Sunday, June 9, 2013


Just a quickie for now until I go through my photos and video some more.

Today I crossed off an item from my bucket list: I swam with, and touched, a manatee. We signed up for a tour with Crystal River Manatee Tours for a 2.5 hr tour of King's Bay and made the 2 hour drive up from Kissimmee.

It was an incredibly hot day and I was looking forward to getting into the 76 degree F water. The folks at Crystal River Tours suited us up with wet suits, masks and snorkels. After watching a short video which covered the safety rules of how to treat the manatees (and how not to), we hopped aboard the pontoon boat. Captain Casey gave us a short talk about the manatees and what we'd be seeing and doing out in the Bay.

Winter is the prime manatee viewing season, when approximately 600 manatees escape the cooler waters and come to King's Bay to bask in the 68F waters provided by the dozens of springs. King's Bay in winter is home to 1/3 of Florida's manatee population. Large areas of the bay are roped off as manatee sanctuaries to keep the manatees safe. It's much easier to see the manatees in the winter when they hang out near the springs where the water is very clear.

Manatees are vegetarians, grazing on the plant life on the bottom of the bay. They eat and sleep on the bay floor. Otherwise, they're near the surface of the water where it's warmer. They need water that's 68F or warmer. When they're not sleeping, they come up for air every 3-4 minutes and when it's time to snooze, they take 20 minute cat naps before needing to surface for air.

Floating in search of manatees
There are about 35-50 resident manatees that live in King's Bay year round. So it was a bit of a challenge to find them. We made a few attempts as we sighted a couple manatees, but the water was incredibly murky, with only 2-3 feet of visibility. Let me tell you, it goes against all of one's self-preservation instincts to swim in green murky water towards something you can't see that weighs 800-1,000 pounds.

After a few attempts, where all I saw was the tail of a manatee, Captain Casey took us down a side river, past the large Three Sisters springs. And we finally found a manatee who would tolerate all of us floating above him (her?) while s/he nibbled on a late lunch.

It was a bit intimidating at first, but I soon got accustomed to floating on the top of the water and watching our manatee. It just calmly nibbled along (they tend to graze in a figure 8 configuration) and surfaced at regular intervals. The visibility was much improved as we were closer to spring water and we spent a good 45-60 minutes drifting along, following along in awe. I think everyone in the water got an opportunity to touch the manatee when it surfaced. It was covered in algae and its skin was leathery to the touch. At one point I was perfectly positioned to be face-to-face with the manatee when it surfaced!
Captain Casey and a very happy customer

My daughter, who is part fish I believe, had a blast as well. She was thrilled to see the manatee and snorkel along with it. She's inherited my adoration of this gentle creature and will be doing a school report on them.

My husband manned the video camera and got lots of video. He's hoping to edit it together, so if I can figure out the whole video thing, I'll post it eventually.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Yay! I'm so glad you got to swim with a manatee!