Enjoy the unique privilege that is exclusively ours here in Citrus County Florida by swimming with the manatees at one of our two spring-fed locations! Crystal River is home to the world?s largest population of endangered manatee during the winter season, and even a small population the warm months.
Homosassa River?s shallow water provides incredible manatee experiences during the cold, winter months. Having the chance to encounter these curious, gentle giants in their natural habitat is an adventure that your family will never forget!
Both Homosassa and Crystal River feature closed pontoon boats with hot beverages on the coldest days of the year. Our facilities are full service from bathrooms to gift shops.
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: Please remember that manatees are an endangered species and seeing even one of these majestic?beasts is a great privilege. Our tours are conducted in their natural habitat and they are free to come?and go as they please. No two days are ever the same, and no two tour times are the same either.?Weather, tidal influences and time of the year affect the conditions daily and it can never be predicted?just how many manatees you will see. During the colder months we have a large concentration, but if?there is a considerable warm spell they will become difficult to find. Because this unique eco-system is a?prime manatee habitat, we have a small resident population even in the summer. We never guarantee?that you will find or encounter manatee and how many you see is tough for us to predict as well.
Question: How old do you have to be to swim with manatees? Answer: Children must be at least 3 to go on the group tours, but younger babies are allowed on a private?tour. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, and very young children must understand?enough to be calm and quiet in order to not scare the animals away. Children should be comfortable in?the water and parents should stay close at all times for safety. We have wetsuits in all sizes and provide?snorkel vests and flotation noodles if kids need a bit of assistance staying at the surface without?swimming.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 located in both Homosassa and Crystal River.
Question: How deep will the water be? Answer:Most areas in the Homosassa River and the King’s Bay in Crystal River are 3-10 feet depending upon tides and your location. As you reach the spring head, it can be a bit deeper.
Question: What should I wear or bring? Answer: Wear your bathing suit...that way you are ready for a quick change into the wetsuit. Bring a towel, most people will bring these along on the boat. Keep season and air temps in mind. If it is cooler, it is a great idea to bring a sweatshirt, jacket or even a full set of loose fitting clothing to slip on after you get out of the water. If you have young children, this is especially important, be prepared with warm clothes....always better safe than sorry! The water here is always 72 degrees, and for some that is quite chilly! Feel free to bring a bag onboard the boat to keep your personal items, but we HIGHLY recommend not bringing anything of value on board the boat. During warmer weather most people will wear their wetsuits back to the shop and change into their clothes when they return from the trip. Bring what you feel you need, but no worries we will take care of the details!
Question: What type of fish are in the water with me? Answer: Homosassa has Mullet, Sheepshead, Snook, Bream, Bass and more. Crystal River is known for world class tarpon, snapper, needlefish and turtles are abundant.
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. Give us a call for the most up to date information.
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: What other activities do you offer? Answer: We also have boat rentalsairboat tours of the Homosassa River and Gulf of Mexico. Guided Scalloping and Fishing Trips
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.
Question: What about bad weather? Answer: Our philosophy 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. 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 be refunded. We do have clear vinyl sides and hot drinks to keep you as comfortable as possible on the boat, so we typically go rain or shine!
Question: What other costs are added onto the trip? Answer: NONE, our trips are all inclusive. There are no hidden costs. Captains and Guides are always appreciative of tips and your guides will be taking pictures of your adventure that will be available for purchase after your tour.
Question: What is our cancellation policy? Answer: We require (5) days advance notice if you can not make your scheduled tour reservation. We pre-charge?all credit cards to guarantee the seats and we do not process cash refunds for short notice cancellations.?This is consistent with an airline, hotel and other swim with manatee tour companies. Our Captains are?scheduled according to the number of guests we have any given day, and we appreciate your commitment to be on time and honor your reservation. If you do need to cancel last minute, please?contact as ASAP and we will offer you gift certificates with no expiration date or a chance at another?tour time.