Snorkeling with the Manatees

Saturday we went to Crystal River with 3 other couples, to snorkel with the manatees in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.   Normally the tour with Manatee Tour and Dive costs $49.00, but one of the couples found a Groupon, so we only paid $20 each.  Even at the full cost of $49, it would be well worth the experience.

First, a little background about manatees.  Manatees are herbivorous (plant-eating) marine mammals, sometimes referred to as sea cows.  There are three main types of manatees:  Amazonian, West Indian, and West African.  The manatees in Florida are West Indian.  They come to Crystal River because the water temperature in the springs  remains 72 degrees year round.  Manatees, despite their size, do not have a lot of body fat, and cannot survive for an extended period of time in water that is less than 68 degrees.

Manatees can live upwards of 60 years, weigh 800 – 1200 pounds, and are 8-10 feet in length.  A baby manatee weighs about 66 pounds at birth.  Manatees spend half their day sleeping, and can stay under water for 20 minutes, before floating up to the surface for a quick breath of air, then gently sink back down.  They are still an endangered species, and  are very gentle animals, when treated with respect.  It is against the law to approach a manatee, but you can touch it, if it approaches you first.  The tour company goes over a long list of the rules of what you can and cannot do during the tour.  And there are many volunteers in the wildlife sanctuary that make sure us humans respect the gentle giants.

Manatee Tour and Dive, Crystal Springs

Manatee Tour and Dive, Crystal Springs

Our tour started out with getting fitted for a wet suit, which neither of us have ever worn before.  The suit is required, since the water is 72 degrees, and helps to keep you afloat.

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After we squeezed into the suits, they have a brief safety and informational video on the manatees.  Then it is off to the boat, where we received more instruction from our captain.

Our tour boat

Our tour boat

Here’s our group from the campground:

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Captain Glen used a stuffed manatee to explain the areas we are allowed to touch if a manatee approaches you.

Captain Glen

Captain Glen

Our tour group before we headed out to the sanctuary:

Before we start snorkeling

Before we start snorkeling

Once we get near the sanctuary, the boat is anchored in the river, and we all get our “flotation noodles”, and slowly get acclimated to the cooler temperatures in the water.

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The river water is pretty murky, and then we follow Captain Glen into the sanctuary, where the water gets pretty clear.  Here is a manatee that popped up for a quick breath of air.  You can see darker shadows under the water where other manatees were hanging out.

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For me, it was a little frightening when you see this coming at you!!  But they truly are gentle mammals.

Hello!!

Hello!!

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this is a baby

this is a baby

If you remain still in the water, and keep your feet up, they will come right up to you.

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I do not swim, so Dan would check in on me to make sure I was doing okay!

doing fine!

doing fine!

Dan had one swim right under him!

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We were in the water about 1 1/2 hours, and saw manatees the entire time.  With the cooler weather, the sanctuary had hundreds of them seeking out the warmer water temperature.  Many of the manatees stay year round, but the best viewing is during the winter months.  We had a happy group on the return trip.  Our captain had hot chocolate for our return trip back.

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Everyone had a fantastic time, and we would highly recommend this experience if you are in the area.

Quote for the day:  “Love the manatee and save the manatee.”  – John Lithgow

3 thoughts on “Snorkeling with the Manatees

  1. Hi Jonelle and Dan ! Love the manatees ! I canoed over one on that same river years ago and hit the guy with my paddle.. you didn’t see one with a lumpy head did you? LOL..
    Check out no name pizza bar on Big Pine Key… best pizza in the keys ! Bring some one dollar bills and a magic marker and sign your name.. they’ll staple it to the wall.. our name is on one from 1995 among the other 50,000 bills on the wall. Fun place and great Pizza !
    Have fun and thanks for the warm sunshine photos !!
    Stay safe ! Nancy and Dan 🙂

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