of a house ambiance (or are touring with a gaggle of individuals), head over to Airbnb that has homes, residences and even only a room for hire in each worth vary.
Getting Round: Driving in a brand new vacation spot is usually a little bit of a problem, however for those who select to hire a automobile, RentalCars.com has nice offers. If you’re not renting a automobile, there are many different choices. Taxis, Lyft and Uber can be found everywhere in the metropolis. For a extra price range pleasant choice, you’ll be able to take the service bus.
Insurance coverage: It’s at all times a good suggestion to journey totally insured so you’re protected in case of journey cancellations or medical emergencies. You may try pricing at Travelex Insurance.
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