Start your day with an exciting trip to swim with a wild Manatee. You won't have a better time anywhere in Florida!
NOVEMBER thru MARCH - HOMOSASSA RIVER is a shallow water area made up of one main spring and many hidden ones that supply the river. This is the peak manatee viewing and swimming time of the year! The colder the weather is the more manatees you will see.
Can be early as October or late as April, depending on weather - Call us for current information.
Our enclosed pontoon boats with plenty of hot drinks and a heater will keep you cozy. This trip lasts two (2) hours. You will put on your wetsuits and leave from our waterfront location at 10823 Yulee Drive. We provide wetsuits, mask & snorkel and neoprene socks. We usually do not use swim fins in the Homosassa River.
Fins cause us humans to stir up that shallow water which makes it cloudy and not having fins on encourages you to stay still and quiet. Departure times are 9am, 11, 1pm and 3pm.
Price is $45 per person with a two (2) person minimum. Once the minimum is met, persons riding along and not swimming pay only $25, and children ages 4, 5 & 6 are 1/2 price. Bring your own gear $35 per person - 3 person minimum. Kids age 3 and under are always FREE. FREE hot drinks provided on the boat.
We specialize in "last minute" reservations so don't hesitate to call us!
The Florida Manatee (sometimes known as a sea cow) is Florida’s state marine mammal and is a large aquatic relative of the elephant. Manatees are grayish brown in color and have thick, wrinkled skin which often has algae growing on it. The front flippers help them steer or even crawl through shallow water. Manatees have powerful flat tails that propel them through the water. Despite their small eyes and lack of outer ears, manatees are thought to see and hear very well.
Fully mature manatees often reach length of 10-12 feet, weight: 1,500-1,800 lbs. And live as long as 50-60 years in the wild.
Manatees are herbivores and eat over 60 different plant species such as mangrove leaves, turtle grass, and types of algae, using their divided upper lip. An adult manatee will commonly eat up to 10% of its body weight per day. Manatees have been known to eat small amounts of fish from nets.
Half a manatee's day is spent sleeping in the water, surfacing for air regularly at intervals no greater than 20 minutes. Manatees spend most of the rest of the time grazing in shallow waters at depths of 3 to 6 feet.
On average, manatees swim at about 3 to 5 mph. However, they have been known to swim at up to 19 mph in short bursts.
The largest population of manatees is found in Florida, where there are over 3,000 individuals. Manatees take up residence primarily in Florida’s coastal waters during winter. Some individuals migrate as far north as the Carolinas or as far west as Louisiana in summer. In recent years, a manatee traveled to New York and another swam up the Mississippi River!
Manatees can be found in the warm waters of shallow rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal waters. Rarely do individuals venture into waters that are below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Well known for their gentle, slow-moving nature, manatees have also been known to body surf or barrel roll when playing. They normally rest and feed often. Manatees communicate by squealing under water to demonstrate fear, stress or excitement.
Manatees only have molars, which are used to grind food. As they wear down and fall out, they are replaced with new teeth.
Manatees only breath through their nostrils, since while they are underwater their mouths are occupied with eating!. Manatee lungs are 2/3 the length of its body.
Manatees have no specific mating season. Their gestation period last about 1 year and they bear only one calf. Calves are born weighing between 60 and 70 pounds and measuring about 3-4 feet. They nurse underwater.
Since manatees spend their live in the water, climate change poses significant threats to their well-being. Higher water temperatures along the Gulf Coast has lead to an increase in toxic algae blooms, such as the red tide that killed more than 150 manatees in 1996.
Other threats to manatees include destruction and degradation of their coastal and freshwater habitat. The leading known cause of death is by boat strikes; propellers and hulls inflict serious or mortal wounds. Most manatees have a pattern of scars on their backs or tails after surviving collisions with boats. Scientists use these patterns to identify individuals. Manatees are also vulnerable to cold water. They have also been found crushed or drowned in flood-control gates and suffer harm from exposure to toxic red tide. In addition, a large number of manatees die from unknown causes each year.
It is illegal under federal and Florida law to injure or harm a manatee. On June 8, 2006, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to downgrade its status to "threatened" in Florida. While none of the state laws protecting manatees have changed, many wildlife conservationists are not pleased with the decision. Manatees remain classified as "endangered" at the federal level.
All three species of manatee are listed by the World Conservation Union as vulnerable to extinction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is the best time of year to see manatees? Answer: Manatees are in this area all year round. But winter months are the best time to swim with the manatees in the warm springs. Early mornings are the best time to swim with the manatees usually the months of November thru March. They are very active and playful in the mornings. We prefer the 9 and 11am trips when the manatees tend to be most active and playful. The 1 and 3pm trips during the colder days are also excellent times to go.
Question: How old do you have to be to swim with manatees? Answer: There is no legal age limit to swim with manatees, the ability to swim is helpful. Very young children can stay on the boat with a parent or they can hold the child in their arms. Since you mostly float on the water passivly viewing the manatees there it is vairly easy and we do provide floation devices. After the 2 person minimum is met children ages 4,5 & 6 are 1/2 price and age 3 and under are free.Question: How do we get to the manatees? Answer: You get to the manatees by pontoon boat. You can either join in on a guided manatee tour with our U.S Coast Guard certified Captains or rent a boat from us and go by yourself. We rent wetsuits, masks & snorkels.
Question: How long is a manatee tour? Answer: A manatee tour lasts 2 hours. We are less than 20 minutes from the Blue Waters on the Homosassa River where we find manatees congregated in one area.
Question: How many people can go on a manatee tour? Answer: Typically manatee tours are between 3 and 8 people. Individual groups of 8 or more people that make a reservation together can get a Group Discount.
Question: Can I rent a boat and swim with the manatees myself? Answer: Yes. We do recommend that you experience a guided manatee tour first before you try it yourself.
Question: What is the temperature of the water? Answer: The water temperature is about 72 degrees fahrenheit year round and comes bubbling up from fresh water springs.
How deep will the water be? Answer: In the Homosassa River expect 3-10 feet.
What should I wear or bring? Answer: Towels and bathing suit or whatever you wish to wear under your wetsuit or in swimming. Spandex products are best under a wetsuit and a sweatshirt and pants are a good idea if you will be taking your wetsuit off on the boat. You can change back into your street clothes at River Safaris, and an Underwater Camera!, We Sell them.
Question: Am I required to wear a wet suit? Answer: Wetsuits are recommended but not necessary. You know your comfort level in cold water. A mask and snorkel is a must. We do have underwater socks and flotation helpers!
Question: What if I do not have own wetsuit? Answer: Wetsuits are provided on our tours and we rent them for $15 per suit for the do-it-yourselfers. We stock many sizes and you get free neoprene socks when renting a wetsuit. Mask & Snorkel rental is $10 Mask, Snorkel and fins $18, socks $5.00
When do I put the wetsuit on and take it off? Answer: Most people prefer to put the suit on before leaving our waterfront facility on the Homosassa River. We have two restrooms and additional changing rooms available.
Question: Can we scuba dive with manatees? Answer: Scuba diving is discouraged around manatees because the bubbles will scare them away. Snorkeling is the preferred method for interacting with manatees. Please note it is unlawful to chase, pursue or harass a manatee at any time.
Question: What type of fish are in the water with me? Answer: Mullet, Sheepshead, Snook, Bream, Bass and more.
Question: How many manatees will we see? Answer: The number of manatees can vary from day to day. You may see just a few or you may see up to several dozen. The colder the day is the more manatees you will see.
Question: What other activities do you offer? Answer: We also have boat rentals including Kayaks, Canoes, Jon Boats, and Pontoons Boats of varying sizes. We offer airboat tours of the Homosaassa River, Gulf of Mexico and the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Guided Scalloping and Fishing Trips are also available. There is also a cafe and overnight accommodations available by reservation.
Question: How far are you from the airport? Answer: We are 96 miles from Orlando international airport, 74 miles from Tampa International Airport and 160 miles from Jacksonville International Airport. To get directions, please visit our map page.
What about bad weather? Answer: Our philosphy is that we are all here to have fun. You, the captain and the staff! So, we are very understanding if you do not wish to go out during extreme weather conditions. Unlike other manatee tour companies you can cancel your trip up to 2 hours in advance of the tour for any reason. We keep the weather radar available at all times so that the Captains have a real time view of the conditions. If we do not go due to weather you can reschedule or since you are not required to prepay there will be no charge. We do have clear vinly sides and hot drinks to keep you as comfortable as possible on the boat.
What is our cancellation policy? Answer: Please give us a call at least 2 hours in advance of the tour if you cannot make it. By 5pm the day before a 9am trip or leave us a message on our voicemail.
What other costs are added onto the trip? Answer: NONE, our trips are all inclusive. There are no hidden costs.
Group Discount for Manatee Tours
Are you looking for a unique recreational experience for your Family, Club, Business Retreat, Office Party, Association or Tour Company? Try our Manatee Tours for an adventure the whole group will never forget.
Experience the wonder of the manatee! These gentle mammals, once mistaken for mermaids by early explorers and sailors to the area are a delight for all ages. You can get right in the water and swim with the manatees. The often curious manatees may even let you scratch their bellies.
Here, at Swim with Manatees Homosassa, we offer discounts for groups of 8 or more people.
Simply apply the discounts listed below!
15% off for 8 to15 people
20% off for 16 to 30 people*
25% off for 31 or more people*
* possible complimentary rides available for a tour director and or a bus
Maximum number of people on a manatee tour at one time is 23.